Claude: cool french bistro with dark lighting
Anjou: Howard Johnson's with the addition of brick walls and a high ceiling
Claude: No reservation? Fine--we're not too busy tonight. Would you like this quiet table near the window?
Anjou: No reservation? I'm shocked. Go sit at this table against the wall, inches away from these loud rich people. No, there is no other option. Don't worry, the restaurant will be less than half full for the duration of your dinner.
Claude: better than expected for the price. french onion soup was served bubbling hot, the broth deep and beefy. a spinach mushroom crepe, though its innards were organized like a bad burrito, was balanced, with the spinach not overwhelmed by the rich creamy mushrooms. the stuffed quails (two of them) were a tiny bit dry, but the flavor (surprisingly smoky) and stuffing (fluffy rice & sausage) and sauce (cranberry) more than made up for it. The trout was light and flaky but not dry, with a generous serving of greens atop it. "Greens on top" was a new idea, but worked well as they wilted from the fish's heat, simultaneously keeping the fish warm for the entire meal.
anjou: unfortunate. positives were celery root remoulade in a light ranch-like dressing (delicious, if a bit small); sauteed wild mushrooms, steamed vegetables, and mashed potatoes were well-prepared sides. the smoked chicken was salty, the polenta was dry & too garlicky. sea bass was the most disappointing of all. it was dry and the mustard encrustment was too vinegary...perhaps it was stone-ground; i prefer dijon.
Claude: no plate over $16. The stuffed quail was 13; the trout was 12. two entrees, a half bottle of wine, two appetizers & tip: $70
Anjou: no plate under $16. The seabass was 20; the smoked chicken appetizer (a small plate indeed) was 12. one entree, two appetizers, one glass of wine and tip: $60
Claude: we now have a favorite french bistro in the neighborhood.
Anjou: perhaps we went on an off-night. Perhaps our obnoxious neighbors' loud discussion about golf courses of the caribbean ("the problem in puerto rico is the dismal service"). Perhaps we were too young for Anjou -- the only people younger than us were the waiters. Whatever the reason, we will not be going back.