|47 Rue de Rochechouart|
Metro: #2, #7, #12
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
2 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 2 - Bell
The restaurant is pretty nondescript from the outside. And, the signage is quite small, so you could easily walk past it without realizing it. Also there are several restaurants in Paris with 'Bouillon' in their name.
We joined our good friends J and C who had just arrived from the US that morning. So, a little jet-lagged, but they managed to stay awake for the food that was about to come. J had been there 2-weeks earlier and was "wowed" by the food, which was our reason for choosing this place. C was anxious to try it based on J's previous review.
As we entered we noticed that the restaurant is plain, in fact VERY plain. Just tables and chairs and the walls were bare, no adornments whatsoever. It didn't have a cozy feel to it at all, and the colors didn't help (off white & gray). They seemed unable to find our reservation, asked us to spell the name, and then finally realized they were not looking at today's date in their book. When they turned to today they found our booking. This was an eerie predictor of the service to come. We perused the menu, they had a "plat du jour" (plate of the day) which was "Coq au Vin".
We first ordered some wine. In fact, we ordered a bottle of red and a glass of white for me. Now I know we have American accents, but our French can't be that bad, but our wait-person came back to pour a glass of red wine for J; he reminded the wait-person that, no we ordered a bottle, and JJ cried out "j'ai soif" (I'm thirsty). But she removed 2 wine glasses (from JJ and C) and came back with a bottle just for J?!? and poured my 1 glass of white wine which was a sauvignon blanc, and quite good actually. Now logically, do you think this is weird that only 1 person would drink a whole bottle to themselves while 2 others had nothing to drink? So, we asked for 2 more (empty) glasses. Let's just say, this was NOT a good start.
Three of us had the "Bouillon de "vrais" champignons de Paris, foie gras de canard, céleri-coriandre, vinaigre fumé" (Bouillon "real" Paris mushrooms, foie gras, celery cilantro, smoked vinegar). The presentation was wonderful, but that's just about where it stayed. We all tasted it and unanimously asked for salt and pepper. In fact, two of us doused it with lots of salt. The soup was beyond under-seasoned. And, I noticed that the French group next to us also requested salt/pepper, not a good sign, since it's an unwritten law that the Chef should know the basics of seasoning.
Also, J and C actually commented that they confused the fois as being tofu. I have no clue how they made it so flavorless and so light to give it that texture of tofu. The question begs to be asked, was it intentional? If so, change it back. As most Chefs know, typically mushrooms are not washed because they absorb too much water and the flavor is lost. You instead brush the grit off. Unfortunately, I was the lucky recipient of some of that grit, oh well. But I do have to say, once we seasoned it, the flavor profile was vastly improved.
JJ had the "Pissaladière", a common snack or dish originating from Nice which is akin to a pizza pie topped with onions and anchovies. My first observation, it looked pretty enough, but the dough was not a traditional bread, foccacia or pizza dough, but a pastry dough of some sort and it looked overcooked, almost burnt. It was topped with fried onions and I thought, that can't be bad, until I tasted it. I took one bite into it, it was like chewing on rubber bands. So no-one would think I was exaggerating, I insisted they all taste it. Another question needed to be begged, was this intentional?!? Regardless, the dish was not tasty, the dough was mushy, and it may not have been freshly made, because it tasted like it was reheated; hence, the over-browning.
OK, this was NOT a good start...
J and C ordered the special of the day which was "Coq au Vin". Well this dish was the saving grace of the day. A classic French dish done right. I tasted the chicken and it was good, but the sauce was exceptional, in fact, it was the best part of the dish. It was stewed a long time to develop a rich and full flavored wine sauce, almost had the texture and sheen of "demi-glace". It was accompanied by mashed potatoes. I'm not a potato person, but it was delicious. Creamy, rich and had a nice buttery flavor. We agreed this dish was a hit.
JJ had the "Cabillaud cuit vapeur, a parfumé aux épices, citrons confits" (Steamed cod flavored with spices, preserved lemons). It was simply presented with the star being the fish. Surprisingly, since it was not described in the menu, it sat atop garbanzo beans (chickpeas). This was reminiscent of a typical French dish, "Petit Salé aux lentils" of pork belly sitting atop lentils. The fish was good, but even better was the lemony flavor imparted by the preserved lemons. And, the garbanzo beans added to the flavor profile. Overall a good dish.
Now onto the wines. Although a restaurant is not responsible for the taste of the wines, they are none-the-less responsible for their choice of wines in their list. The first wine was a red wine called 'fruit defendu' from "Magellan" made of "Cinsaut" grapes. The group that had it said the wine was extremely light and had no body. In fact, to describe it would be a light, light pinot noir, and pinots are light to begin with. I had a taste of it, and I didn't mind it as much as the others. JJ would’ve preferred the Belgium dark beer with the same name (fruit defendu). So, J next ordered a 2nd bottle of wine. It took forever to get it and J had to remind them we ordered another bottle of wine, but this time it was a Vinsobres from the Rhone. It was a little richer and more full bodied, it was good.
We decided to skip dessert, and just have coffee instead.
As I've said before, consistency is not only important in the restaurant business, but crucial. One of the primary reasons J wanted to return was because he fell in love with the soup. Unfortunately, it was very different from when he had it just 2-weeks earlier. You can have slight variations, but to be so dramatically different?
As for the service, I have one word to describe it "Schizophrenic". Although the wait staff were friendly enough, the service was uncoordinated and forgetful. Little things like remembering to fill our bread platter would've been nice. Or simply remembering that we ordered another bottle of wine, after all we are in France and the money makers in the restaurant business are wines, so you would think that'd be something they'd remember. And, getting and paying our bill took forever, even by Parisien standards.
The entrées were dreadful, the coq au vin was delicious and the veau and cod were good. I would've given it a lower rating if it wasn't primarily the redemption from the coq au vin. With 2-glasses of sauvignon blanc, 2-bottles of red wine, and 2-coffees and 1 tea, our bill came to 168€ or 84€/couple.
Would I return, probably not.