About

"The reluctant Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Bouillon


47 Rue de Rochechouart
Tel: 09-51-18-66-59
Email: restaurantbouillon@gmail.com
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.

ENTRÉE


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...

PLATS


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.




I had the "Poitrine de veau Français cuite au bouillon, jeunes légumes de chez Didier Pil" (French breast of veal cooked in broth, young vegetables from Didier Pil).  The dish was nicely presented and I loved the colors of the vegetables.  I took a bite of what looked like a round beet, but in fact it was a brussels sprout cooked with the beet that gave it that color and flavor. I liked it a lot.  Veal tends to be bland, so accompaniments or sauces are very important. I have to say I thought the veal was cooked perfectly, and the accompanying vegetables were a perfect match. But to bring it to the next level, I would've liked to see a more prominent sauce tying the whole dish together. Hence, I stole some of  J and C's coq au vin sauce, which made the dish perfect.


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.


SUMMARY

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.



3 comments :

  1. Getting the wine order wrong at the beginning would have been a big, red flag for me. I don't care how good the food might be, if the service is poor, so is the whole dining experience.
    Cheers,
    Stephan

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    Replies
    1. Stephan, you're absolutely right. I don't drink red wine for health reasons. So, from my perspective it started out well when they recommended a nice sauvignon blanc to start which was really good.

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  2. I just found your blog and stopped when I saw the address rue Rochechouart. This restaurant must be about 1 ½ blocks from where I grew up in Paris. We lived in the Cite Condorcet, off rue Condorcet and the corner of rue Rochechouart. Of course that restaurant was not there then and it does not sound that it will last long if that is the type of cuisine they serve (des plats fades – don’t know how to saw that in English.) Last time we went back (in 2013) we ate avenue Trudaine (not far away, at the top of rue Turgot) in a small place, it was good, but I don’t remember the name. I’ll return to your blog to read your posts because I am so tired of tourists who go to Paris for just several days and think they know Paris completely and that everything in it is perfect. By the way if you want to see a photo my mother took of the corner of rue Rochechouart and rue Condorcet in 1944 at the Liberation of Paris, I have posted it on my blog on Aug, 24, 2014.

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