In my continuing investigation into the recommendations of fellow chowhounds, I find myself with the unpleasant task of writing a bad review.
As we all know, the pleasure of a dining experience is dependent on many factors, not the least of which being the mood and mindset of the patron. Are you in good company, did you have a good day, did you rip your favorite shirt that morning. Regardless, I shall try to define, using as objective a method as possible, the nature of my displeasure with this restaurant.
Background: this restaurant, though not frequently mentioned on this site, appeared with a couple glowing reviews; it also received a thumbs up from the "let's go" guide.
After journeying to the innards of the 15th arrondissement (currently my favorite undiscovered country), we walk a bit to discover the small bistrot on a side street. The brightly lit room (though less than half-full) seems welcoming enough, and we are met by a rather officiously unctuous matronly hostess, who asks us in a florid sing-songy Parisienne accent to take our choice of tables, which we do by the window. Next to us is a table of english speakers discussing Palestine, and I take in the room: a small square, about 9 tables, and an unfortunate color scheme involving white with orange panels. The menu is brought, and my friend and I opt for the 20 e. prix fixe, which offers a small selection of dishes. As it happens, only one item from each category appeals to either of us, so we order ensemble: salade of lentilles and sliced sausage, beef cheeks with potatoes dauphinoise, molten chocolate cake with pistachio sauce. There is no carafe of house red offered, and the least expensive bottle is 25 e., which seems excessive, so we opt for 2 glasses of red at 5 e. each. These are poured by our hostess from a demi-bottle, which is shown to me first so that I might confirm the selection; confused, I remind her we ordered 2 glasses, to which she resonds the demi is there in case we decide to have more later. She pours an amount into each of our glasses which appears to be exactly half an actual glass of wine, then places the bottle on her hostess stand. Consistent with my Parisian experience thus far, the red wine is again cold.
The first course arrives, and I am underwhelmed. Yes, there is a small pile of cold lentils on the plate, and yes, there are a few thin slices of unremarkable sausage placed atop, and yes, there is even a smear of home-made dijonnaise along the side. Yet I cant help thinking I could have purchased all these ingredients at Monoprix and assembled a tastier entrée myself; at least the lentils would have been room temperature.
Onto the main plat: a square of filo-wrapped beef concoction on a brown sauce, next to a round portion of potatoes. Now, I know its partially our fault for ordering the same things, but at this point Im getting the distinct impression of banquet food. Not terrible, just easily prepared in large batches for heat n serve production. The beef cheek turns out to be an unremarkable and overcooked stew containing the stringy meat and some leeks. The sauce, though not very inventive, is decent enough, and fine for smearing the bread in. The potatoes were perfectly reasonable dauphinoise, nothing more.
Dessert: a predictable gooey chocolate cake dome, surrounded by an unrealized green sauce containing far-too coarsely ground pistachios. Not bad. Nothing to write home about.
Afterwards, the chef came out of the kitchen to make his way around the 3 occupied tables. I felt bad because I had nothing to say to him. Nothing at all.
Perhaps I expect a lot, and granted 50 e. for a meal is not a fortune, but it is my hard-earned American money going none-too-far, and it is Paris after all. Chowhounds has turned me onto some good food in this city, and Im sure theres more to be found, even at modest prices. This time, however, I must contradict a couple of our fellow contributors. Le tire bouchon is no great discovery.