I have recently been led astray by two trusted foodie friends who recommended restaurants that turned out to be something of a disappointment. The latest was La Bonace, a little place near the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in La Villette, inconveniently located far from any Métro stop.
My friend had been there before and had absolutely loved it. When I went to meet him and his wife there, I immediately liked the simple, friendly look of the place, with its blond-wood tables and chairs, lots of mirrors, a small bar and shelves with bric-à-brac. But then I noticed how hard and uninviting the wood-plank banquettes looked with no cushions on them and how noises were echoed and amplified by the hard surfaces and was a little less thrilled.
Still, I was looking forward to a good meal at bargain prices: the lunch menu offers three courses for only €18. It took a healthy approach, offering two salad choices for the first course: raw vegetables and spring onions or tabouli made with maftoul (“Palestinian couscous”), broccoli, parsley and lime. I had the latter, which did indeed taste fresh, healthy – too healthy perhaps – and pretty bland. I was soon reaching for the salt shaker.
That salt shaker got a good workout during the meal – my guess is that the chef doesn’t add any while cooking. For the next course, one of my friends had the merlu (hake) with lentils and caper sauce. She was soon complaining about how bland it was and reaching for the salt.
I wanted it, too, for my vegetarian main course: baked eggplant with ricotta (so said the menu; I think it was crème fraiche) with fried polenta and grilled almonds. The almonds were the tastiest part of this dish; the polenta was overcooked and dry, and the eggplant was just plain boring.
The only main course with some pizazz was the Vietnamese-style pork with Thai basil, sautéed zucchini and rice noodles. It was fine, but the friend who ordered it (he who had so loved this place before) was not interested and barely touched it. I helped him out to add a little meat protein to my meal.
For form’s sake, we ordered both desserts: a coconut tart with kiwi sauce and a salad of melon, strawberries and Greek yogurt (no creative cooking skills required for that). The tart was actually rather tasty, the only thing I really enjoyed during this meal.
All the wine and beer here is organic, and I can only applaud the use of healthy, fresh ingredients, but a little more creativity in the kitchen is in order if this is ever to be anything more than a pleasant neighborhood restaurant. I hope my foodie friends will do better the next time!