Marsangy is a restaurant that had dropped off my radar since I reviewed it for Paris Update in 2006. A couple of months ago, as I was walking through the neighborhood on an icy evening with some friends in search of restaurant, we spotted it and knew it was the place where we wanted to be. It was warm, cozy, buzzing with happy diners and smelled of good bistro food. Unfortunately, there was no room at the inn that night. I finally got a chance to go back last week.
This time we got there early, and the restaurant was still nearly empty. It has a quaint feel to it, as if it had been decorated by grandma, with white half-curtains on the window, wooden tables and chairs, and wooden paneling. The back wall is completely covered with blackboards inscribed with a long list of wines. You get a definite impression that decor is not a primary concern of chef Francis Bonfillou, who can be seen toiling away in his kitchen when you enter but who seems to be rather shy and doesn’t engage with arriving diners. The sole waitress was also a bit timid but friendly.
I raved about the food after my first visit there, so I was looking forward to this meal. It started auspiciously with the meaty, spicy house terrine served with a strong chutney. The salad
of mixed greens that came with it was well-dressed, but I was a bit put off by the unappealing and utterly unseasonal tomato slice on top of it (bits of tomato kept reappearing as a tired decorative device on different dishes).
Chloe’s starter was a delight to the eye: a millefeuille of light-green avocado and pink crayfish, with a whole crustacean sitting next to the layered concoction on the plate. It tasted
fresh, with a touch of aniseed flavor, and had the distinct advantage of being at room temperature, not icy cold straight from the fridge as this type of starter – easy to prepare in advance – often is.
My main course consisted of two large pieces – light and dark meat – of pintade (guinea fowl). Unfortunately, the dark meat was undercooked and difficult to eat, but the sauce, made with chanterelles, was rich and flavorful. The dish came with a perfectly roasted potato cut in half, half a baked endive, a few afterthought green beans strewn around the plate and the inevitable slice of tomato.
For Chloe, a plateful of scallops cooked on the shell with haricots cocos (navy beans) and lardons. It was nothing if not generous, with no fewer than six scallops (lately I’ve seen
only three for a main course in other restaurants), but I found the sauce to be a bit too creamy.
Dessert had to be chocolate for both of us. I ordered the fondant au chocolat, something rarely seen on Paris menus since the advent of the moelleux au chocolat. It was dense, creamy and chocolatey, with a hint of the basil it was made with (which tasted more like its relative, mint). Chloe preferred it to the two scoops of dark chocolate and one of raspberry ice cream she had ordered, so we switched. I was very happy with the chocolate ice cream.
To sum up, Marsangy serves copious, classic bistro-style cuisine, unrefined but made with good ingredients. Overall, it was mostly satisfying, but not in the least exciting or innovative. I got the feeling that the chef was going through the motions and not putting his heart into it.Favorite