Friday, January 15, 2010

Paris: Le Gaigne

On Friday night we ate at Le Gaigne, following a rave review from Mark Bittman in the New York Times in 2009. Well, Mr. Bittman’s taste is usually good in cooking and no doubt he had a very nice meal there, and there was nothing really wrong with our meal. Probably the biggest problem is that the restaurant got a rave review in the New York Times and therefore the clientele consisted primarily of Americans, which is not usually a good sign and not what we are looking for a Paris restaurant. I know, as American tourists it is somewhat hypocritical to rail against the presence of other American tourists, but nobody said we were logical all of the time.

Now, I must say that the welcome at Le Gaigne was charming and accommodating. I called at 7 pm looking for a table for that evening (!) and was delighted to be told that they could indeed fit us in, but only if we came at 7:30. Well, here it was 7:00 already, we weren’t exactly in our party clothes and had only just opened a bottle of celebratory champagne, so that was going to be tough. I managed to wheedle Madame into letting us come at 8:00 (plenty late enough for our first night). She was nice enough to explain that she had a party coming at 9:30 and we could come whenever we wanted as long as we were out by 9:30, which seemed reasonable enough. As it happened we were able to enjoy the second half of the champagne as a post-dessert treat.

To my discredit, I slightly miscalculated the distance and despite rapid walking, we arrived a few minutes after 8; I was apologetic and Madame was most gracious about it. She did blanch, however, when we tried to order the five course tasting menu, but I promised that we would eat quickly and would be able to accommodate their 9:30 deadline.

Le Gaigne is a tiny restaurant, with only 20 seats. The décor was minimal (Michael felt it was negative décor, as in “they would have been better off doing nothing than doing what they did” but it wasn’t really objectionable to me). As noted above, when we arrived it was populated mostly by other Americans but I was relieved to see that as the evening wore on the ratio of French to Americans improved. The meal was a good value at, I think, 35 euros for the menu. Unfortunately the food was only pleasant, really not memorable. Indeed, as I sit here four days later, I cannot remember a single thing we ate, except for a dessert of sautéed mandarins atop vanilla ice cream which I thought was a perfect light ending to a nice meal.

And we did finish and vacate right at 9:30, making everyone happy.
We both felt that Le Gaigne was a perfectly pleasant and I was pleased with it as a non-taxing choice for our first night in Paris, when we lacked the energy for anything more exciting. Perhaps our compressed schedule put unreasonable demands on the kitchen, but someone going and expecting the meal to be the high point of their trip to Paris might be disappointed.

1 comment:

Ranjeet said...

Le Gaigne is close to my cousin's house.Its really great place.You must have tried "Quiche" over there.Happy to see you liked that place since it is also my favourite when i am on my visit to cousin.

Eating cheap in paris