1.0 Roger la Grenouille, 26, rue des Grands-Augustins, 6th, 01.56.24.24.34, closed Sundays. Why did I go to this place described as “old” and “old school” by two friends? You’ll recall Bogart in the role of Rick Blaine replying to Captain Renault as to how he got there: “I came to Casablanca for the waters. Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert. Rick: I was misinformed.”
And so it was. Someone, somewhere, said they had a new chef or something new, well, in my defense, they opened in 1930, so something must have changed in 76 years. As I was walking smack in the heart of the Right Bank in the 6th between the backpackers’ cheapo places, you know them, 10 Euros plus wine for 2 courses on the ardoise, and Jacques Cagna/William Ledeuil/Relais Louis XIII-land, I had a sinking feeling that I was walking into a trap (I know, I read too many polars.)
Entering, I thought it looked exactly like it did in 1930. And it probably does. But the ardoise said “New Proprietor,” there were two young men in the salle rather than the older Maitre d’ described elsewhere and there were two young women in the kitchen.
I was mostly alone in a place that must seat 100 covers; a French family with a screaming kid left after one tantrum too many and their replacement, a three generation triple, didn’t sit down ‘til I was almost finished.
Anyway the food; it’s Roger la Grenouille, after all, so I wanted and one gotta have frogs, right? If anyone can fix them well, they must, right? It’s old and old school, right? Wrong x3.
They were barely OK (basically tasteless but without any accompanying sharp parsley zip or garlic zatch) and their price was outasight (25€ for 6 as an entrée and 31 for a main course). I also didn’t like the chopped fennel either – so there!
Then I had veal kidneys that were properly cooked as we had agreed (that is pink) with potatoes dauphinoise. I dunno what happened, the kidneys were again barely OK, the bordelaise sauce ditto but the potatoes were again tasteless and uncrispy on the exterior.
The coffee was great so I have something nice to say, but the financier was limp and chocolate cookies less than basic.
Now sometime during the meal I noticed that while the women were bustling about the kitchen, out of the window observing every bite I ate was an older guy and when I got the check they handed me two cards, one for Roger and one for Allard with the same names on both and like Jonathan Safran Foer, suddenly everything was illuminated: the Allard bunch had taken over this tired place and were transitioning the old guys out to be replaced by younger kitchen and waitstaff; but I got caught in the middle. Cost of lesson = 59.70 €. Ouch!
*Originally published in September 2006.