Thursday, September 24, 2009
Paris Restaurants Hall of Shame - Part 1
Despite my best intentions to keep this site upbeat and focused on celebrating the glory of good food and the restaurant experience, I believe it is my duty to impart a downside to dining out in Paris - an aspect that you will not read about in any of the 7.5 million tour guides that have been published about my fine city. To wit, you will be ripped off. More and more, I am finding even in the best establishments in the city, there will be a surcharge on your bill that is not mentioned anywhere - the carte, the slate blackboard on the wall, the restaurant's Internet site, the French constitution, nowhere except one place - here. During my last two dinners in the city, I have been overcharged 10 (Les Bouquinistes) and 6 euros (Voyage au Siam). Now, I grant you these are not significant amounts, but they add up, which I guess is the point of the overcharging in the first place. And I wouldn't be writing about these two recent incidents if the same efforts at skimming haven't been observed on many other occasions in Parisian restaurants. Thus, I begin what I hope doesn't turn out to be a regular feature, but if it must, so be it - the Paris Restaurant Hall of Shame, noting restaurants where I have been overcharged - either intentionally or not - and when pointed out, the proprietor’s explanation has been dubious, at best:
1. Chez Michel: Equal opportunity ripoff artists. They will cheat Paris residents, tourists, ex-pats, children, dogs, the homeless, you name it, with impunity. Too bad, because the food is often quite good. To add insult to injury, we called proprieter/chef Thierry Breton to our table during a dinner a couple years ago when Co. felt that her unaccompanied main dish would have been enhanced by a small dish of mashed potatoes. M. Breton responded that he would be more than happy to bring her that small dish of mashed potatoes from the kitchen, in a way that anyone on the planet would have interpreted as a nice gesture (i.e, gratis) - until, that is, we noticed an additional charge of 4.50 euros on the bill. What a guy. Beware, Chez Michel's specialty is charging incorrectly for the wine.
2. Les Bouquinistes: Can't discern the difference between a bottle of red Jura and white Jura, but when in doubt they will charge you for the white, which is 10 euros more expensive.
3. Voyage au Siam - If you order an entree, plate, and dessert, you are automatically conforming to their 24 euro menu. Essentially, it is understood that you are taking the menu - it is their main selling point. Yet, if you don't utter the word 'menu' when the owner takes your order, he will charge you 'a la carte,' which of course is more expensive.
4. L'Hotel de Sers: Order a 35 euros Bourgogne and it miraculously becomes an 85 euros Pomerol - on the bill, that is.
5. Au Petit Marguery: As the 7.5 million tourist guides on Paris will inform you, you are not obliged to tip in Paris restaurants, because a TVA charge is included in the bill. Yet I overhead a tourist ask a waiter in Marguery if this was indeed the case, whereupon said waiter replied, 'oh no, no, no monsieur.' Then I saw the tourist leave a 20 euro note before leaving. To be fair, this incident occurred a few years ago, prior to new ownership, and probably reflects more the unscrupulous character of the waiter than the establishment itself.
6. Anahuacalli: Overcharges tourists for the wine. Again, in this case, the incident is a few years old, but for a halfway decent Mexican restaurant in Paris, another local shame. Let's hope they have seen the error of their ways.
I invite all visitors to this site to nominate their own candidates for a follow-up
'Hall of Shame' installment.