Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bofinger: Good food, terrible service

We met up with our friends the celebrated artists Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams for dinner on Saturday night. They were nice enough to come by our part of town (the Marais) and to pick a restaurant, Bofinger, that was both atmospheric and within easy walking distance.

Well, with one thing (mostly champagne) and another we didn’t get out of the apartment until nearly 9:30, Andrew having explained that Bofinger was not taking reservations that evening by the time he called so we would have to take our chances. Fortunately the heavy rain of that afternoon had mostly stopped as we headed out and it was indeed only a five minute walk from our apartment.
We arrived to find a mob scene in the best French ski-lift tradition, with the “line” representing a mob in a roughly circular pattern around the host’s desk, spilling into the miniscule bar and out into the street. Being the best French speaker, Andrew was dispatched to see what he could do while Bernd went across the street to Le Petit Bofinger to see if things were any better (even worse, he reported). While we considered a “plan B”, we were told that we would probably get a table in 15-20 minutes, so it was not worth leaving and going somewhere else, which would take even longer. And we were all delighted to find our table ready just a few short minutes later, to the discomfiture of the many paired-off folks waiting in the bar.

The short report on Bofinger was good food, terrible service. Michael and I had the choucroute, a specialty of the house, and I can report that the sausages were excellent, even (or perhaps especially) the boudin noir, which even Michael enjoyed. There were at least four kinds of sausages, smoked pork loin, pork chop, smoked bacon (a bit fatty for me) and a mass of sauerkraut about the size of my head which even I could not make a serious dent it. For starters I had six impeccably fresh (and quite expensive) oysters and Michael had a nice salad. Andrew and Bernd had salads and a steak and steak tartare, respectively, which we did not taste.
Unfortunately, the wait staff decided, about halfway through the meal, to totally ignore us, to the point that we started pouring our own wine, and tried in vain to order dessert before giving up. I don’t know whether we annoyed someone or they got distracted with somebody more important, but I have rarely felt more ignored in a restaurant. Being with friends whom we didn’t want to embarrass, I was not tempted to make a scene, but it would have been the kind of situation where one was called for. And of course with the tip included, as it is in France, you can’t even make a point of your displeasure on the tip.

We had a perfectly serviceable bottle of Alsatian Riesling (somewhat less astringent than most) and a reasonable value from the mostly short and expensive list.
We had a lovely time catching up with our friends, and the company made the dinner memorable, but given our experience I cannot recommend Bofinger to anyone else. Perhaps not on a busy Saturday night…

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