Having read a couple of reviews of Pamela Popo on the Web, I had the impression that it was a trendy restaurant with an attractive decor, something like Schmuck in Saint Germain des Prés, where I had a less-than-satisfying dining experience. That might have been enough to warn me off, but I chose it because I was meeting Lisa for lunch in the Marais and couldn’t find any other place I was not already familiar with that sounded interesting.
The impression I had from those reviews seemed to have been completely wrong: when I entered, the first thing I noticed was a musty smell in the bar area with a few tables. The second thing was the dirty, torn red carpeting on the stairs. The restaurant only opened a year ago, so the new owners must have kept the furnishings of the previous tenant. I mounted the stairs to the dining room, which was prettier, especially the back room with its bookshelf-covered walls and Vivienne Westwood flowered wallpaper, but the fabric on the banquette where Lisa was waiting was also well-worn.
Although the first impression wasn’t a good one, the young man serving us was adorable, and I wanted to reserve judgment until I had tasted the food. The fixed-price lunch menu included two courses for €19, not much of a bargain, considering that most Paris restaurants offer special prices at lunchtime.
Since there were two dishes on offer for each course, we ordered everything, beginning
with a cream of leek soup, which was fine but not very leeky tasting, and “toast aubergines, burratina et San Daniele,” which was a nearly cold piece of toasted bread with some mashed
eggplant slapped on it and melted cheese on top, with a piece of ham and a small spinach salad on the side. Sound like a snack any kid could make at home? Does to me. And it tasted just as good as cheese on toast always does, but why go to a restaurant for something you can easily do at home?
The same was true for the main courses, only more so. The seven-hour roast veal with
carrots, a huge serving plopped down on top of a mass of mashed potatoes with no thought at all given to presentation (the gravy that had slopped over the sides of the soup plate had not even been wiped off). Again, it was tasty, but Lisa pointed out that she often makes seven-hour lamb at home that is much better.
The pollock with cannelloni gratin and zucchini also came in a huge serving. The fish was
rather overcooked and the sauce too creamy. This time, a rather sad attempt had been made to decorate the dish with radish slices and bits of lettuce.
True to form, the dessert we shared was oversized and clumsily presented. This was no simple poached pear; it was coated with chestnut mousse, swimming in chocolate
sauce and generously sprinkled with flakes of white chocolate. At first I thought it was over the top, but I have to admit that I kept going back to what was a surprisingly delicious combination.
It’s not a bad thing to have a meal at Pamela Popo, just don’t expect a gourmet experience.
The restaurant’s unusual name, by the way, comes from an eponymous Serge Gainsbourg song about a stripper, which more than one person might consider sexist and racist, but there are no other references to it aside from the name.Favorite