Wednesday, December 14, 2011
RESTAURANT REVIEW: LE CONNÉTABLE
My friends and I went out for a nice little meal the other day. Since it was just around the corner from Pain de Sucre we decided to meet there. Everyone knew where it was and considering that we were planning on meeting at 7:30pm I assumed that my evil bosses would be home polishing their pitch forks. Plus I have recently cut and dyed my hair and figured that since they would rather look inside a rodent's rectum than at the filth they call an intern, they wouldn't recognize me. So as Christy, Luke and I waited outside for the others to meet us, I looked in the windows to see what was new. Some savory things had changed, and they had their buche de noel out (though I must say they did not look very nice, but I'm sure they're quite tasty) and then it happened. My boss emerged from the back and for a split second our eyes met. I quickly walked away hoping that he hadn't recognized me, but Luke picked up on it and said, "Well that was a tiny bit awkward."
We waited only a few moments more for Suanne, Elze and her visiting friend to meet up with us but still I could feel my heart beating a bit harder in my chest than normal. Surely he hadn't recognized me. The man had no respect for me and had rarely taken notice of me, especially not when I was out of my chef cap and uniform. But apparently he had recognized me. Elze even noticed how uncomfortable he felt with me in front of his shop. He felt uncomfortable? The man had called me a failure, a loser, someone who would never succeed. And on top of that he treated me like a snot filled kleenex on a daily basis. If anyone felt uncomfortable it was me! But I was glad to unnerve him a bit. Perhaps he was afraid I might do something drastic like break his windows or throw a molotov cocktail in his door, and don't think I hadn't thought about that. But there was no time for retribution, I was on my way to dinner and I refused to make eye contact again. I loathed him, but I wasn't going to think about it.
We walked around the corner to Le Connétable. Hidden on the corner right next to an ancient looking castle, it felt like I was in some sort of movie from the past. We walked inside and it was very small, cramped, and French. The bar took up the entire first floor with all the tables on the second. With seven in our party it was somewhat of a problem seating us, and they placed us at one of their biggest tables in the corner, creating a severe fire hazard and putting poor Mr. Johnson in the corner with his back against a crocked lamp.
The menu came completely in french. This may sound obvious, but because the majority of people in Paris are actually tourists, many menus come in both french and english. I took this as a good sign, meaning that it was rarely frequented by tourists and so had to stay true to its origins and be tasty in order to hold up to the high standards of the snooty French. The menu was also fairly cheap with a set menu at only 21 €. There was a multitude of tasty options and I went for the chicken liver terrine and salad as my starter, the St. Jacques scallops as my entree, and the charlotte as my dessert.
The terrine was lovely though I must say I wished it had been a little less crumble. But spread on the table bread it was delicious and filling. Everyone else at the table had ordered the lamb shanks for their main course and when I sat there with my delicious plate of creamy scallops I felt a tad bit out of place. Six plates of gigantic and beautiful lamb shanks came, one after the other, and sat themselves down next to me. And after biting into my scallops and seeing my friends reaction to their shank, I knew I had made the wrong choice. Sure my scallops were fine, cooked perfectly and with a rich cream sauce, but the truth was that they were a bit bland. Usually scallops were rich and buttery and though I may have the raw diced onions on top to blame for overpowering them, they really didn't hit me as hard as they usually do. My fellow diners, however, were more than thrilled with their beautiful lamb meat falling off the bone into their plate of delicious jus. Mr. Johnson proclaimed that it was the best lamb shank he had had. Lesson learned, I will have to return for some long cooked meat some other evening.
Dessert came and I must say I was more than disappointed. I don't exactly know where restaurants get off serving this type of riff raff but they should be embarrassed. After a better than average meal I expect the dessert to reach the same level, if not higher. It's the last thing a person eats. It's the highest indulgence a person can make. And when you serve them a sad and hideous plate of charlotte, how can you sleep at night? Not only was my plate horrendous looking, it was horrendous tasting as well. A peach charlotte with canned peaches, it tasted as fake and cheap as it was. The bavarois cream looked like whipped cream from the can and had a cool whip texture that offended each and every one of my senses. And I wasn't the only one. 50% of us were disappointed with our desserts. The chocolate and pear tarte that Elze and Wayne ordered left them happy and satisfied, and Chrity's chocolate crunch entremet left me jealous and drooling. But the point is that no dessert should be disappointing. If you only have two worthy desserts to serve than for heaven's sake please have those be the only two options!
This has happened to me far too many times for me to not be infuriated by it. It occurs just as often in the states as it does here in France. So many times the meal is beautiful and decadent but the dessert falls short. Perhaps I am just pickier than other customers because dessert is my passion and something I know a lot about. But the truth is that I have just as high standards for savory as I do for the sweet. If I'm going to spend the money to go out and eat somewhere it'd better taste more delicious than anything I can make at home. So why the half-assed job at desserts?
I think it partially is because cuisine chefs have little respect for pastry chefs and so don't see it as an important element in their menu. I think it also because there are two separate chefs in a kitchen, the cuisine and the pastry, and so one may be stellar and the other subpar, and with the cuisine chef as the star of the show he/she most certainly better be good. But honestly, a dessert is the last impression a restaurant can leave you with. It's something you choose to indulge in after an often long and filling meal. If anything it should be the peak of one's dining experience, not the low.
So while Le Connétable was delectable and worthy of another visit, I am more than upset with their approach towards dessert. Just because it's the "after dinner" doesn't mean it should be an after though. A shake of the finger to you Le Connétable. A shake of the finger.