Butternut Squash Ravioli, Chicken with Mustard and Tarragon Jus, Gnocchi a la Parisienne, Large Menu, Lemongrass Creme Brûlée, Nettles, Peas, Restaurants, Salt Lake City, The Paris Bistro, Vichyssoise
My experience at The Paris Bistro all started when I made reservations online. Immediately I got an email confirming my reservation. Sweet, all was good to go. But shortly after the first confirmation I received a voicemail that confirmed my reservation. I soon became irritated, because I made the reservation online to avoid a such a phone call. Too bad the message required me to call back to confirm my party of three reservation. Really?! Why even have an online reservation feature if we have to play phone tag on what was an already confirmed reservation? Time to take a couple of breaths. Don’t worry, I got back to neutral and shook my annoyance goodbye.
But the bumps in the road crept up again: I recall an awkwardness as the three of us entered the bar entrance and hovered over diners searching for the hostess stand. I wish we knew to have entered through the door that is just north of the entrance we went through. Bummer. As we waited to “check in,” I was looking forward to sitting down and catching up with my friends. Too bad our evening turned out to be a less than ideal.
Yes, the local bistro was clutter free, decorated simply, yet elegantly, with a strategically placed mirror angled just so in the back of the dining room to watch over all the patrons. We were seated next to “restaurant main entrance” and right in between two tables. I felt peeved again – this is what a reservation got us even though there were plenty of other tables for three available? I regret not inquiring for another table. In addition it was quite noisy, and therefore we did not feel particularly comfortable, because we had to strain to hear what each other were saying. I am sure that half the restaurant could have seen my cleavage as I leaned over the table for the couple of hours we were there. Oh the memories were stacking up.
It took us awhile to get through the menus, which certainly is in competition with the infamous size of the Cheesecake Factory’s. Nevertheless our server was nice and friendly and attempted to be attentive, but wasn’t a fine dining pro. Several times, she could not answer any of our questions and failed to come back with an answer to one of them all together. She failed to chill our bottle of white wine, while scattered around the restaurant we could clearly see that other diners’ received coolers for their wine. Unfortunately we had a conundrum over the logistics of the billing, too. I could think of other less-than-professional examples, but I think I made my point – my expectation of great service ended up being mediocre. Isn’t this one of the finest restaurants in Salt Lake City or am I mistaken? Is it wrong to expect more?
Finally after navigating through the menu, that seemed more Italian than French, we all decided to try the vichyssoise soup. I was utterly disappointed. It seemed to be missing the main ingredients: potato and leek because the velvety texture was completely missing. Instead we were served an intense green soup that had more nettles and crunchy peas than I would ever want to remember. I was worried about what the rest of our dining experience would bring if this is what we were starting with.
One of my guest decided upon the Gnocchi a la Parisienne, which was a serving of pan-seared potato dumplings with mostly spinach and wild mushrooms stacked on top of the main ingredient. He describes it as, “attractively presented, well prepared, it smelled and tasted good, but was a bit rich for my taste.” Upon asking if he would order it again he retorted “Maybe, a bit rich, but while the menu was huge, this was one of only a couple items that appealed to me.”
My other guest ordered the “Poulet Rôti à L’estragon”. The menu describes this dish as an “all-Natural Wood-Oven Roasted Mary’s Chicken Breast, Mustard & Tarragon Jus, Wild Mushrooms, Fava & Pea, Roasted Root Vegetables.” Sure, it looked nice. It smelled fine. It looked incredibly delicious. My guest mentioned that the ingredients tasted fresh, but didn’t have a farmer’s market freshness. She doesn’t recall consuming any fava or peas so it might be worthwhile to have the kitchen put in a little extra amour into this dish, but the rest was reported to be perfect: “It was perfectly cooked and just the right amount. I was delighted with my plate.”
As for me, I am a sucker for butternut squash stuffed ravioli with a sage and butter sauce with hazelnuts. I know, this dish doesn’t sound very French either, but this is their best selling dish apparently…so I had to go for it! The beurre blanc was a great balance between too delicate and too thick. The filling was the perfect temperature. Yes, this dish was worth the wait, but the portion size left me grateful that I had some bread to munch on before it arrived. However I felt beyond rude eating so much bread in front of my friend who couldn’t eat the offering due to a diet restriction, especially since the Bistro didn’t have an alternative bread option. Tsk tsk.
Finally since two out of three of us were all still a bit hungry and looking for any remaining morsel on our empty plates, we decided to share the lemongrass creme brûlée. That is French with a Thai twist. Fortunately the dessert had a terrific crunchy top, but where was the lemongrass? If you can’t taste it why, advertise it as such? Too bad we felt like we just came full circle again with a less than ideal dining experience. I was really looking for the cat’s meow tonight, too. Sigh.
To sum it up, The Paris Bistro definitely does not get the top snobby rating. And all together we can’t say if we would return either, not unless we knew someone who was dying to go there and insisting on paying! Overall the food was good and interesting, but the menu can be tightened up, and the service and attitude can improve. It was our gamble to have chosen The Paris Bistro as the place to catch up. It provided an atmosphere that was nice and mostly comfortable, but too loud. Having said that, it obviously wasn’t a nightmare. Just looks like I need to realign my expectations if I ever go back.