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Le Cinq (Paris) - Report

JohnTalbotWannabe | May 7, 201510:48 AM

Long time reader; first time poster. Thank you to all the regular hounders, upon whose reports I often rely.

We recently took a trip through some of Burgundy, the Loire Valley, and Paris. I hope to provide a full trip report in the near future. But one stop merits its own post. Specifically, we wanted one blow-out meal, so we chose Le Cinq. Our abbreviated experience follows below.

Food:
We had the dinner tasting menu of 8+ courses in the fall of 2014 (290+ euro a person). (The menu seems different now.) The meal took about 3 hours total. The food was deserving of the two Michelin stars, but appropriately, is not deserving of three stars. (I am putting aside how much the star system is now one of politics, as detailed elsewhere on these boards.) One or two dishes, particularly their take on french onion soup, which filled hollowed-out crispy, slightly sweet, small, whole onions with soup, had remarkable depth, complexity, and novelty. One or two dishes, including the foie gras, were underwhelming, relatively one-dimensional, and much like something you could eat in cheaper restaurants throughout Paris. But everything else was interesting.

Service:
You would expect perfect service here. But lower your expectations, especially if you're young and American. They check most of the boxes of paying close attention, clearing plates at the right time, etc. But the service lagged in a few critical respects.

First, we were not offered a cheese cart, notwithstanding our ordering the full tasting menu. Some people rave about the cheese, some don't. But we were expecting the opportunity to judge the cheese for ourselves. We did not ask about it at the time because we felt it rather inappropriate given the formality of the restaurant and perhaps more relevantly, felt a bit rushed out as we were the last ones in the restaurant (see below). Perhaps beginning the tasting menu at an 8:30 reservation is too late for the premises to include cheese in the tasting menu. If that is the case, it is incumbent upon Le Cinq to tell diners in advance, especially as we watched with eager anticipation as every other table was offered the cheese cart while we were enjoying our entrees. We wrote to the restaurant afterwards but received no reply. Perhaps it did not help that, notwithstanding our formal attire, we could not conceal our heavily American-accented French. I would hope it was merely an oversight rather than a consequence of our later reservation time or our non-French origin. Either way, their failure to explain the oversight is thoroughly disappointing.

Second, they began cleaning up in the dining room (i.e., putting chairs away) while we were still finishing our meal. Yes, it was nearing 10:30 and we were the last diners still eating. But having been a server, I know that it's Restaurant 101 to not begin putting up chairs or other activity in the dining room to make even the last diners, who are still eating, feel like they are rushed.

Third, much like us, the couple next to us was celebrating an anniversary. They received special copies of the menu. They also had a photo taken of them and framed for them, while they were eating. We were not offered this treatment. We do not need special treatment. But if we've ordered the most expensive menu at your restaurant, we would not expect such blatant bias in treatment. Unlike them, we did not order champagne, but only ordered a bottle of wine. Maybe Le Cinq simply cannot believe that some people prefer to celebrate with wine instead of champagne. (Although, in Le Cinq's defense, that couple seemed rather miserable, so perhaps Le Cinq's staff was hoping to brighten their mood.)

Ambiance:
The ambiance, assuming you're looking for lots of faux-opulence, gold, and stuffiness, is on point. You get here exactly what you expect, at least as far as ambiance is concerned. But, if you want to enjoy yourself in a more relaxed setting, the bar and lounge patrons right outside the restaurant, who were being serenaded with live jazz, seemed to be having a much better time than anyone dining at Le Cinq.

Le Cinq
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