Everybody’s singing the inflation blues, Mortstiff included. Damn, can’t even buy an eggplant without shelling out nearly two euros at the local Super U. Okay, okay, it’s true, those same two euros will still get me a bottle of the Cotes de Ventoux I’m so fond of, but come on, this is France. Liberté, égalité, fraternité, as we all know, means every man, woman, and child has the right to a decent two-euro bottle of red wine.
Hard times notwithstanding, La Gourmandise continues to offer one of the best bargains in Parisian quality dining. Which is not to say that the restaurant hasn’t also been hit by rising food prices. Recently, the owners were compelled to change the price of the 34-euro three-course dinner—aperatif, wine, and coffee included—to—hold your breath – 35 euros! Viola, there you have it, a whole euro increase, for which our favorite maitre-d, whose name still eludes us, was obliged to apologize profusely during Mortstiff & Co’s most recent visit, last weekend.
The outstanding price/quality rapport is one of the main incentives that has led us back to La Gourmandise time and time again, dating back at least ten years. But we’d be willing to pay more for the food, which is very good, with dishes regularly tweaked by the chef, who is adept at both variations on old favorites (like aiguillettes de canard and nougat glacé), as well as new seasonal items (like lobster salad and curried lamb).
Let me share the selections from our most recent visit, and you tell me if this isn’t a great deal for 35 euros each. (Check out the full menu items at the La Gourmandise web site.)
- Kir pétillant au cassis et amuse bouche (paté encroute)
- ½ homard moulé en salade et macédoine de légumes au crabe, sauce crustacé
[salad with half a lobster and mixed vegetables with crab]
- Filet de rouget, gros piment doux d'Espagne farci de ricotta aux
épinards, jus de légumes sauce tomatée, basilic [red mullet filets with
accompanying red pepper stuffed with ricotta and spinach]
- Thon rôti au sésame et riz basmati, fond de légumes, saveur soja [lightly roasted tuna with
sesame and basmati rice]
- Aiguillette de canard, poire rôtie et pomme rate persillée, aux doux épices [duck slices with
roasted pear and potatoes]
- Cheese cake sur biscuit cannelle, coulis d'ananas [cheese cake, French-style]
- Nougat glacé au coulis de fruits rouges
- Bordeaux 2006 Pavillon Royal (1/2 bottle per person)Coffee
So? Is this a great deal or what? Okay, before you answer my question, a couple caveats. I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t add that the lobster salad entreé included an 8 euro supplemental charge. And if you read my previous installment, where I railed against the pervasive tendency for restaurants to add substantial ‘supplements’ to the supposedly ‘fixed-price’ menu items, you know how I feel about a 35-euro menu suddenly evolving into a 43-euro menu. But I'm tempted to give a pass to La Gourmandise for their new surcharge policy. What they’ve done in recent weeks is to significantly expand their fixed-price menus to include some items that previously only could be selected à la carte. So you can now choose those items (albeit with a surcharge) as part of the menu and still get the aperatif, coffee, and wine gratuit.
As for the food, no real complaints. Both entreés were interestingly prepared and nicely presented – the lobster salad was well worth the supplement. Yours truly was a bit disappointed with the tuna – normally, I prefer that lightly-cooked tuna be less cooked (nearly raw, in fact) than presented here. However, a guaranteed highlight of any visit to La Gourmandise - be sure not to miss their nougat glacé – freshly prepared in-house and a refreshing culmination to the meal.
You’ll notice at the restaurant’s web site that there are other menus available, including a two-course 26€ meal (for those diners really hurting from inflation) and the big enchilada four-course 55€ splurge (for those diners who crave both surf and turf).
The room is traditional and quasi-formal, with two rooms neatly set off by bar. The narrow, larger room in the back includes a row of booths on the left and some round tables on the right. The gregarious, glib, and amusing maître-d livens things up with his loquacious and exuberant descriptions of menu items and service, while an exceptionally-professional waiter goes about his business, virtually mute.
In short, although the world, with its catastrophes, wars, and rising prices may be rapidly spiraling into the abyss, at least one can still dine well in Paris without breaking the bank.
271, avenue Daumesnil
metro: Porte Doree
Overall note (out of 10): 7
Ambiance: 7 (too much pink for Morstiff's taste, but despite the small rooms, there's plenty of privacy - especially the case with the booths- and it's easy to relax)
Staff: 7.5 (a 2-man show - professional, and the maitre-d is both informative and witty)
Price/Quality: 9.5 (78 euros for two, what more can I say? If Co. didn't like lobster so much, it would have been 70 and we would have felt really guilty.)