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Nov 8, 2013 06:39 AM

So no one is talking about Bruno Verjus' table? Really?

I didn't find any mention of it with a quick search. What are regulars doing around here? Or do I just suck at search?

So Bruno opened what he plans to be the first of his "Table" restaurant. The concept is extremely slow food and relies on an all-artisanal approach: that is, not only for produces and wine, but for tables and plates and everything up to the bathroom's sink. Here's the website:

The kitchen is entirely open and seats are around it. But unlike Robuchon, you actually see all the cooking happening (Robuchon only lets you see a small, staged part) ; and unlike Robuchon too, the bar follows all kind of curves, including a couple of tables that seat five or six. However, except for Bruno himself, the cooks are about as pleasant as they are at Robuchon, not very chatty (one stood in front of me with his arms crossed as I was eating, despite my many attempts at engaging on any topic really).

The promise of awesome ingredients (with minimal cooking) is definitely held. Those langoustines I had yesterday were just wonderful, they would qualify as "mi-cuit", served on branches of fresh thyme. I think I would still be licking those shelves if they hadn't taken the plate away.

The sweetbread was also pristine and cooked to almost perfection, with a little floury crisp around. It was unfortunately served with a lamb juice, which I think is a mistake ; and with bland wild mushrooms -- lack of salt probably. Also, the limits of a "little cooking" approach: only some mushrooms are better cooked rare, trompettes and pleurottes not among them. While in the mistake department, awesome raw scallops came with awesome (and cheap) white truffles, and I don't think they go well together.

Nothing terrible, and nothing detracting from the admirable work of Bruno's vendors. But not much was added either, to my taste. I like more muscle and more intervention in my cooking (not much, mind you -- minimalist alla l'Arpège is fine ; nihilism that way strikes me as excessive).

Prices are a reasonable compromise, giving access to Arpège level ingredients at a fraction of the price, while allowing for a healthy margin (FD: was comped). In six months, the restaurant seemed to have easily found its clientele of high-spending sophisticated gourmets -- in fact I met quite a few at that impromptu lunch, notably some renowned wine specialists or l'Ambroisie regulars.

Here's a pic of the dessert: whole quince, vanilla syrup and caramel icecream - awesome icecream. The quince, like everything else, was under-seasoned, but that might be my wasted palate of overfed, overseasoned foodie.

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  1. Well I went and reported on it on Apr 30, 2013 giving it a 6.3/10 and was enthusiastic as was my former downstairs neighbor but our wives both thought the fish was way undercooked (we did not agree).

    I have a clear conflict of interest because Bruno is an old eating partner of mine and co-conspirator at Paris by Mouth so take these comments as you will.

    1. Too overpriced, too pretentious.

      And I am not inclined to promote a restaurant where "pain de sucre" pineapples from Benin get roasted on a spit or white Alba truffles are grated on a cold, wet seafood product.

      From your report, these were not the only cooking mistakes that could be noticed there.

      1. I didn't go, but have spoken with people who have, and the consensus was similar to your sentence : "not much was added either, to my taste. I like more muscle and more intervention in my cooking (not much, mind you -- minimalist alla l'Arpège is fine ; nihilism that way strikes me as excessive)." and to Pti's : "Too expensive, too pretentious."

        I wanted to go, but now I think I'll visit the other fifty restaurants that are on my to-do list first.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Rio Yeti

          "I wanted to go, but now I think I'll visit the other fifty restaurants that are on my to-do list first."

          Yeah, that was pretty much my idea too.

            1. re: Parigi

              So let me count this up and I was always weak on maths:
              Have gone : Souphie & myself
              Have not gone but have fixed ideas without any experience: Ptipois, Rio Yeti and Parigi.
              Did I get this right?
              This is what CH is all about?

              1. re: John Talbott

                Experience is also knowing exactly why you don't want to go to a place. (For instance a bottle of Selosse, 80-100€ wholesale, marked up at 600€ on the check.) The proof of the pudding is not always in the eating.

                If I were comped, like Souphie was, I'd certainly go for the sake of experience. Failing that, there are some experiences I'll gladly put money in (lots of money in this case) and some I won't. We still have a choice in the type of knowledge we want to acquire. Lunching at every restaurant that opens is not everybody's approach; there are others.

                "This is what CH is all about?"
                My view is that CH is not really a community and that posters are not bound to one single methodology.

                1. re: Ptipois

                  So the proof of the pudding is hearsay not first-hand reports?

