I went to Clown Bar with a dear friend last night.
Beautiful tiled decor. Indifferent welcome (I am glossing over the haggling to get a table in the front even though the restaurant was half empty.)
We ordered two appetizers.
The first was beignets de bulots, with a spicy mayonnaise. Not overly oily. The taste of the bulots was good, but their texture was off, too rubbery. Sub-par tapas-type item.
The second was an octopus salad. Again, a good, complex taste (the use of holy basil adding a surprising twist) but again too rubbery. Pulpo a la gallega it wasn't.
We ordered a bottle of red. As they were natural wines, I could not recognize any of the names ;-). Normal, extortionate pricing. The waiter steered us towards a syrah-based wine, which was very good. None of the "deviant" aromas I was half-expecting. Beautiful fruit, violets in full display. Served a little warm, he brought back the bottle at the proper temperature.
We ordered an extra appetizer, the first clear success. It was raw "maigre", with cucumber, and crumbled feta (I think). I usually dislike dairy and fish (especially when raw), but the flavors really came together, a great expression of freshness. I need to eat more of this fish.
The mains were better.
A small portion of pigeon, properly cooked, and deliciously gamey.
But especially a pithiviers of duck, a thing of beauty. Great pâte feuilletée, delicious minced meat, perfectly cooked magret at the bottom. And a great deal at €18 (if memory serves). I am a sucker for these bourgeois dishes, a true, singular contribution of French gastronomy to world cuisine in my view. Yes, the chef can cook.
We ordered two desserts, which never came.
Service was cool, and cold. Self-involved, aloof, vaporous even.
Around €112 for two (without the desserts). Which is decent for Paris pricing, but increasingly less so in my view.
Then we went to Aux Deux Amis for dessert. A plate of glorious Spanish ham. I love that place.
We went tonight and had an outstanding meal -- why haven't I gotten around to going here before, especially since it is so close?
I had a superb entrée of foie gras, smoked eel, pieces of toasted brioche, all showered with green and purple basil leaves. I also got a bite of L's great beignet de langoustine. A tourteau et sauce tomate looked magnificent and was reported to be so by the person at our table who ordered it.
My pigeon aux bettraves couldn't have been better -- tender, flavorful pigeon with the crispiest of skin and lots of little heirloom beets.
For wine, we ordered a 2013 Pouilly-Fumé cuvée Mademoiselle M from Alexandre Bain. This was a real curiosity -- a Sauvignon Blanc made in an oxidative style. It was most interesting, but not especially pleasurable, to taste, but it managed to go well with the dishes that all of us ordered, including my pigeon. At 49 euros, a reasonable (but not bargain) price for Pouilly-Fumé.
My dessert of fraise, hibiscus, livèche which also included a bit of dark cherry was surprisingly close to the dessert I'd had two nights before at Bones. It was quite good, but I don't think the livèche (lovage) sorbet added anything.
No service issues whatsoever.
It seems to be quite a happening spot with various food and other celebrities stopping by, some to stay, others just to say hi to the staff.
I've ordered from the same menu quite recently - had the white tuna with sabayon, then ris de veau, both excellent especially the unlikely-sounding first combo (a dollop of savoury sabayon atop marinated - or lightly-cured ? - tuna).
Clown Bar is one of my currents faves, the chef has a wonderful unfussy touch (I especially like the treatment of fish here, usually not specified on the menu as cooked or raw but emerging somewhere in between, maybe with intelligent use of marinades and very very light application of heat, perhaps just enough to scorch the skin on a rouget). Haven't encountered any service issues and as Onzieme notes, a diverse and watchable crowd.