Although recommended by both critics and Parisian friends, Bistro Volnay, a restaurant near l’Opéra, was a disappointment. The ambience was certainly chic. Tables were covered with crisp, starched white linens, an attractive banquette ran down the length of one wall, and lighting was subdued and seductive.
The first indication that the evening might be challenging occurred when our waitress insisted on using English when the four diners at our table all spoke French. Next, an amuse bouche, a little terrine of cooked pork, or rillettes, with toasted baguette slices was set in front of us. The former was tasty, but the croutons were not crisp and had been held too long.
When the first courses arrived, three turned out to be barely warm. My spouse’s foie gras was perfect, but bowls of silky smooth Jerusalem artichoke soup ladled over mounds of spinach, and my poached egg served over a rabbit ragoût were all tepid. This sad trend continued with the main courses when a beautiful slice of cod arranged over a pastry tart had to be returned to the kitchen for reheating.
What happened next was a first for me in Paris dining. We noticed diners around us enjoying interesting dishes that we hadn’t seen on the menu. When we asked one of the servers where they were listed, we were told that they were specials of the day. Apparently our waitress had “forgotten” to mention them!
Dessert ended on a better note. My tarte tatin, a combo of rich amber-hued caramelized apples resting upon a deep golden puff pastry crust, was excellent. Riz au lait (creamy rice pudding) and a Mont Blanc, a dessert prepared with crispy meringue, chestnut puree, and whipped cream, were tempting enough to help assuage some of our earlier frustrations.
8, rue Volnay