I would not have chosen this restaurant but the girls called and I could not miss out on one of our dinners. If you could be a fly on the wall for any one of our nights out then you too would not be able to decline.
The location was a French bistro named Le Paradis, 166 Bedford at Davenport. If the word bistro is beginning to make you shudder, I completely feel you. Sigh. Let’s start with the atmosphere: when you first walk in you are smacked in the face by the big, wooden bar and black and white tiles (quelle surprise). The tiling quickly turns to blue carpet as you make your way up to the second floor. Um, when are owners going to realize that carpet and baguette crumbs are never a smart partnership. The rest was dusty, old, burgundy banquettes, white tables with brown paper and here’s another shocker... Parisienne art i.e. Martini Rossi and Moutard posters.
The menu, which changes daily was equally as lack lustre. The apps were the French typical: a fish soup ($5), mussels in garlic white wine ($8), goat cheese something avec something or other ($7), a verte salade ($5), etc. I could’ve fallen asleep in my glass of Gamay.
I chose the fish soup and apparently chose wrong. Not that the others were any better but at least the goat cheese with ratatouille didn’t taste like dish water. And I am being oh so serious here. The soup tasted like someone had left shrimp skins sitting in a sink of luke warm water and decided to make a soup out of it. Delicious.
Mains were equally as blah. Ok, so some of them sounded good. I was actually confident in my selection of a braised lamb shoulder with artichokes, tomatoes and garlic ($15). Yet, the pictures of fish on the menu next to the ‘Poisson’ category should’ve set off some alarms. It was room temperature, watery, tasteless (are there no herbs du Provence in this so called French kitchen?) The artichokes were either from a can or jar. Don’t know which one but either is wrong. Realizing that a shoulder cut could and would be fatty and stringy, I whole heartedly dug in. First bite – big chunk of fat. Second bite – big chunk of fat. Third bite – “Rita, if you keep eating this you too will be a big chunk of fat”. I didn’t mind the stringy sort of stewy texture but the fat was off the charts. I don’t often do this but I stopped and set my utensils down. It simply wasn’t worth eating.
For dessert, we entertained the small cheese plate ($8). Small in size it was not. Small in variety it was. This was the first ‘one type’ cheese plate I have ever seen. It was Blue and served with toasted bread that was so hard it must have been toasted two weeks ago. We laughed though because with every bite you became deaf while you chewed it.
The service was alright. My friends liked her no nonsense approach but I classify it as French abrasive. She was serious, kind of cold, lacking in eye contact and she kept speaking French to us which annoyed me to pieces. Apparently she started this because our friend started speaking to her in French but whatever the reason, I thought it was kitschy and unnecessary. The white shirt/black pant uniform circa 1989 didn’t help matters either.
The bottom line is, if ‘Restaurant Makeover’ is out there please give this place a call because they are in need of a serious overhaul.