When the restaurant critic for the magazine Télérama described a meal at a new Paris restaurant, La Table d’Ugo, as a “feast” and raved about each and every dish he sampled there, my immediate reaction was to pick up the phone and make a reservation.
Three of us dutifully trooped out to Porte Maillot, no one’s favorite place in Paris because of its ugly architecture; huge, confusing Métro station; and the tangle of highways surrounding it. The restaurant turned out to be in the part of the neighborhood untouched by urban redevelopment, on the ground floor of a handsome Art Deco building with gold mosaics decorating its facade.
I was happy to see that the mosaics had also been preserved in the restaurant, along with the dark-wood paneling. A modern touch was added by plush white Scandinavian-style seating and tables, which clash a bit with the setting but add a fresh touch. This would be the perfect place for a business lunch (although the prices aren’t really high enough to impress an important client).
We made the unusual (for me, anyway, since I like to taste as many different things as possible) move of all ordering the same thing from the daily lunch menu; a starter of buffalo mozzarella breaded with panko (flaky Japanese
breadcrumbs) and fried. It was rubbery and tasteless. Big disappointment number one. Number two was the main course: inexcusably
overcooked dorade (sea bream) with a colorful sauce that didn’t make up for it. Certainly a moment of inattention could lead to the overcooking of one piece of fish, but the same crime was committed on all three. The only saving grace was a helping of delicious caramelized fennel on the side.
We shared one dessert – a cookie base topped
with a green pistachio mousse – just to give it a chance, and it was quite tasty.
One of my friends said that perhaps it had been a mistake to order the menu du jour, but why should the day’s special be of lesser quality than dishes ordered a là carte? I recently reviewed a meal at Le Timbre, which offers a set lunch menu with no choices, and each dish was perfect in terms of both quality and cooking times for all three of us. The best part of the meal chez Ugo was actually the warm rolls served with high-quality butter studded with fleur de sel.
To be fair, perhaps we should have ordered a wider range of dishes to see what else chef Ugo is capable of. Let’s give him a chance, since he’s only 24 years old (according to Télérama) and has worked for a couple of great chefs (although that’s not necessarily a guarantee of anything). If you are in the neighborhood, go there for the comfortable, handsome setting, but be careful what you order.
The service, by the way, was provided by two sweet young women, one competent and the other fairly clueless.