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Paris Trip - Part 4

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Paris Trip - Part 4

Wendy Lai | Jun 3, 2003 07:29 PM

The first day we were in Paris we were walking along the Seine when we happened upon Le Tour de Argent. We looked up and there it was! Since we had one Saturday open with no dinner reservation spoken for, we thought what the hey, lets see if we can do a walk-in reservation. We did and they gave us a prime dinner reservation for 8pm on Saturday. Before we left I did my research and decided I’m not big a duck fan so I didn’t want to go. But it being such a famous restaurant, and we just walked by by accident, we felt it was destiny.

Le Tour de Argent was all pomp and circumstance. The riding the of the elevator to the upstairs dinning room, the presentation of the duck before carving and serving, the individual numbers you receive for each duck you order was all designed to make you feel like you are part of something special. I must say it almost worked on us. I wouldn’t say the food was bad; in fact it was done fairly well overall. But there just wasn’t the level of sophistication that other high-end restaurants seemed to posses. We were offered an excellent table by the window. Facing the window you get the beautiful river view, facing the room you get the great view of all the hustle and bustle of waiters running back and forth with ducks on silver platters. A small tray of amuse bouchee with four different tasty bites delighted our taste buds as we first sat down. We thought if the rest of the meal matched these delicate touches we would be in for a treat. Unfortunately, the rest of the meal was not. The rest of the meal was delicious, but a bit too heavy handed in their approach. The portion was too large (half a duck per person), after going through a whole entire breast with sides, a roasted duck leg seemed almost too much to tackle. They didn’t have a tasting menu, we ordered the standard three course dinner. We ordered smoked salmon with herbs, lobster bisque, pike quenelle, and foie gras terrine as our starters. Again, the portions were too large. And given the heaviness of the “subject”, the food began to weigh us down half way through the meal.

The four of us ordered their duck an al orange, and duck in green peppercorn sauce (two people split a whole duck). Both ducks were very delicious. The green peppercorn sauce was the heavier sauce of the two, being cream based, while the orange sauce was very sweet and tart. The ducks were cooked whole, presented to us on silver platters, and then taken off elsewhere to be carved up for service. Our waitress (she and another waitress at Le Tour de Argent were the only female wait staff we saw in our ten day stay in Paris) was trying really hard to give us good service, but she was not experience enough. She almost dropped a very hot plate on our starters, and then during the flaming dessert “show” she was flustered to have to reach to serve. But at least she didn’t attempt to set me on fire :P Our sommelier when decanting the wine lit a candle to illuminate the bottle. When striking the match, a large spark shot out of his match and went right for my lap! Needless to say I was slightly put off. He merely laughed it off. It wasn’t just our wait staff that seemed to have problems. Throughout the night we consistently heard loud noise as things were dropped or bumped into. If there is a school for the art of restaurant service, Guy Savoy’s staffs were PhDs, while Le Tour de Argent’s staff was merely in high school.

For dessert we had a peach flambé, crepe suzette, and assorted fruit sorbets. The peach flambé was a good show. A whole peeled peach arrived in a silver pot, blue flames shooting out everywhere. The waitress stirred around the flaming bowl and scooped out the ball of fire and deposited it on Hao’s plate. Lots of brandy in both the peach and crepe suzette dessert, nothing to complain about I suppose, but again, reference the heavy handedness.

Half way through the duck meal the captain came over with our postcard and our number for the ducks. Even though I know it’s a gimmick, I was still very pleased to know the duck I ordered is now part of history. I guess that is why people go to this place, to be part of history. Looking at their walls of who’s who that ate at this restaurant, you can’t feel but a slight bit taken in by their pomp and circumstance. Will we go again, nope. Are we glad we went and tried it? Almost 

Le Tour de Argent is a thumb’s down.

We have one more night in Paris. It’s a Sunday night; another difficult night to find food in this town that seems to shut down on Sundays. In our party of four we wanted to have cassoulet, French onion soup and beef bourguignon. You would think that is easy to do in Paris, but not on a Sunday. In the end we ended up at Brasserie Balzar, which had only one out of three, French onion soup.

Squeezing into one of the smallest eating space possible we were greeted with a VERY friendly French waiter. So friendly was he, that he was bordering on annoying as he consistently tried to flirt with my girlfriend who happened to be sitting on the outside our booth area. All four of us ordered their French onion soup, at his insistence. Just like Patricia Wells said, add a little salt the whole thing becomes a masterpiece of gooey ooy melted cheese and rich oniony soup. This is the kind of soup that warms the heart and soul on a rainy dark night. It wasn’t rainy then, but we still appreciated it.

For main course two of us had roast chicken, another had Chateaubriand, and I can’t remember the fourth. All of them were prepared very well. The chicken was moist and juicy. A little table-side mustard really set of its taste. A big pile of crunchy steak cut fries accompanied our chicken. I spied catsup on their shelf and decided to do the unthinkable and asked for it. The couple sitting next to us (or almost on top of us) feigned horror as did the waiter, but what can I say, I’m an American girl at heart. Good fries needs catsup!!!

Desserts were tart tatin, assorted sorbet, and more chocolate mousse. Needless to say all three were very good. Hao who is currently obsessed with apple dessert thought their tart tatin was made very well. A good combination of sweetness and tartness were presented in large chunk of apples. The flavors were thoroughly penetrated, yet the apples held their shape and texture.

Overall a great French meal to end our stay at Paris. Brasserie Balzar is a thumb’s up.

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