Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Tintilou - A Work in Progress
The more things change. . . after reading a couple positive reviews of Tinilou, including Heidi Ellison's Paris Update review, I started getting a feeling of deja vu when I noticed the rue de Montreuil address, and sure enough, it was the very same address of L’Aiguière, a restaurant I used to frequent, but had long forgotten about . . . at least since 30 June 2008, when I penned my not very kind review. L’Aiguière had been around for a number of years, but had obviously run its course. Fast forward to this past March when chef Jean-François Renard took over as new owner and gradually began the transition from L’Aiguière to Tintilou. And when I say 'gradually,' I mean it. Other than a complete transformation of the interior, whose now bright and bold new colors
apparently didn't touch the fancy of Ms. Ellison, there isn't a single clue as to the new restaurant's new nomenclature. "L’Aiguière" proliferates - on the menus, on the facade, on the little restaurant cards available at the entrance, and on the bill. In my view, if you're going to change your positioning - and that apparently is what the new owner has in mind, catering to a younger and more laid back clientele than its predecessor - maybe it would be a good idea to get that new name out there as bold and bright as the decor.
Before moving to the food, I have to disagree with Ms. Ellison's assessment of the new decor, which she suggests isn't to everyone's taste. So many Parisian restaurants have an overly stodgy look - L’Aiguière was awash in subdued nautical blues and whites, and the furnishings were handsome in that 'my grandmother would feel right at home here' kind of way. So kudos to M. Renard for throwing caution to the wind and brightening the place up. Apparently, he is also more than willing to take risks with the food, too, but not too boldly. Yet, it's early and I'm hoping once he settles in, the confidence will come. Co. and I opted for the 3-course 35€ fixed-price menu and, following a tasty mise-en-bouche, started off with two promising entrees: for me, the nem de rouget barbet, vinegrette ail et noix de cajou; for Co., boudon noir de Toulouse, pomme verte et crevette laquee (both pictured below).
Co. was particularly satisfied with her boudin noir, but the presentation won out over taste where my nems were concerned - actually one large nem sliced in half, evidentally much effort into the preparation, but this dish called for more taste sensations than were forthcoming, and the small bowl of cashew garlic vinegrette lacked the requisite spiciness. An interesting dish that did not totally disappoint, but it did come up short.
No photos of the main dishes: for me, a fresh Turbot, Barigoule de courgettes aux fèves et basilic Thaï, pretty good; for Co., 'la coucotte de mois', sot l'y laisse et ris de agneau cumin sesame, artichats poivrades, no platitudes for the latter. Co. opted for dessert cherries - Cerises, citronnelle, glace à « La pie qui chante »; for me, Rhubarbe, tuile dentelle abricot fraise. I had been forewarned by the reviews I consulted that the rhubarbe concoction, completely enveloped by a meringue crust, would be epic. My verdict: epic, as in very, very good.
Overall, a distinct predilection by M. Renard toward Asian fusion without losing the French traditional (another entree boasted Sardines Bretonnes, carpaccio de canard frais, guacamole).
My guess is that it's still a bit too early to tell whether Tintilou will reach the heights of the top new bistrots in Paris; it has a way to go, but the promise is there, and I will definitely check it out again during the Sept./Oct. rentree. They have some glitches to work out, that's for sure - for one, if you're going to call your new restaurant by a new name - get rid of the old one!! And, though I hesitate to mention this, it must be said - when our bill arrived, I noticed in addition to the 70€ for the two menus and 19€ for the Bourgueil, cuvée Jean Carmet, Bouvet Ladubay [by the way, the wine menu is replete with reasonably priced, interesting bottles], there was 6€ supplement. The 'supplements' are pretty common in Parisian restaurants - certain dishes that are part of a fixed-price menu may have an additional surcharge. That's not the problem. The problem during our visit is that no surcharge was indicated on the carte. That is a problem. This was confirmed when we exited and checked out the carte on display in the front. Sure enough, no supplement. Co., more courageous than myself, marched back into the restaurant to point this out. By the time I coyly followed, a waiter was already pulling 6€ in change out of the cash register. The hostess than explained that they hadn't checked the printed menu when it came back from wherever it started out from. Not a good policy, although I have a feeling they'll be more attentive to proofing the menu in the future. I notice at the website the supplement (for the coucotte de mois lamb dish, by the way) is indeed noted, only it has mysteriously increased to 7.50€. What are you goin' to do? A work in progress, indeed.
37 bis rue de Montreuil
tel.: 01 43 72 42 32
More food from the website: