Friday, September 10, 2010

Le Timbre

It means "stamp" as in a stamp you put on a postcard or a letter, and this postcard-sized (or stamp-sized, for that matter) restaurant seats 24 people very snugly and has a tiny open kitchen - maybe the size of the kitchen I had when I lived in the financial district for a couple of months. And it's just 3 people - the chef, his sous chef, and a waitress. When I called to make reservations, I was wondering whether the guy on the other end was making fun of my accent in French, or wasn't a Frenchman himself. It turned out to be the latter - because the chef, who is British, does triple-duty as chef, host/receptionist and busboy. It's quite remarkable how he manages to it all in this tiny space, while churning out the food, a collection of 6 appetizers, 6 entrees and 6 dessert. And it's not expensive - €8/17/7 for each one, respectively, with some items having a small supplement fee.

With tables running along the two walls, people seated on banquettes and chairs facing them, it gets a little cramped if you can call it that, especially when you try to awkwardly slide into the banquette behind the table that was pulled out for you, trying not the knock over the adjacent's tables glass of wine with your behind. (I'm sorry?)

If anything, go just to be amazed at how the chef handles the kitchen and the dining room efficiently. The food was a semi-let down for me. It wasn't bad by any means, but it was just fine. Nothing spectacular that wow-ed me. Maybe I'm just tired of the same kind of flavors every time I go to restaurants here. It was fantastic being back in the U.S. eating cheap cuban food in Miami at Versailles and vietnamese-inspired sandwiches at Num Pang in New York. There's just something about the food in Paris that has left me thinking "there's something missing..."

My sauteed giroles with jambon de pays for appetizer were fine. But that's what they were, just sauteed mushrooms with ham that I can make in my own kitchen. Tasty but nothing spectacular. Although the tartine with smoked duck breast and caramelized onions that EM got was delicious I must admit.

The magret (duck) with roasted peaches was also fine.

By far the best duck I ever had was at A Voce when Andrew Carmellini was still the chef about two years ago or so. Again, tasty but nothing special. I wasn't a huge fan of my dining companions' dishes - beef cheeks (shouldn't these be tender?) and cochon noir (black pig belly) on a bed of roasted cauliflower (and I love cauliflower!).

And dessert faired no better - I tried some Auvergne regional specialty (cornet de murat with creme de gentane and sirpoe de cassis) which was essentially a biscuit rolled into a cone filled with whipped creme and a blackcurrant sauce (in this case, it was creme de cassis it seemed as the whipped cream had a tinge of booze).

And the vanilla honey poached pear was fine but had no depth of flavor.
Am I really becoming that jaded with food? Its awful, I know. The place itself is great, it's jam packed (and fully booked days in advance) with people who seem to be having a good time, and I am (and I will say this for the 10th time) utterly amazed at what the chef/owner/busboy/receptionist can do. I can't say I picked wrong because I tried everyone's dishes. If anything, to my tastes, I picked right. Maybe it was just an off-night for me, the first dinner I had since coming back from vacation. There's still other restaurants to explore and I'm sure I'll be wowed again at some point - it just didn't happen this time.

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