Sunday, February 22, 2009
Urbane - Lonesome Ride
Not sure I’ll return, but my dinner at the still relatively new spot in the 10th behind the Canal St. Martin, Urbane, was pretty satisfying. Co. left me high, but definitely not dry, last Friday night, off to an 8 p.m. flamenco performance, while I had a Gang Gang Dance concert slated at Point Ephemere on the Quai de Valmy. After reading the Simon Says installment on restaurants in the 10th – that is, in the vicinity of the Quai de Valmy – I opted for Urbane after reading how its main drawback was the rush to get you away from your table. Perfect, I thought – by my calculations, GGD would get on stage after another useless opening act by about 9:30 p.m., so if I reserved Urbane for 8 p.m., figuring on arriving a little early and being rushed out the door quickly enough, I could make it to the Point in time. No sense risking the typical Paris venue where the slow dance tends to be the order of the day. But, alas, my good plans, as we well know to be the case with the best laid plans, were doomed from the start. After checking out the concert announcements on lastfm.com before heading off, I learned that tragedy had befallen GGD in Amsterdam, where they kicked off their European tour a couple nights earlier. After their concert, an electrical fire effectively destroyed all their equipment, forcing them to cancel the rest of their tour. Disappointed that there would be no musical aftermath to my dinner, I nonetheless headed off to Urbane, after a few gulps of Knockandoo, at least armed with the knowledge that I could take my good old time.
As the first patron of the evening, I received a warm welcome from the Irish owner Audrey, who engaged me in a short conversation (in English, praise the gods!) about the book I had in hand, Stieg Larsson’s epic The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Two rather small separated rooms housing seating for around 40 gave off, as has been described elsewhere, a ‘shabby-chic’ aura. Small square tables covered by an interesting black & white table mat (see photo) upon which rested a quickly lit candle adorned the rooms. Pretty laid back, café feel to the front room where I was situated. By dessert, both rooms were just about filled, but it was still only Audrey and her one other person wait-staff handling all the action. Much to my appreciation, a basket of freshly warmed bread arrived - such a simple thing, to warm bread, hint, hint. As I am wont to do, I opted for the 30€ three-course menu.
Following a tasty amuse bouche (two small marinated squares of salmon), I started with the entrée of oysters a marche de Marene on a bed of vegetables and Japanese noodles. The description really piqued my interest, but in practice, it turned out to be rather disappointing. Arrayed on a small rectangular plate anchored on the left by an empty oyster shell filled with your typical oyster vinegrette, I counted a mere three oysters on top of the super thin white noodles with carrots and a few other assorted vegetables. This tasted good enough, but there was nothing very special about the dish. The week before, my entrée at Ze Kitchen Galerie included three oysters along with some healthy morsels of King Crab and a couple snails. So it wouldn’t have hurt to have included a couple more oysters at Urbane and spiced up the dish a bit. I’m not a chef, but I have faith in Audrey’s husband Olivier Maindroult, the chef formerly of Darroze and Choukroun’s. I should add that I almost opted for the haddock chowder, a unique dish I haven’t seen on other Parisian menus.
Moving on, I found the main dish more satisfying – pintade grille with thyme and a purée of potatoes, the dish heavily sparkled with pieces of pomegranate. The pintade consisted of a leg and thigh and was grilled to perfection – the pomegranate added significantly to the overall flavor of the dish. Not very exotic, but a solid choice. The highlight of the evening was dessert, a myrtle cheesecake. Try finding a good cheesecake in Paris – the real thing. This one came close. On my own lonesome ride out on a Friday night, I almost opted for a half bottle of wine before coming to my senses and ordering a full bottle, a 2007 Gamay priced at a mere 16€. Four-fifths down, the room started spinning and I yearned for Co. to kill off the last fifth of the somewhat insufficiently aerated bottle. Alas, she had answered the call of the flamenco and it slowly dawned on me that somebody at Urbane had probably come across Simon Say’s remark about being rushed. The service was excellent, but by the end when I was yearning for some fresh air, the pace had slowed to a crawl.
One big thumbs up for a concept I hadn’t encountered before in any of the restaurants I’ve reviewed to this point – between the two rooms, a DJ had set up to provide musical accompaniment to the meal. Now don’t get me wrong – in my book, Paris DJ and fine dining do not compute, and I would not like to see any sort of trend commence. But at Urbane, the music was finely chosen and unobtrusive – a lot of the unlabelled ambient and lo-core stuff I have on my trusty iRiver.
Being the sole lone diner makes one feel a bit circumspect, but I have an obligation to my readers and duty called. But it did provide a rare opportunity to concentrate a bit on the grazing habits of the so-called Parisian dining species. One interesting observation that struck me was how long some early arrivers had to wait before the rest of their table arrived. One couple sat at their table, stomachs growling to a frightening crescendo during the nearly one hour they waited for their empathically-deprived cohort to careen through the door. They weren’t alone. Fellow lonesome riders on a Friday night out in the City of Lights.
Grand total for one (lonesome me): 48.50 euros (with coffee)
12 rue Arthur Groussier 75010 Paris tel: 01 42 40 74 75 website : www.myspace.com/urbaneparis
Note : Ride Lonesome, a 1969 Randolph Scott (as Ben Brigade) oater, directed by Bruce Boetticher. Well worth a look.