I almost never accept an offer of a free meal from a restaurant (and will say so here if I do), because I want to feel free to write an objective review. Since I had already written about WE restaurant at Wanderlust, a multi-activity venue (films, concerts, free yoga classes, children’s activities, DJ sets and more) in the Citė de la Mode et du Design, however, I thought there would be no harm in accepting the press attaché’s invitation to check out its new “concept”: as of this past summer, a new menu is introduced for each of the four seasons, each one created by a different well-known chef. The fall menu is the work of Arnaud Daguin, chef at the one-star Ferme Hégia in the French Basque Country.
Otherwise, the restaurant has not changed. It still has a no-frills industrial decor warmed up by wooden tables, and the same friendly bartender in an arty baseball cap is still shaking up cocktails behind the bar.
We chose to sit inside rather than on the big terrace not because it was cold outside, but because of the loud lounge music playing out there. Indoors, it was a different, much more pleasing musical story, with classics by great singers like Etta James and Dionne Warwick playing at a reasonable volume (unfortunately, the music was on a loop, and the same tracks kept coming back over and over until someone finally changed it).
Darkness reigns in the restaurant, with nearly the only light coming from a single candle on each table. Bless the iPhone for its built-in flashlight; without it, reading the menu would have been a real struggle.
We started the meal by splitting the interesting-sounding foie gras maki with spinach and the chestnut flan with fried rosemary. While the foie gras was of high
quality, it was served cold, a surefire way to kill its flavor. I liked the decorative leaves of lightly fried spinach surrounding the two large maki, but overall the dish was not very exciting. The “flan,” however, was a study in blandness. The
chestnut cream was fine but monotonous, and frying the rosemary made it crispy but did away with its flavor entirely. The verdict: both starters were okay but seriously lacking in pizzazz.
Worse was to come with the main courses. The “a plat” de chipiron was a large, unappetizing
rectangle of grilled squid served with a mass of unevenly cooked miscellaneous vegetables – mushy broccoli, crunchy squash, a big wedge of cabbage, etc. The magret de canard “vintage” was supposed to come with “xipister” (a Basque
sauce) made with fresh chilis, but there was little hint of a peppery, vinegary sauce, just a piece of dry, overcooked duck served with the same mess of vegetables. Certainly no thought was given to presentation here.
For dessert, we chose the “Paris Istanbul,” the chef’s take on the traditional Paris Brest, with pistachio, instead of the usual praline, cream. There was little evidence of pistachio flavor, however, and while the whipped cream was lovely, the chou pastry had no crispy bite to it. The other dessert was a poached pear with granité rouge and chocolate cookies with piment. The pear had an unpleasant grainy texture, and once again, there was no sign of the promised piment.
We did enjoy the wine, Les Terrasses d’Hortense 2009, a Costières de Nîmes from Domaines Viticoles Renouard.
When I went back to Wanderlust’s restaurant, I was hoping for something new and interesting from this unusual, likable place, but I was disappointed, especially considering that the fixed-price menu costs €40 (for both lunch and dinner). For that price, I think diners have a right to expect a refined, creative meal with a thoughtful presentation.
The service from the hardworking young staff was fine, but you will have a hard time tempting me to return to WE, except maybe for a drink on the terrace (before the DJ gets there), and from now on I promise I will think twice before accepting a free meal.Favorite