We tried it last night. Nice room, larger than I expected, but the first thing we noticed once we got inside was that it was incredibly LOUD. The place was pretty much full, and they had some French accordion music playing at live concert level, forcing everyone to shout to converse over it. We mentioned it to our waiter who agreed and said it was making his life hell too, but that the bar had control over it and was reluctant to turn it down. At our request he asked his manager please to lower the volume - "the customers are complaining" - and after two requests and about a half hour it finally was reduced to a more tolerable level.
The menu looked good, and very reasonably priced - though if you want vegetables with your meal, be aware that sides are extra. The had a few Asian-sounding dishes, like the special of the day, a fish dish with ginger and some exotic slaw, but hey, this is supposed to be a French bistro so we went with the standards - I ordered the onion soup to start, my wife a warm frisee salad, with vol-au-vent and tripe to follow, a couple of sides and a bottle of burgundy.
Ten minutes later, one glass of wine shows up. I explained that we'd ordered a bottle, and the server (not the one who'd taken our order) goes away looking confused. Ten minutes after that the bottle shows up, brought by our original server with an apology. Twenty minutes after THAT (we'd been seated forty minutes now) our server comes back again and asks us if we'd gotten our first course yet. WTF? HE has to ask US? No, we hadn't. He apologizes profusely and ten minutes later they arrive. The soup is quite good, but the salad had apparently been made and set aside and was nearly cold.
Eventually we get our mains, which are quite good, but very American-sized portions - the largest serving of vol-au-vent I've ever seen (to be fair, this is probably the first time I've ever ordered it on this side of the Atlantic) and a heaping bowl of well-prepared tripe. We got through about half of each and brought home the rest. One of the sides, creamed spinach, was really tasty, albeit quite watery. The other never arrived, nor did it show up on the bill. Just as well, we had too much food as it was.
So, what to make of this place? Good prices, decent food (though not nearly on a par with the only slightly more expensive Cognac Bistro down the street), potential hearing loss, seriously haphazard service. And the latter was not just our perception - there was a table of nine next to us where we noticed that some diners had finished their mains before others had even received theirs, and that may not have been their only issue, as eventually we heard the server offer to bring the entire table desserts on the house.
Will we be back? Maybe on a Tuesday, to see if this was just a slammed Saturday night and not typical of the place. But if a restaurant can't handle a slammed Saturday night they're in the wrong business.
455 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446
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