Last week I reported on a sterling experience at Moustache, where we ate well, were treated royally and had an all-around good time. Not long after, I went with two friends to Juste le Zinc, a new restaurant in the eighth arrondissement that had been getting rave reviews, where the food was pretty wonderful but the treatment was less than royal.
“Le zinc” refers to the long zinc bar, presumably left over from the space’s last incarnation. Apart from that, the interior is fairly simple, with some nice designer light fixtures, mirrors and tulip-patterned wallpaper.
When it came time to order, we were rather surprised to see that of only four main courses on the menu, two were already sold out, although there was a daily special on offer.
The starters were all a delight, especially
my rich, creamy corn soup flavored with Mexican vanilla and served, rather unnecessarily, with a little bowl of plain popcorn. One of my friends had
the Basque piperade, a fine example of the genre topped with a generous portion of ham, while the other had a very tasty risotto with prawns.
I lucked out again with the terrific braised
pork cheeks served in a cast-iron pot and flavored with surprises like orange and – of all things – coffee beans. I’m not sure what they added aside from the crunch, but perhaps they contributed to the dish’s overall goodness.
One of my friends had the fine bass with
artichokes à la barigoule (braised Provençal-style), while the other went for the steak, which was served barely warm with cold mashed potatoes. The server took them back to the kitchen, but we had a long wait for their return, and the steak came back with a bowl of crozets
(buckwheat pasta from Savoy) instead of the mashed potatoes. The waiter explained that the potatoes couldn’t be reheated without ruining them (true), but didn’t explain why they couldn’t be bothered to make a fresh batch.
One friend had the cheese for dessert – an
excellent Morbier and a rather tasteless Comté – while I had the “assiette crémeuse au
chocolat,” basically a very runny soft-centered chocolate cake with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
One of my friends was in the mood for a digestif, but we now found it absolutely impossible to get the waiter’s attention in spite of repeated attempts to flag him down. When another table, obviously friends of the house, got up to leave, the waiter got involved in a long conversation with them, his back turned to us.
Fed up with waiting after about 10 minutes, I called out, “S’il vous plait” – rather loudly, it’s true, but the place was very noisy. The waiter turned around and gave me a long, filthy stare that clearly said, “How dare you! I will come over when I’m damn well ready and not before.” Then he turned around and continued talking to his friends.
We decided it was time to clear out. One of my friends went to the counter and paid and we left. Not a single “Merci. Au revoir” from the staff. When I turned around and looked back through the door, the waiter was once again giving me that evil stare.
After our happy experience at Moustache last week, it was disapointing to have another nice meal ruined by bad attitude. Such incidents leave a bad taste in the mouth no matter how good the food was and certainly don’t inspire a desire to return. I hope that next week I will have something more positive to report.
Reader Carol McFarland writes: “With so many welcoming restaurants available, visitors are well served with such an honest and detailed assessment as Ms. Ellison has written about her experience with Juste le Zinc. Having been forewarned, It might be amusing to visit le Zinc just to see a repeat performance starring the surly waiter. Keep it up, Paris Update!”Click here to see a list of Paris Update’s favorite restaurants by arrondissement.Favorite