Josh’s best friend Ryan was visiting us from Arizona. Like Josh, Ryan is a HUGE foodie and it is clear that part of what makes them such great friends is their common love of food. Like most foodies who go on vacation, Ryan spend the entire week “eating his way through Paris” and trying to taste as many French specialties and delicacies as possible. In honor of his last night with us, we decided to take him to Le Chataubriand, which is meant to be one of the most upscale and gourmet Kosher restaurants in Paris.
During our brisk walk to Le Chateaubriand at 10:15pm (the kitchen was to close at 10:30 so we were on a race to make it), we passed by several Kosher restaurants that we have frequented at (Cook, Rafael, Simon), all of which were packed to capacity and bubbling with energy. We were surprised by the fact that there was not a single seat available at any of these restaurants so late at night, neither inside or outside! We were nervous that we would have a long wait at Le Chateaubriand as well. The Kosher restaurants are always crowded late at night, but we speculated that perhaps during the spring and summer, especially on a beautiful evening like this was, the Kosher restaurants are even more crowded than usual. Meanwhile, every non-Kosher restaurant we passed had plenty of open tables. Parisian Jews must love going out to eat!
On the contrary, when we arrived at Le Chateaubriand, it was practically empty, with only one other couple dining in the restaurant. Josh and Ryan were starving so their first reaction was one of relief that they would not have to wait a long time to be served. French servers normally like to take their time when they wait upon a table. Even if you make it obvious that you are ready to order, they seemingly ignore you until they are ready to take down your order.
Le Chateaubriand is definitely not the hippest and trendiest of restaurants. Let’s just say it doesn’t have that young and ebullient NYC Clubhouse Cafe vibe. The decor of the restaurant looks like it was taken right out of a museum depicting an aristocratic French home in the 18th century. The bathroom was one of the loveliest that I have seen at a Kosher restaurant in Paris. This decor was completely off balanced by the super modern paintings hanging on the walls. The quiet environment was made even more awkward by the clash of the soft Light fm music playing in the background inside this ultra French restaurant. Between the cheesy music, the modern artwork, and the century old European decor, we were definitely a bit confused and also amused. Although the restaurant is very pretty and charming, I think we all would have preferred eating in a more crowded environment.
Since the kitchen was soon to close and the restaurant was so devoid of customers, the waiter actually ran over to take our orders in a pressure-some way. He did not allow us time to put consideration into our choices. I am usually really awful at decided what I want to eat at restaurants and usually take a long time to order. Lucky for me, I rarely like more than 2 dishes on fancy restaurant menus, so I was able to make my decision immediately. We started with a bottle of wine. Ryan is a wine connoisseur and has a greater appreciation and knowledge about wine than most young people that I know. It would feel sacrilegious to go out for dinner with Ryan without having him choose a bottle of wine for the table. After slight deliberation, we narrowed our choice down to two wines, both of which the restaurant was out of. Ryan was a bit confused by this, but it was no surprise to me or Josh. Even the most expensive of Kosher restaurants simply aren’t operated the same way as not Kosher restaurants on a similar caliber. We ordered a rose wine instead because it was one of the only bottles that they had available (39 euro). O well!
Almost all of the entrees on the menu had some variation of foie gras and the mains were mostly either steak or fish, with one chicken dish available. The sides were an extremely limited selection of either mashed potatos, an assortment of what the menu called “crunching vegetables,” and potato cake.
I ordered the tuna steak marinated with hazelnut oil and crunching vegetables (30 Euro). Our server informed us that the tuna is served with mashed potatoes. I requested the crunching vegetables instead of the mashed potatoes (as it had said on the menu!) and specifically requested no carrots several times during my order. I’m not a huge fan of mashed potatoes (I would prefer French Frites any day) and the crunching vegetables had such a delicious ring to them. I imagined them to be stir fried and well seasoned and perhaps supplemented with some kind of crunchy noodle. I should have realized that I am not in an Asian restaurant and should not expect anything overly flavorful at a fancy French Bistro. My waiter either got confused or couldn’t understand most of what I asked for because he brought the dish as is, with the mashed pototoes and then an extra side of the crunching vegetables (an additional 6 euro) I enjoyed the mashed potatoes significantly more than the crunching vegetables. The mashed potatoes were made with some kind of non-dairy creme or butter sauce and had a lot of flavor. The vegetables were very boring and of course, my assortment of veggies was filled with a generous percentage of carrots! I have learned that in most instances, it is pointless to tell the waiters that the order is not as I had requested since they either don’t understand what I’m saying or they get almost personally insulted and not willing to correct the mistake and appease the customer. The flavor was dull and sauteed in what must have been margarine. The Tuna steak was enormous, probably the largest I have ever had. It was actually similar in size to the Tuna steak that I had at Kavod a few months ago (written about in the blog). I ordered it medium-well, but it was extremely pink on the inside. In one of my bites in from the center of the steak, I almost felt like I tasted blood. Thank Gd I had wine to wash out the taste! Other than the raw inside, the rest of the Tuna was cooked to perfection and the meat was extremely moist! The flavor of the steak was pretty bland and tasted very fishy. Once I sprinkled lemon juice on it, the fishiness was mitigated and the flavor was significantly enhanced.
Ryan is the kind of guy that will try anything because food is an experience to him and what better way to experience food than to try the most crazy things. We determined during one of our conversations that he would be game to try pretty much anything except for dog. Since he dined with two Kosher people, his options for unconventional foods were fairly limited. He still hadn’t tried foie gras all week and since the menu had so many dishes which incorporated foie gras, the opportunity presented itself. He ordered Pave Rossini Sauce Foie Gras served with a potato cake (36 euro). He had requested that his steak be cooked medium rare and used hand motions to emphasize the word “rare” to the server, who seemed to pick up on the message. His stead was definitely served medium, but he enjoyed it and commented on the generous size of the steak.
Josh ordered Cote de boeuf sauce Bonnefoy served with a potato cake (35 euro). The beef was supposed to be served with a honey mustard sauce but was served with a red wine sauce instead since they didn’t have the sauce Bonnefoy this evening. Josh could have opted for the mushroom sauce, but it seems like every French meat kosher restaurant serves steak with the mushroom sauce and Josh was ready for a change of pace. He was not wowed by him steak but definitely enjoyed it and thought that the potato cake was delicious (like me, he would have rather had French french fries any day)!
Between the wine and the energ-less dining environment, we were all yawning as we left the restaurant. I would recommend Le Chateubriand to someone who wants to go out for a special or romantic occasion and would not recommend it to a group of friends looking to go out and have a good time. The food was fresh and very high quality and portions were generous.