Sunday, January 17, 2010

Paris: 404

Very fun dinner at 404 on Saturday night. We were talked into the house “special cocktail” which turned out to be two of the most delicious mojitos we’ve ever had (and they ought to be for 11 euros each – that stung a little). We then had what amounted to chicken in wrapped in feta and fried (delicious) and Moroccan lentil salad (also delicious, but I thought a bit underspiced) as starters. For main courses, we both had tagines, Michael’s was chicken with preserved lemon and mine was lamb with prunes and raisins, both of which were awesomely tender and delicious. The restaurant is very atmospheric with stone walls, Moroccan lanterns, and music almost drowned out by the buzz of happy eaters.

One situation at the end marred the experience a little bit. One of the waiters…who spoke very little English, or claimed to…brought the bill and when confronted with a credit card, asked “how much should I make it for”. Well, this is not how it is supposed to work in France, where the tip is by law included in the price of the food. It seems uncommon for people to tip over and above the set amount…and if they do, it is by leaving a few euros in cash. So this rather blatant attempt to solicit a tip was rather offputting. What was worse is that Michael, a little confused, asked this server “isn’t the tip included in the bill” and was told “no”…which is clearly wrong. In fact so wrong that we mentioned it to the host on the way out and he kind of shrugged off our concern, saying “yes the tip is included but some people like to leave a bit more …it’s optional”.

Well, the meal wasn’t cheap at 118 euros including a bottle of pleasant but non-memorable Tunisian rose, but it was altogether enjoyable except for the shenanigans with the bill. However, the tip incident combined with the upsell on the expensive cocktails kind of leaves the impression that the restaurant has its hand in your pocket. On the other hand, as we joked on the way back, from what we’ve heard, that’s kind of how it is in Morocco.

Anyhow, a very atmospheric, attractive, and fun restaurant with very tasty food. Just keep your hand on your wallet while you’re there, and watch out for those cocktails!

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