"The evolving 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)!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Garnier -- Restaurant Review


Address: 111, rue Saint-Lazare, 75008 Paris
Nearest transport: Saint-Lazare Metro/RER
Telephone: 01 43 87 50 40

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+)

  3.5 - Stars............................................. (prix fixe menu)............................................1 - Bell

Garnier is literally across the street from the St. Lazare train station, which makes it easily accessible.

Oyster Bar
The front of the restaurant had a clear view of their “oyster bar.”  Oysters are extremely popular in November and during the holidays, after all December ends in “R”, which means oysters are ripe for the picking.  You can actually eat oysters any time of the year, but the best times are in the months ending in “R” primarily because European oyster spawn in the summer months and do not taste as good during that season. (see "Why buy oysters in 'R'?")

As we waited outside I watched the staff prepare the oysters being delivered to the customers.  Very clean, well organized and professional. It is a large 2-story corner restaurant. As we went in, I noticed that the restaurant had mirrors strategically placed throughout the restaurant giving it the perception that it was really much larger than it really is. It also helped bring light into the restaurant on an otherwise gloomy day. And, as you walked in you will see a fish tank filled with live lobsters for the picking.

We met John and Collette upstairs next to the window. We had a great table.  The place is very Parisian, but at the same time had a feel of a little more sophistication than the regular bistros/restaurants that I’m accustomed to, probably because of the size, and you don’t want to be looking at all their mirrors without being a little “cleaned-up.”

As we perused the menu, Jack and I decided to have the Menu at 39.50€ for 3-courses, a glass of wine and coffee, a very reasonable price for what you get.  This prix fixe menu gave you 4-choices for an entrée, 4-choices for a plat and 2-choices for desserts. This also came with a glass of wine as well as coffee.

Prix-fixe menu
On the table there was a little cup filled with spicy tuna.  At first it was suggested that it might have cayenne, I thought it was something different, but couldn’t put my finger on it, so we asked the waiter, and it was "espelette", which gave it that little kick. We all liked it.

Collette and John ordered à la carte.  Collette forgoing the entrée, while Jack and John had the shared a platter of creuses de Bretagne n°3 and Utah Beach n°3's – huître (oysters). 


I had ordered the Carpaccio de haddock à l'huile d'olive citronnée.  The carpaccio was very nice, it fact it was salted quite nicely, considering the greens that came with it were not salted at all, so it gave it a nice balance.

Condiments for the Huîtres

John and Jack both enjoyed their oysters, they were accompanied with plain rich butter, herbed butter, and an onion vinaigrette. 


As you’ve probably pictured by now, this restaurant is known for their seafood.  John ordered the sole.  It was very simple and nicely presented.  In fact, I commented that it was filleted quite nicely. John thought the sole was “terrific”, but was swimming in too much butter. I had a taste of it and it was very delicate and simple. Sometimes, less is more.


Colette had the bar. My first honest impression, it was plated very sloppy.  They did not do as good a job filleting it as they had done John’s sole.  As you can see from the picture.  It might even look downright unappetizing for the uninitiated.  I would have preferred it served whole than to look that messy.  I tasted a little bit of it, and again, less is more. I did notice Collette salted the bar, which I would have done too, plus added pepper and espellette, which was made available to us.

Jack first asked the waiter, which would he recommend, the dorade or the sardines?, the waiter recommended the dorade, I of course got curious about the sardines so I ordered that. Jack had the “filet de daurade grillée, carrottes à l'orange”, dorade nicely plated over glazed carrots with no other accompaniments. Jack said it was very good, but lacking in portion size for both the fish and the carrots. I tasted it, and that was probably the one fish I loved the most of the 3 I tasted.

Sardines grillées

 I ordered the “sardines grillées, condiment à l'anchois, caviar d'aubergine.” This dish is not for everyone. Typically, this fish is deep fried which crisps up the bones which can then easily be eaten. Although, the bones can be eatened, it is more difficult to eat when not fried. I like the taste of sardines, and I had no problem de-boning the fish, but a part of me wanted to be able to eat the bones and the heads, which I wouldn’t recommend doing with this preparation.  It was a tasty dish and the accompanying anchovy sauce I loved.  Again the dish is not for everyone, since it is a strong tasting fish.


This is the part of the lunch I found very strange.  Three of us got these small copper pots of e.g., rice and aubergines. First of all, it look extremely unappetizing, secondly I found this presentation strange, as if almost to say, "we can put ugly things in cute copper pans and make it look pretty and get away with it", not!  It was strange. And, my aubergines were not particularly tasty. It was mushy and just not pleasant.

Mousse au chocolat

For the desserts, on the prix fixe menu you had two choices: Mousse au chocolat or Riz au lait comme autrefois, crème angalis et financier.  Collette ordered a warm pear tart.

OK, let’s start with the mousse au chocolat, I have one thing to say, WEIRD, OK, maybe another word to say, WEIRDER!!!  It was the oddest mousse au chocolat I have ever had anywhere in the world. It was like eating fluffy meringue with a hint of cream and maybe, just maybe, a hint of chocolate, if you close your eyes and imagine. Even the color was off. If it had more sugar in it, I would swear it came from a Las Vegas buffet!

Pear Tart

Colette thought her tart was "lacking in flavor", and expensive at 14€. So, looks like the desserts were misses. 

Would we go back? probably. I found there were  a series of hits and misses. The service is excellent, although they forgot to ask whether I wanted a glass of wine that accompanied my meal, but at that point I really didn’t want any more alcohol.  Our bill, with two bottles of great wine  was 232.50€ for 4.

Always fun and an adventure going out to lunch with John, and we had a great time meeting Colette. Can't wait for our next eating adventure.

A la prochaine!

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