Coping in a Crisis
|The restaurant’s modern decor has a touch of whimsy.|
Paris has acquired a reputation for surly waiters, and this may well be the case in some of the more traditional establishments. But Fontaine Fiacre, a two-year-old restaurant with a modern decor that is fun but not intrusive, is certainly not one of those places. On a recent visit, our waiter maintained his great good humor in the midst of an evening of mayhem that had nothing to do with the excellent chef and staff.
Before our starters had even arrived, one of the four women dining at a neighboring table began to feel faint and, although the serving staff and other diners offered to clear a path for her to get some fresh air, she opted to stay at the table while being dabbed with a damp cloth by her friends and breathing into a plastic bag. This distraction didn’t keep us from happily tucking into our first courses, however: a deliciously crisp autumn salad with apples, chicory, sunflower seeds and bacon; and a gloriously creamy pumpkin soup (the soup of the day, depending on the chef’s mood, as the menu says – he or she must have been in a good mood that evening).
By the time we had embarked on our main course, the group at the table next to us, instead of taking their wilting friend home, had decided to decamp downstairs, presumably to attend to her in the washroom. A relay of helpers ran up and down the stairs carrying large vases filled with water while I enjoyed a beautifully prepared dish of scallops, their flavor (the scallops, not the helpers) enhanced by a subtle sauce and accompanying vegetables. One of my companions opted for the fish of the day, a fine sea bream served with a pan of mixed vegetables, while the other chose a deeply flavored bourguignon made with super-tender beef cheeks and fresh ceps.
By dessert we had became increasingly concerned, since the patient downstairs had still not emerged, but the ascent and descent of the stairs by her helpers began to take on a less urgent air, so we felt able to appreciate our desserts: a delicate cookie topped with a rich chocolate cream flavored with a hint of cherry; an unusual millefeuille made of layers of crispy gingerbread and almond milk ice-cream that was perfection; and a very thin apple tart topped with caramelized vanilla cream.
While we sipped our post-dessert coffee, the smiling patient re-emerged and stepped confidently into the warm autumn night, looking as if this sort of thing happened regularly.
At lunchtime, the Fontaine Fiacre offers a generous menu with two courses or one course and a pichet of wine for only €15 (the food is just as good; I had a delicious chicken fricassee for lunch there a few days later), but there is no such fixed-price menu in the evenings, which can make the meal slightly pricey. Our dinner, including a bottle of modestly priced red wine, came to 50 euros a head. But the quiet and friendly professionalism of the staff (we now know they cope well in a crisis), the relaxed ambiance and the beautifully prepared food made it worthwhile.
Fontaine Fiacre: 8, rue Hippolyte-Lebas, 75009 Paris: Métro: Notre-Dame de Lorette or Cadet. Tel.: 01 53 20 88 70. Open daily for lunch and dinner, brunch on Sundays. Fixed-price lunch menu (two courses or one course with a pitcher of wine): €15. A la carte: €45-60.
© 2007 Paris Update
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