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Rene Pujol: deep disappointment for anyone with or without deep pockets

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Rene Pujol: deep disappointment for anyone with or without deep pockets

Oliver | Feb 17, 2006 01:47 PM

I consider myself quite well informed when it comes to food, and have eaten at probably a dozen French restaurants in the city. I am also a big reader of food websites including Chowhound, NYCNosh and others. Many quotes about the restaurant sound like this, “Rene Pujol has been around for more than 40 years, and for good reasons: delicious food, professional service, and very pleasing ambiance.”

I called a month before Valentines to make sure I could get a reservation and had no problems making it. However, when I called on the day itself, it had gone missing – although they were able to fit me in. I should have taken this as a sign.

We arrived on time for our 8PM reservation and had no problem getting a table. The space really doesn’t have a pleasing ambiance, unless you like 70’s HoJo’s beige, with matching acoustic high-school ceiling tiles. We decided to start with a couple glasses of acceptable champagne, which we later found cost fourteen dollars. Upon reading the $44 prix fixe menu (a fair price for good food), we realized half of the Appetizers and Entrees required an additional supplement ranging from five dollars to $105! Really, no typo. We were shocked at this blatant gouging, particularly considering many standard French items; steak au poive, crème Brule, etc would require extra cash. We have no objection to paying good money for good food, but this seems to lack class. None the less, we chose carefully and thought we would be happy when the food arrived.

For an appetizer I had the Endive-arugula salad with Roquefort and smoked duck breast. The dressing and salad itself were fine; but the salad was only lightly dusted with cheese and the three duck pieces were the exact dimensions of scotch tape and with a similar taste. My entree was even worse. I had a Pan roasted quails stuffed with risotto, mushrooms, in a shallot sauce, which admittedly sounds good – however, the quails themselves had all the flavor dimensionality of a potato chip. Attractive gold on the outside, it concealed a dry stringy interior with an inexcusable “game seven days ago” aftertaste. Not to mention, the shallot sauce tasted just like Swanson’s Beef Broth. After a meal like this, desert was a relief, but not as much as getting out of there.

The saga would be over, but later that week I looked at my bank account – and my admittedly low tip had been adjusted radically upwards. If only the meal and our experience could have been similarly adjusted…

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