5.01* Les Grandes Bouches, 78, rue de Levis in the 17th, 01.43.80.40.36, menus at 23 (2 dishes) and 28 (3) and 40 E a la carte, closed Sunday, thus open Saturday and Monday lunch (a rare find in Paris) was written up at the rentree by Rubin and Berger and subsequently by two critic/friends whose judgment is infallible (but the Pope is too, eh?) So I went with very high expectations.
Since my date stood me up and replacements for an aging/memory-challenged/non-alowine-observing gent are hard to come by, I went alone, sobbing down the rue de Levis (you can tell that the nutso-right is right, the Levis=jewelry=gold/etc., and the Baraka restos in Paris demonstrate that like John Kerry, Obama is really not an American.) Enough.
So I go in, a tad early, and am told absolutely no problem; there's a photographer from version femina, my Sunday source, taking pix madly (from the 200 she took, they'll use one at most, oh well, it's better than being on the SMIC). I'm offered my choice of places (the place at max had 7 covers (at night, at least tonight, though, it's fully booked).
I sit at another banquette with cushions, if it's not the Fourchette du Printemps' also awkward cushions, it's Passage 53's in-sit-able-in chairs; enuf of the frou-frou, guys.
The chalkboard and printed menu are ample, indeed, a bit over-the-top; "duck that tigers cry over" (my trans.) to a classic Cotes de Boeuf; a saucissotheque one (Aubrac and cheddar), etc.
One of my pals hates it when I talk of the charming young couples that now run places, but these two were, well, charming and welcoming and nice and posed for the pix-snapper a la Barack and Michelle - adoringly.
First, she brought over a red pepper puree with chorizo-infused bread; a great idea but it need some pizazz that more piment d'espelette or hot sauce would have given the dish.
Then I had the a la carte sauteed scallops (4) served in a lettuce veloute with a strip of bacon, which dish also needed some pepping up, but wait, at the end, I figured out how to apportion the soup, scallops and bacon so it did work) - OK.
Next, two giant squid babies staring me in the face with rice that was speckled with wild rice (the menu implied all wild, but no matter), it was OK but like Francois Simon at Lipp, I did not finish either, wanting to go onto dessert to decide whether this place was in the winner's circle or on the loser's bench.
I chose the creme with prunes and Armagnac (ineffable) - once again OK. I'm now thinking, what did my friends and the big boys base their judgments on? It escapes me. This is finesse-full cooking but "where's the beef?"
With a coffee, 50 cl of a wine made on one of the four major routes to Compostella, no bottled water, my bill arrived at 47.30 Euros.
Go? Hummmm. Do you believe me or all my friends and critics? Maybe if I lived near here, but then with Karl & Erick around the corner, nah. But like Antoine Herrah (Chamarre Montmartre) and Bruno Douchet (Le Regalade), whom everyone but me swoons over, I don't think he's figured out what to cook when he grows up: classic, modern or Asian-influenced.
*NB: 5 is an average place so my rating of 5.01 puts it above average.