The new restaurant recently opened on the Rue Oberkampf in Paris’s 11th arrondissement by Pierre-Sang Boyer, a 2011 “Top Chef” contestant, had garnered some good reviews, and I was looking forward to trying it out. Our meal there on a recent Sunday evening started out well, with friendly greetings from the staff and the man himself, dressed casually in T-shirt and jeans. The long, narrow interior is all attractive stainless steel and blond wood, with stools at the bar and a few tables for two.
My two friends and I took seats at the bar, and the waiter explained that the “concept” on Sunday evenings was that everyone paid €45 for an all-you-can-eat “family-style” buffet, with wine included. On other nights, the fixed-price, no-choice menu costs €35 without wine and €65 with wine.
As instructed, we went downstairs to serve ourselves the first course, an assortment of meats (beef, duck), one type of fish (coley), vegetables, etc. My eye was caught by the attractive cheese platter, and I made a mental note to return after the main course to sample it.
As Pierre-Sang told us, the buffet was his way of using up the leftovers from the week. While mostly tasty, its plain dishes didn’t offer any opportunities to judge the chef’s cooking skills. We liked the sliced beef with raw leeks and spiced cooked-apple cubes, the coley with al dente beans in a creamy sauce, the marinated mushrooms and the spinach with sesame oil and lime, but the duck was too chewy. I decided I would have to come back again on a weekday to try his real cooking before I could write my review.
While we were eating, Pierre-Sang passed by and commented on how he taught his cooks to use every bit of every ingredient so there would be no waste. I watched him show one of the assistants how to cut the cheese to avoid waste, obviously a theme here.
Main courses were keeping warm on the stove in front of us, and customers had to go behind the counter to serve themselves from big pots, one with a stew of pork cheeks (tender and tasty), another with venison (a bit overspiced) and another with wonderfully creamy polenta. We also saw a leg of lamb and other cuts of meat being sliced up, but we were fairly overloaded with meat by then.
I couldn’t leave without tasting that cheese, however, so I returned to the basement to get a plate of it for all three of us. We dug in, but then one of my friends started to feel a bit poorly and went outside with my other friend to get some air.
I was looking ruefully at the unfinished cheese plate, regretting that I had taken too much, when Pierre-Sang walked by and noticed the same thing. He started scolding me for being so wasteful, and not in a friendly or joking way. I was a bit shocked by his tone, but I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. I apologized and said I had taken what I thought three people could eat, but that it was hard to judge the right quantities in a buffet. I added that one of my friends wasn’t feeling well and normally would have eaten more. Dr. Pierre-Sang then offered this diagnosis of a person he didn’t know at all: “She doesn’t feel well because she drinks too much.”
He continued to berate me for taking too much cheese, and when my repeated apologies didn’t soothe his ire, I mentioned that we were paying a high price for our meal, and if he were really so worried about waste, I would take the cheese home in a doggy bag. He brought the few pieces of cheese back to me in a big plastic box, and I paid and left, joining my friends, who were still outside. We skipped dessert.
After his self-righteous and insulting display of ill-humor, I’m afraid I will not be returning to sample Pierre-Sang’s everyday cooking after all. Restaurants are about more than food, and the experience left a bad taste in my mouth.
Anybody want some cheese?Favorite