Be prepared for good food but a long wait Chez la Vieille. Photo by John Talbott
THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.
The door that leads into this restaurant is really that of the whole building, which is slightly disconcerting. Once inside, however, someone will escort you to your table in the dining room on the first or second floor. Everything about the decor reminds you that you are in a place with a gastronomic history. Photos of Adrienne, the famous first owner, who ran the place for 40 years, are hung everywhere, along with a few photographs of vieux Paris. The current chef, Michel del Burgo, has a prestigious résumé, including stints at the Bristol, l’Oustau de Baumanière and Taillevent.
The menu lines up a serious selection of lovely-sounding dishes. I started with the ravioles de champignons de Paris, crus et cuits (raw and cooked mushroom ravioli, €16.50). They arrived looking like fat little cushions, covered in a foamy emulsion and decorated with thin slices of raw mushrooms (present more for the look than the taste). This dish was a delight, elevating the common champignon de Paris to new gastronomic heights.
I followed this with noix de Saint-Jacques poêlées, étuvée d’endives liées à la truffe, jus de veau tranché (pan-fried scallops with braised endives,in a truffle and veal sauce, €32). I could see the truffle shavings better than I could taste them, but all in all, the caramelized endives with the rich veal sauce were excellent with the perfectly cooked scallops.
For dessert (not that I was really hungry by then) I chose a baba au rhum, which was good, but not extraordinary.
This dinner was washed down with a Vaqueyras blanc 2005 Montirius (€61, a lot for a Vaqueyras!) that was both complex and elegant, well worth the price.
The mostly excellent food is made with quality products, is cooked precisely and comes in generous portions, but is not cheap, as you will have noted. The only real problem is the service. The waiter and waitress both seemed totally stressed and didn’t look as if they were enjoying their jobs. In this kind of small, intimate restaurant, it really dampens the atmosphere. And stay away if you’re in a hurry. The food will arrive, but at its own pace. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you’re in the mood for a leisurely meal.
Chez la Vieille: 1, rue Bailleul, 75001 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 60 15 78. Métro: Louvre Rivoli. Nearest Vélib station: 36 rue de l’Arbre-Sec. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner; Saturday for dinner only.
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