                  1. re: John Talbott

                    Deciding on whether or not to try the pudding is based on evaluating all of the first hand reports you have access to.

                    1. re: John Talbott

                      I don't understand your remark, John. Why go when you have very good reasons not to, and why not tell frankly about those reasons? It's not like I said I didn't want to go because I get bad vibes from the place.

                      Besides, Souphie's extremely fair, informative and well-balanced report contains some crystal clear details that confirm my reluctance about the place, and also some crystal-clear information for any people who would enjoy that sort of restaurant.

                      By the way, I'll attract everyone's attention here on the fact that Souphie wrote here the only example ever of a restaurant review whose writer clearly says they were comped but then goes on to say "this I liked, this I didn't like". That is truly remarkable and inspires me that message to much of the food-reviewing press or blogs: See, it wasn't that difficult, was it?

                      (Edited to add that I have had some dishes cooked by Bruno Verjus in a public event, and that is also part of my experience, but that part is actually of very little importance.)

                  2. re: John Talbott

                    I'm basing my intuition on both Souphie's report (again : "But not much was added either, to my taste. I like more muscle and more intervention in my cooking (not much, mind you -- minimalist alla l'Arpège is fine ; nihilism that way strikes me as excessive)."), and the "first-hand" report of a friend who is very knowledgeable, not unlike Souphie, and who told me the almost same sentence, I'm paraphrasing : "When someone like Passard does minimalist cooking, he has a vision, he is an artist, unfortunately Verjus is lacking vision".

                    I only expressed the fact that I have heard from good sources (which are not on Chowhound, and therefore I'm taking the liberty to channel there voices) that Table is indeed somewhat expensive, pretentious, and although good, it's farting higher than his own ass (I'm taking the liberty to channel a french expression...).

                    1. re: John Talbott

                      Well then, let's add a "been there, hated it" category. My one and only meal there was an unhappy experience of under-seasoned purist pretention. The most fun I had was clearing the "garrigue" from the plate so I could get to the good bits (well, "good" after a sprinkling of fleur de sel from a little sack in my pocket)... sorry, I can't even remember what the good bits were... and, for a restaurant that vaunts the excellence of its ingredients, my muddled memory of what I actually did eat is a sad testament. I did like the decor but there was no buzz and, from eavesdropped conversations, the clientele seemed ultra-earnest types. We skipped the dessert and, after paying the very douloureuse bill, went to Les Caves de Prague to recover our sense of fun.

                      It was especially painful to me because I'm so quartier-centric. This part of the 12th and adjoining bits of the 11th is a treasure trove of great restaurants with great vibes but in terms of price, fun factor, clientele and "edibility" Table just doesn't seem to belong.

              2. I went back to Bruno Verjus' table yesterday and had an excellent, and very cheap, meal (it was even cheaper as I ended up being comped, but I really had the same food as everyone else -- one, benefit of an open kitchen is that you can see that sort of things).

                There is a now a 25€ lunch menu. I mean, it would rather be called a snack menu in my opinion, but that is not unique to Verjus and I know some around here would actually consider this a plus.

                It started spaghetti squash with a parmesan cream and egg yolk -- a very minimalistic, vegetarian take on carbonara, but very smart and delicious.

                Then there was an absolutely superb daurade. I don't think I had a fish that good since when Briffard was at les Elysées. It came with pitch perfect vegetables that would put l'Arpège to shame (if it was capable of it). The daurade has some kind of "trompette dust" oil on top, it was really well balanced. Also, cauliflower purée with some purple cauliflower bits.

                Dessert was roasted pineapple with a saffron ice-cream on sablé, and again it was perfect.

                The monastic/minimalistic mood is gone (so is the original chef, btw) and we now have a cooking that, judging by this meal, has found its groove -- there is some work on composing a plate and on seasoning, as opposed to that somewhat "take-that-awesome-seabass-in-your-face-and-marvel-you-peasant" attitude I felt at the opening.

                6 Replies
                1. re: souphie

                  Thanks much for this specifics-filled update, Soup.

                  Did you by chance notice the evening format? Menu break or a la carte? Choice or not?

                  1. re: mangeur

                    There's a couple of choices for starters and entrees, changing more or less everyday. I did not notice an evening menu, but will look next time I'm in the 'hood.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      Actually, the response is here:

                      90€ dinner, 145€ with wine. I would totally risk it after today.

                        1. re: mangeur

                          I mean I'm [going] back.
                          Once I escape the crazy Giants fan-day.