4, rue d’Assas, 6th
Tel 01 42 22 00 11
Hélène Darroze is one of the most revered chefs in France, and her eponymous restaurant gets rave reviews from all of the major food guides. So when I saw that she opened a less expensive, more casual tapas-style restaurant on the ground floor of the restaurant, I went to check it out. The main restaurant is upstairs, and on the ground floor there are actually two other dining areas, the “boudoir” to the right when entering, and the “salon” in the back which is much larger and has a view of the open kitchen. I was first seated here on one of the soft banquettes. Cozy seat, but I didn’t like the atmosphere at all. No windows, and the lights were too bright and the empty candle holders on the tables didn’t help create a nice mood. I felt like I was in a basement. A table of ten in the center even asked the lights to be turned up so they could read the menus better. It was loud (the kitchen, obviously) and not very “intime“, which was what I was looking for (to see if it would be a good restaurant for a date!), so I asked if I could move to the boudoir. They let me and my two friends move in there, although this too lacked any real intimate atmosphere despite the fact that there are only a handful of tables and a window overlooking the street. The lighting, again, all wrong, and no candles at all in here.
The fact that it’s called a boudoir and a woman runs the restaurant gave me much higher hopes! There was also a bit of a gimmick. The website and articles I’ve read mentioned that the food served in the boudoir was finger-food only, to be eaten without silverware. Très sexy, non? Who knows? We had silverware at our table, and three of the four courses of tapas would have been impossible to eat (politely) without them. So I guess they got rid of that idea.
To be fair, the food is absolutely perfect. It’s not cheap, but not overpriced, either, about €15-35 per dish. I have no idea how much my dishes were because the waiter gave me a menu with no prices and my (male) dinner companions thought it would be funny to not let me know the prices (“Say what you want and I’ll cough discreetly if it’s too expensive.” Thanks Philippe!) The waiter was very, uh, animated, more like servers back in the US. A tad distracting, but he did his job. He told us we should order three tapas, but each of us only ordered two and a dessert and said we’d order more if still hungry. The portions, like in most haute-cuisine restaurants, are deceptively tiny, but I still couldn’t finish mine (foie gras is a bit rich, you know).
So…to wrap up, I’d go with friends to taste great food at an affordable price, but don’t expect it to be a romantic dining experience.