The friend who chose the restaurant Tzantza for a dinner for eight the other night picked it because she liked the look of the cocktail list. That was a good indicator of what we were in for: cocktails, a lounge atmosphere and too-loud-to-hear-your-neighbors music. As one friend put it, “It’s trying to be trendy, but it’s like an old lounge bar.”
Located on the restaurant-lined Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the first arrondissement, Tzantza has a pleasant decor, with lots of plants (both real and painted on the walls), gold-velvet-covered banquettes and candelabras on the tables.
The menu offered a small, not-very-coherent choice of fusion dishes at higher than ordinary prices: starters at between €12 and €18, and only three main courses, two at €28 and €32, with the côte de bœuf, or prime rib (enough for at least two), at €90. We all shared the latter. Smoked with rosemary, it was tasty, but I didn’t care for the sauce, supposedly chimichurri, that came with it.
The Italian-Peruvian chef made a mostly successful attempt to create interesting fusions, such as the gyozas (Japanese dumplings) filled with duck confit and foie gras (French) and served with hoisin sauce (Chinese). I found them to be quite delicious, but not everyone was as impressed as I was.
I really enjoyed the filling of another international mashup, the crispy baos (Chinese buns) with shredded lamb meat, pickled onions and yogurt sauce, but found the texture of the bun itself to be unpleasantly chewy and almost hard, as if it had been heated in a microwave oven.
The one dish that was denounced as a failure by everyone at the table was the soggy tempura of king prawns, served with a fine hot and spicy mayonnaise sauce.
The pork spareribs with tamarind and a lemony white sauce were delicious, as was the tiradito (similar to ceviche) with mandarin-orange sections and leche de tigre (the marinade used for ceviche).
Only two desserts were on offer. The chocolate tart with coffee ice cream was fine, but I didn’t care for the revisited tarte tatin with mezcal (was that the source of the odd flavor?), caramel, lemon cream and purple-corn ice cream.
The service, provided by several young men who did not seem to be professionals, was sometimes agreeable and sometimes grudging, as if we were annoying the server by making requests. When the French couple in our group asked for some bread, they were told they would have to wait 15 minutes for the “special bread” to be prepared. Could they just have some ordinary bread? No. They were aghast. Refusing customers bread not only goes against French tradition but also against French law, which stipulates that bread and tap water be included in the price of a meal. We were charged €5 for the special bread, which was actually very tasty: organic black bread crusted with poppy and flax seeds.
Another complaint: the very long waits between courses. In the end, that loud music was enough to keep me from returning, even though we all enjoyed ourselves, mostly thanks to our own company. At the end of the evening, we noticed many young people, all in black clothes and baseball caps, heading downstairs to the nightclub, where the music was more appropriate and the cocktails were surely appreciated.Favorite