Is he looking for the waiter at Racines?
Excellently sourced food, simply prepared
No wine list, high prices, no lunch special, lackadaisical service
Although it took a few months to reach me, the word on the street was that Racines had changed hands and that the colorful former owner, Pierre Jancou, had moved to the South of France to spend more time with his family. In corporate speak, that’s usually code for something else. Lovers of Racines, however, can take heart, because nothing has changed.
There is still no wine list, for example, so you are left contemplating a shop full of bottles when you need to make a choice, but at least they have their to-go price written on them. An €8 corkage fee is added for table service, which is very honest. My eye alighted on a Riesling in a very traditional-looking bottle from Alsace, at €12, (€20 with the corkage), but the waiter came back to say that the Riesling was off, so we plumped for the same winemaker’s Pinot Gris, a 2008 that was quite personable.
My companion was surprised by the murky color and fruit-juice flavor of an unfiltered, non-stabilized wine, but I gently explained it all to her, and it did in fact go down quite well – some of it at least.
That’s because, not content with not having a wine list, Racines has no wine buckets either. The waiter obligingly suggested putting the bottle in the fridge, which we agreed to, as it was nearly 30°C outside, and he did, in fact, wheel the bottle out, once, unbidden, during the meal to vouchsafe us a refill. But a half-bottle of Pinot Gris is no doubt still sitting in the icebox.
He did have other things to do, which did not include keeping an eye on us and the four other lunchers, since he was involved in deep, friendly conversations with the two people in the kitchen for most of the time. As we were sitting outside in the Passage des Panoramas, it was rather difficult to catch his eye without getting up and physically going inside. Luckily, the nearby cafés and restaurants were heaving with local office workers, so there was plenty to keep our eyes and tongues occupied.
The glass of something sweet we ordered to take the place of dessert was completely forgotten in the heat of his discussions as well. It finally arrived, after a reminder, with the coffee.
The food is as good as ever. My companion had a perfectly sourced burrata (extra-creamy mozzarella) and lardo di Colonnata with a couple of slices of very tasty heirloom tomato. I enjoyed a generous slice of roasted poularde – fattened chicken – served with slightly sautéed heirloom root vegetables. I was able to identify radishes, two or three types of beets, turnips and baby fennel. The dessert tart of fresh apricot halves sitting on a bed of mascarpone cream and topped with caramel sauce was also superb.
For this lunch, which consisted of one starter, one main course, one dessert shared between two, and a €20 bottle of wine (plus two coffees and a glass of something sticky), we came out at €80. I can lunch at starred restaurants in London for less than half of that, so I’m not surprised that the luncheon-voucher crowd shuns Racines when the neighborhood is crammed with places offering more affordable lunchtime menus and employing waiters who look after their charges efficiently and good-humoredly.
When the word on the street tells me once again that the present owner has gone off to spend more time with his family, I might be tempted to go back and try again.
Racines: 8, passage des Panoramas, 75002 Paris. Métro: Grands Boulevards. Tel.: 01 40 13 06 41. Nearest Vélib’ stations: 42, rue Vivienne and 21, rue d’Uzès. A la carte: around €40. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner (until midnight), Closed Saturday and Sunday.
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