The Passage des Panoramas
Normally I would avoid a restaurant with a name like Canard & Champagne, but a recent review in a French magazine convinced me that in spite of its gimmicky (and misguided – what do duck and champagne have to do with each other, aside from both being delicious?) concept, it was well worth a visit. Another attraction was its location in the lively and lovely Passage des Panoramas, Paris’s oldest covered passage, dating from 1800, which is gradually filling up with restaurants of varying quality (one excellent choice: Noglu) without giving up its traditional philately shops.
The lovely woodwork and decorative floor tiles of the restaurant’s interior have been preserved intact (historical monument status oblige) and jazzed up with designer lighting fixtures, modern tables and chairs, and an amusing wall-sized photo of obsequiously bowing waiters from the film Le Grand Restaurant (1966), starring Louis de Funès. We chose to sit at one of the tables in the passage, however, to avoid the high tables (I had thought that that uncomfortable trend was passé, but apparently not) inside and to experience the life on the busy “indoor street.”
The young servers were as charming and friendly as could be desired, and it didn’t take them long to elicit our order, since there were so few choices. For starters, either foie gras with chutney or duck terrine with piquillos, and for mains, magret (duck breast), confit de canard or a steak (for duck haters, I suppose). To appease my American compatriots, who must have their green salad, it was noted on the menu that such rabbit food was also available.
Richard (Paris Update’s erstwhile restaurant reviewer, in town for a rare visit) and I split the two starters 50-50. The foie gras was
half-coated with a mixture of poppy and sesame seeds, an original and appreciated touch. We had a chuckle at the expense of the “chutney,” which was actually an apple compote. The terrine was tasty, but there was no sign of the promised piquillos. Instead,
there were two thin slices of delicious dill pickle (we wished there were more), which went beautifully with the terrine.
The main courses were also fine. My duck breast was generous and perfectly cooked,
and the confit was moist and flavorful. With them came side orders of matchstick French fries and a dish of unseasonal but nicely buttery mashed sweet potatoes.
For dessert, Richard went for the cheese
platter, a generous selection properly served at room temperature. I had the “intense chocolate tart from the BO pastry shop,” which was indeed intense but somehow didn’t delight this chocolate addict.
The restaurant offers a choice of champagnes, of course, at prices ranging from €39 to €560 (Billecart Salmon – Cuvée Saint Hillaire 1999, one I am not familiar with), and champagne-duck pairings are available, but we abstained, agreeing that red wine goes much better with duck than champagne, and had a lovely bottle of unfiltered Brouilly that was supposedly made without sulfites (“contains natural sulfites” was marked in small print on the label).
Everything we had was well-prepared and made with quality ingredients, but this was not an inventive gourmet experience. The restaurant is doing a good job at what it sets out to do, but what it seems to be trying to do is cash in on the “French Paradox,” which it even describes (in awkward English) on the menu. If it’s the French Paradox they are going after, however, it should be “Canard & Vin Rouge,” since the effect of red wine is a possible expanation for the lower death rates from heart attacks in France.
By the end of the meal, which left us less than enchanted, the charms of the Passage des Panoramas had begun to wear off as well. While we were eating, various competing food smells had wafted by us from other restaurants, and as we finished our desserts, some revolting sewer-like odors began to rise from a grate at our feet, which we hadn’t even noticed until then. Check, please!Favorite