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My take on Paris Bistro in Chestnut Hill

Ate there last night for the first time. Went on a whim and they were booked but we were able to eat in the jazz lounge. The music was pretty good but I would have preferred sitting upstairs so we could have talked with our company. I must be getting old! Will make reservations next time.

I have mixed feelings about the food and the experience, but first let me say that I had the Steak Frites and the steak was amazing!! It has been a really long time since I had a steak that had me daydreaming the following day about the next time I would have it. It was very flavorful; perfectly cooked, and so tender that it barely needed chewing. I seriously think I could have cut it with a butter knife. I hope this was the rule for their steak and not an exception.

Unfortunately the rest of the meal didn't live up to the steak. The potatoes were good but it was as if I got the dregs from the bottom of the fryer. After 3 or 4 regular sized frites, the rest were like crumbs, perhaps a quarter to a half inch long. Unacceptable.

I started with the roasted beet salad served on a bed of watercress. The beets were okay but nothing to write home about, not even cut uniformly, and the watercress was served with the long stems left on the greens (I'm talking about 3 or more inches of stem!), and there were two thick slices of raw carrot on top. I love watercress and I serve it frequently. When I do, I break off most of the stem (I'm talking about the small-leafed watercress that has bare stems) to make it easier for dinner guests to deal with, and also because it makes the salad taste better! It's awkward trying to stuff stems in your mouth, and just as awkward trying to cut them with a knife and spear them with your fork. The raw carrot was ridiculous. Who wants two big half-inch slices of raw carrot the size of a silver dollar in their salad? Not me. Blanched carrots would have added a whole other dimension to the salad; otherwise they should have just left them out. It seemed lazy.

This is just picky, but when the waiter re-set my silverware after the salad he put my steak knife on the right side of my plate with the blade turned away from the plate, and he put my fork to the left of my knife! As I said, that's picky, but to me it was another lack of attention to detail.

The three other diners had shrimp cocktail and crab and avocado salad to start, and I didn't hear any complaints. There was complimentary bread for the table. I didn't have any but one of the diners said it was pretty bad. That surprised me because Philadelphia is full of good bread and there is no reason to serve anything bad, but I trust the diner's opinion because he's a bit of a bread aficionado. One person had the burger and he liked it. The only complaint was that it was messy. Salmon cakes and scallops were two of the other entrees and they looked pretty good, although I thought the presentation could have been better. Two of the diners shared a cauliflower gratin and the complaint was that the cauliflower should have been cooked more than it was. I had a taste and it was indeed nearly raw, which is not what you expect in a gratin.

We skipped dessert because the food was pretty filling.

I will go back, if for no other reason than to have the steak, but I can't wholeheartedly recommend this restaurant. I will say - it was booked up on a Thursday night so people must like it. I didn't have a really bad experience but I hope I have a better one next time.

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  1. We were there shortly after they opened and found both the food and service disappointing. Thank you for the detailed review.

    1. Excellent detail supporting your specific opinions. We have been there twice and also have mixed feeling. When we were there our party all were satisfied with their choices; but only a few dishes were great. Hard surfaces all about amplified the noise factor, it was loud. I did love the feel of the place. After just returning from travels abroad and dining at a wide range of restaurants with a mix of age groups: I am convinced Philadelphia is loud and that the facility only can modify or amplify to a certain degree.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Bacchus101

        I liked the space as well, and yes it was noisey. I think you're right about Philadelphia restaurants. Most of them seem to be loud and it makes me wonder if it's by choice. There are things a place can do to add sound proofing but it doesn't seem to be a priority here.

        I'm curious to know if either you or JanR had the steak frites at Paris Bistro. I'm hoping what I had will be good every time, but given the inconsistencies of their other dishes I wonder if that will be the case.

        1. re: JunieB

          No one at my table had the steak frites.

        2. re: Bacchus101

          I've never been to a brasserie at home or abroad that wasn't noisy.

          1. re: Chinon00

            I would suppose the term "noisy" is quite subjective. For me if I can not speak in conversational tones because of others, that for me is noisy. One would note that in most food rags and sites there is a rating for loudness, it is an issue of concern with many diners. Interestingly my experience with brasseries and cafes abroad have not fallen into my definition of noisy. Recently at a large festival in Vienna with beer and wine flowing freely and a very diverse age range, no problem.

            1. re: Bacchus101

              I can't tell you your experience, but by definition brasseries w/ all those hard reflective surfaces (i.e. tin ceilings, tiles floors, large mirrors) have the potential to be noisier than restaurants w/o as many hard surfaces.

              1. re: Chinon00

                Yes, as noted previously " Hard surfaces all about amplified the noise factor, it was loud. I did love the feel of the place. I am convinced Philadelphia is loud and that the facility only can modify or amplify to a certain degree." Regarding the "by definition" comment: It is a Bistro not a Brasserie and nothing in the definition of either suggests the expectation of loudness. Actually "by definition" as a Bistro one would expect just the opposite.

                1. re: Bacchus101

                  Sure, I'm not denying that Philly is loud. Could be. But using a brasserie as an example seems unfair to me.
                  No worries;]

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    Ok, got ya! We are speaking to different points. Done.

        3. I, for one, appreciate your candid comments. I trust your opinion more than I do the average Joe.

          1. The silverware setting complaint is a joke and you are not serious right?

            3 Replies
            1. re: DaytimeDrinker

              I do not find it unreasonable to expect a service person in the restaurant business to know the correct way to do place settings.

              1. re: DaytimeDrinker

                As I said, "lack of attention to detail."

                1. re: JunieB

                  Were you given fresh silverware or was the silverware used for the salad reset?

              2. I had a bad bread experience at the owners other restaurant Heirloom last year. I had lovely snails in a red wine sauce and the only bread offered was a basket of sweet corn bread and another sweetened bread. When the chef came to ask us how we liked our meal I said that I would have loved a baguette to sop up the sauce. (Metropolitan bakery within eyeshot of Heirloom at that time.) He told me they prefer to bake all of the bread in house. I will not go back, bread absolutely indicates the sensibility of a restaurant to me. Often bread is the fiirst thing you eat and absolutely sets the tone for a restaurant meal. These days there is some SPECTACULR bread out there, there is no excuse for crappy bread.

                1 Reply
                1. re: missclaudy

                  I totally agree about the bread. It's fine to make your own but if you can't make good bread then why not get it from some of the outstanding bakeries? A heck of a way to lose customers - and totally avoidable!