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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fallen From Grace - La Gazzetta and Manger

La Gazzetta - the ship has sailed
Sad to say that two perennial Paris favorites have fallen from the pedestal - La Gazzetta and Manger.  A late February visit to the former left me and Co. ruing the imaginative menus of the departed chef Petter Nilsson.  New kitchen head Luigi Nastri shows a competence we would expect from an Italian chef who previously served as Nilsson's second in command, but not much more.  Our meal, comprised of 2 menus trattoria, was fine, but hardly at the level that we remembered much of it the following day, a bad sign.  If I'm going to shell out 115 euros for a meal in one of my favorite restaurants in Paris, I expect to be a lot happier from the experience, but alas, La Gazzetta can now be considered an above average Italian restaurant in Paris, but no longer a special one.  It's now off our list of 'must returns'.

29, rue de Cotte
75012 Paris
tel. 01 43 47 47 05

If La Gazzetta was a disappointment, Manger was a disaster.  Co and I hit this spot in the 11th, our definitive restaurant stomping grounds, back in June 2014, less than a year ago, but it might have been 20 years ago.  Not long after its opening, we had a memorable dining experience - sophisticated decor and clientele, affordable imaginative dishes with some real culinary surprises.  Less than ten months later, it's clear that Manger has experienced a precipitous fall.  I've got to hand it to them, though, they still pack them in.  The large space was filled this past Friday night, with plenty of second servings as the evening slogged on.

I didn't exactly do a systematic survey, but I would conclude that the clientele is now younger and less demanding when it comes to what they are eating.  The young couple at the table next to us spent more time playing on their smartphones than paying attention to their dinner.  My dishes were pretty decent - a Barbue en escabeche entree (marinated fish with a slight herring taste in a creamy white sauce), followed by a nicely prepared square of lotte with a tasty sliced cabbage amply spiced with fennel.  Co's selections, however, were uninspired - a corn mishmash with tiny specks of chorizo ('royale de mais) and a caramelized duck dish with pistachios ('canard de barbarie).  I was pretty upset when Co. selected the duck because that was the one I would have taken (what fun if everyone eats the same dishes?).  The best word to describe the duck dish is bland.  The desserts - a tarte au citron and parfait glace chocolat - were completely forgettable - 'well, we have to serve them dessert, see if you can thaw out a couple of them there supermarket purchases'.   With it's widely open kitchen, I diligently watched the three chefs preparing the dishes - it looked like they were playing paint by the numbers, reminiscent of a cooking class I took a couple years ago.  Their apparent lack of enthusiasm was evident in the dishes.

I usually don't dwell much here on the waitstaff in Paris restaurants because, regardless of the recent Wall Street Journal bullshit article about 'the notoriously arrogant French waiter,' I generally find the Parisian servers I encounter to be competent, unobtrusive, and helpful.  Maybe it's just me.  But the two waitresses gamely working the large dining room during our visit left quite a bit to be desired.  With a look bordering on 'washed-out junkie goth', they were generally uninformed and indiscreet.  Two bites into the boring desserts, we were accosted as to our desire for an end of meal cafe.  Okay, that's not exactly a cataclysmic faux pas, but there were a few other uncomfortable incidents I'd rather not elaborate on.  Noting our displeasure, we were offered a couple of complimentary digestifs, and upon leaving it was like we were lifelong buddies, or not.  I really can't explain Manger's apparent popularity - I suggest that your best bet is to move along.

24, rue Keller
75011 Paris
01 43 38 69 15
website - useless

To end this downer of an installment on a more upbeat note,
I should add that Co. and I have had two excellent meals in the past month - a return visit to Will and one of my old favorites, Villaret.  I promise to elaborate soon.

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