Our meal at Le Cotte Rotie started off quite nicely. After greeting my two friends and me and ushering us to our table, the waiter enthusiastically explained in great (too much?) detail every item on the blackboard menu. Then the jolly chef came over and explained them again. It seemed like a bistro that took great pride in its dishes and ingredients. But why wasn’t the chef, who was making the rounds of the dining room, in the kitchen cooking?
Presentation counts in this restaurant, and our first courses were served with ceremony. The pea soup arrived first as a dollop of burrata on a black soup plate with fresh green peas
scattered prettily over it. Then the waitress came with a little pitcher and poured the cold pale-green soup over it. The same treatment was given to the slow-cooked egg with its
foamy, creamy sauce. I had the deep-fried frog’s legs, which added €5 to the €39 menu. The waiter assured me they were from a French frog (after having been pretty much
wiped out in France, they are now farmed here), but I couldn’t tell it from a frog of any other nationality. In any case, in spite of the addition of parsley sauce and a sort of chutney of dates and citrus, it was not very exciting. Neither was the rather bland pea soup. The best of the bunch was the egg.
The trouble started with the main courses. Tempted by the onion rings promised on the menu, I ordered the hampe de veau. It was fine, and the eggplant caponata that came with
it was quite tasty. The crispy, delicate onion rings were not the big fat juicy ones I remembered from my American youth, but I enjoyed them. One friend had the daily special,
a casserole of raie (skate), Mikado salad, white beans and a touch of Espelette pepper. This turned out to be the top dish of the three.
My other friend had ordered the épaule d’agneau confite (lamb shoulder cooked in its own fat) with mushroom lasagna. It was carefully arranged on the plate, with the lamb formed into a tube shape and the rectangular lasagna next to it. Unfortunately, the lamb was dry and tasteless, not succulent and meltingly tender as meat cooked this way should be, and
A photo of the disputed lamb and lasagna dish graces the wall of the toilet.
the lasagna was stodgy and boring. When the waitress was taking away the plates, she asked if we had enjoyed the food, and my friend told her what he thought of the lamb. Her immediate reaction was to say that the dryness was normal because the meat was slow-cooked and confit – a response that makes no sense. She sent the chef over. Instead of apologizing or at least sympathizing, he said the same thing, implying that my friend (who is by the way, a real foodie and eats in the best restaurants all the time) was an idiot for expecting slow-cooked meat to be tender and moist (did he mean that it was normal for him to serve dry, tasteless meat?). Needless to say, an unpleasant argument ensued between them.
We saw it through to the end nonetheless and ordered desserts: again, the presentation of all three was attractive, but they were mostly lacking in flavor. The best was the “comme
une fôret noire.” This was supposed to be a deconstructed black forest cake, but the cake part was more brownie-like (good brownies!), and the cherry flavor did not come through in the pink ice cream accompanying it.
I didn’t even finish my “arlette caramélisé façon millefeuille, crème citron-génépi,
sorbet lemon-basilic.” In spite of its fancy name, it didn’t amount to much, like the
apple tart with an equally elaborate description.
Verdict: the food in this restaurant does not live up to its pretentions. I had been wondering why it was only half full on a Friday night. By the end of the evening, I knew why.Favorite