Pros: Excellent, friendly service; quality ingredients and mostly good cooking
Cons: Some dishes needed work, no fixed-price menu, noisy
The service at Le Garde Temps, a railroad-car-shaped restaurant just down the street from the Moulin Rouge, is so sweetly solicitous that I wished it were in my neighborhood so I could return often. In an area where sex shops, bars and fast-food joints are still more common than good restaurants, the locals must be pleased by its arrival a few months ago, and the small, simply decorated place – wooden tables, sparkling glassware, one brick wall, one stone wall and an open kitchen in the
back adorned with a big, old-fashioned clock – did indeed fill up quickly with large groups of thirty-something diners who seemed liked regulars, with the exception of a table of five American tourists.
The caring service was provided by co-owner Marc Rosenzweig (his partner is Benoît Gauthier, chef at Le Grand Pan) and a waitress whose smile just wouldn’t quit, a pleasure to see in Paris, where smiles are carefully rationed.
We got off to a good start with a glass of “natural” white wine from Anjou that was slightly fizzy yet full-bodied and flavorful. My first course of creamed mushrooms with
a soft-boiled egg on top, decorated with a crisped slice of jambon de Bayonne and chopped spring onions, was rich, flavorful and satisfying. My friend Liz, who dubbed the first courses “hearty nouvelle cuisine,” had the
lasagna layered with salmon and served with creamed horseradish. She appreciated the juniper berries and the piece of pickled red onion accompanying it, but felt that it lacked sparkle, which might have been provided by mincing that onion and sprinkling it over the dish. She had to ask for salt and pepper to liven it up a bit.
Onions proved to be a theme of the evening, and the chef is evidently enamored of them. Liz’s main course was also sprinkled with spring onions and both hers and mine came with a piece of that original pickled red onion on the side. While I like onions, I don’t appreciate seeing them on just about every dish.
That’s a quibble, however. We were extremely happy with our main courses. I had a big hunk of quasi de veau, rare and juicy, in a foamy sauce with a slightly bacony flavor that was the perfect complement. It came with one of the highlights of the meal: a generous helping of piping-hot girolles (chanterelles) served in a little cast-iron pot. Meaty and fragrant, they were so perfectly cooked that we asked the owner how it was done. Apparently, the chef sautés them twice, draining off the liquid after the first go-round.
Liz loved her suprême de volaille (chicken breast), which can be a supremely boring dish to order in a restaurant. The chef went all out, however, to ensure that it was tender inside, with delicious, crispy skin on the outside, and livened up with a thyme-flavored sauce. The purée of sweet potatoes that came with it was addictive: smooth and not too sweet.
The main disappointment of the evening was my dessert. Liz’s chocolate mousse was perfection – light, creamy and chocolaty – and served with a small square of pound cake and a mousse of Carambar (a chewy caramel candy beloved by French children), but my cream puff was not only heavy and leathery but was also burnt on the bottom. When this was pointed out to Rosenzweig, he brought another unasked (after sharing Liz’s mousse, I didn’t feel the need). While not burnt, the pastry was still a failure. The caramel crème pâtissière inside, however, was pure delight. When the bill came, we had been charged for only one dessert.
Rosenzweig was helpful in other ways as well. When we asked him for advice in choosing wine, he immediately told us that there was a mistake on the menu that hadn’t been corrected and that the Burgundy we were interested in was more expensive than stated. He then steered us to the less-expensive (€25) 2006 Domain Singla “La Pinède” Côtes de Roussillon, which was the perfect accompaniment to the meal, especially with the mushrooms and veal.
While not everything was perfect at Le Garde Temps, the scales tip to the positive side. I might not make a special trip to go there, but next time I’m in the neighborhood, I won’t hesitate to return when I want a lively – albeit rather noisy – bistro experience.Favorite