Arriving in Paris on Friday, we headed to dinner at La Bigarrade. At the time when I reserved it, I had only read positive reports, and we were really looking forward to it. The restaurant does not have a working website, so the only prices I could find were in the current Michelin, which listed menus for lunch at 35 euros and dinner at 45 and 85. Planning to have the 45, we were at bit shocked when we arrived to find out that the only menu now being offered is 85 euros. The wine prices are inflated. We chose one of the lowest priced wines, a red burgundy for 43 euros. It was nothing to write home about. We were the first to arrive at 8:30, and by 9 the place was full. Once the food started to arrive, it would be at least 15 minutes between courses, which would be fine except that each “course” consisted of one or two bites of food. At 10:00, we had a little chat with the waiter and told him we were still very hungry. He explained that the first five courses were the amuse-bouche and the remaining ones would be the main meal. He also offered to give us bread, which is normally served with the cheese course. Perhaps it was a mistake, but we opted to do it their way and wait for that course. We wanted to see if we would at some point end up feeling like we had eaten dinner. At midnight we had finished the cheese “course” and dessert was still being prepared. At this point we were still very hungry, and tired from a day of travelling, so we left without dessert. Based on the food we had already eaten I cannot imagine it would have been anything memorable. I will say that the other diners appeared happy, but I just can’t imagine what all the hype is about, and why the two Michelin stars. What we ate was at best decent, extremely simple preparations, and at worst bizarre flavor combinations where one secondary ingredient completely overpowered the main ingredient. Please note we are very adventurous eaters and love unusual and innovative combinations, but only if they make sense and taste good. You really had to wonder if the chef had tasted the dishes he was preparing. We could have gotten a really great meal at any number of other places, for the same or even much less money, so this was just a horrible disappointment. Afterward I did some more searching on the web and found that others have had similar complaints recently (read this one, I love it: http://megzimbeck.com/2010/04/la-biga...). I only wish I had done that research sooner, as this was not only the worst meal I have ever had in Paris, it may well be the worst I have ever had anywhere, especially for this sum of money.
For lunch on Saturday four of us went to Kei, which was highly recommended on Alec Lobrano’s blog. The lunch menu of four courses for 38 euros was wonderful. Beginning with canapés, then an amuse of gazpacho with avocado and tomato, we continued with foie gras with beet juice, apple and girolles. Then came crab in cabbage leaves in a light broth. The main course was a choice of roasted Iberian pork loin with pumpkin puree and bass with a crisp skin and vegetables, then grilled pear with basil ice cream, and mignardises. With a bottle of Cotes du Roussillon 2007, 3 aperitifs and 4 coffees our bill totaled 240 euros, not cheap but a reasonable deal for memorable food. I would expect to see a Michelin star in the future.
Saturday dinner was simpler, but no less delicious, at Neva Cuisine, another Alec Lobrano recommendation, which has also gotten some recognition on CH. Again there were four of us, and after a bit of sausage and cheese on a skewer, we began with shrimp ravioli with beets and the poached egg. For the main course we chose pork loin with barbecue sauce on the side, served with eggplant stuffed with mushrooms and peppers, sweetbreads with mashed potatoes and girolles, and scallops with parsnips and a cream sauce. For dessert, we had the chocolate sphere, figs with sorbet, and marron with mont blanc. The prix fixe is 36 euros, but a few dishes had a small supplement. We had a nice bottle of Cote du Rhone for 24 euros. I disagree with the poster who thought the chef is trying to emulate the high-end restaurants. I think it is simply upscale bistro food, done well but without elaborate presentations, delicious and priced appropriately. The staff and owners could not have been nicer. We loved this place.