Customers waiting at Qui Plume la Lune.
I was well-disposed to the idea of eating at Qui Plume la Lune (the unusual name refers to a 1999 film of the same name by Christine Carrière) for two reasons: Paris …
Customers waiting at Qui Plume la Lune.
Pros: High-quality ingredients
Cons: Inconsistent service, surfeit of sweet-and-sour sauces
I was well-disposed to the idea of eating at Qui Plume la Lune (the unusual name refers to a 1999 film of the same name by Christine Carrière) for two reasons: Paris Update’s former restaurant reviewer, Richard Hesse, had recommended it to me just before leaving France, and the first time I had tried to reserve a table there, the maître d’ told me that there was no room at the inn that evening but took my phone number and promised to call in case of a cancellation. There wasn’t, but he actually rang back to say so by 6pm, in time to reserve another restaurant, an attention I appreciated.
When we arrived the other night at 8:30, the little restaurant, which opened last December, was already nearly full. The maître d’ and waitress stirred up a breeze each time they rushed past our table to tend to other customers while ignoring us for an unconscionably long time. When the man in charge finally came to take our order, he turned to my companion with a brusque “Monsieur?” as if he were supposed to order for both of us (still a common practice in fancy French restaurants, but anathema to any good feminist). Happily, he redeemed himself later by suddenly becoming friendly and chatty.
We got our wine – a reasonably priced (€29) 2008 Dufouleur Frères Haute Côtes de Nuit Burgundy – right away but then had to wait some time before the amuse bouche promised on the menu showed up. It turned out to be a big shrimp coated with poppyseeds and drowned in a bright-red sweet-and-sour beet sauce. We had to figure out the ingredients for ourselves, since the waitress delivered her description of it in a breathless, incomprehensible torrent of words after throwing it on the table and before running off to serve someone else. It was not a terribly interesting combination, especially since the sweet-and-sour sauce was so intense and sweet.
The starters finally arrived, exactly one hour and five minutes after we did, giving us plenty of time to check out the simple decor, with a small bar at the entrance, handsome designer blond wood chairs and tables, a chandelier composed of pieces of wood, and an exposed-stone wall. Natural materials appear on the table as well: a smooth pebble serves as a knife rest, the bread (from the hot Paris bakery of the moment, Du Pain et des Idées) comes on a big seashell and my foie gras sushi was served on a big black rock set on top of a plate.
The restaurant’s chef-owner, Jacky Ribault, obviously has a strong penchant for sweet-and-sour sauces, or at least he did that evening. The two big, fat sushis, filled with perfectly cooked rice, were topped with generous hunks of divine, carmelized foie gras covered with a heap of arugula, the whole drenched in a sweet-and-sour sauce. While I found the sauce to be rather overpowering, this was my favorite dish of the evening.
My companion thought his scallops, though cooked just right, were rather bland in their white sauce, but he enjoyed the refreshing green-apple sorbet served inside a piece of bamboo trunk. He also liked his main course of bass in a foamy sauce.
I had the flavorful, tender and succulent beef, several generous chunks of it served on top of mashed potatoes. Alongside it was a sardine tartare containing bits of fresh ginger, an unusual accompaniment for beef, but nonetheless very good. The meat and potatoes were covered with – guess what! – a sweet-and-sour sauce.
We shared a dessert, a millefeuille praliné, which turned out to be lighter than we expected. No complaints there.
For these prices – €53 for three courses, €43 for two – I would have expected a smoother dining experience without so many highs and lows. The service ran hot and cold, as sweet and sour as the sauces (we received fervent apologies for the long waits and for being overcharged for the wine). And the chef’s concoctions, while made of ingredients of the very best quality, seemed to be trying too hard and often missed the mark.
If the prices were lower, I might give Qui Plume la Lune another chance, but only if the chef promised to lose the sweet-sour sauces.
Qui Plume la Lune: 50, rue Amelot, 75011. Métro: Chemin Vert. Tel.: 01 48 07 45 48. Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. Fixed-price menu: €43 (two courses), €53 (three courses), €63 (four courses).
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