La Régalade, a forgettable lunch
April 27th, 2004
The service at la Régalade was as unnecessarily harried as ever. The place was not even half full when I arrived, but the two waitresses flew about the place as though they were on wings, well, or on some kind of pharmaceuticals. Yet, the service and the food were so slow my two-hour window was not even enough to finish my lunch.
I must admit that I had not been happy with La Régalade for a long time. When the new crop of bistros nouveaux, like La Régalade, La Repaire de Cartouche, L'Os à Moelle, and Chez Michel first opened in the early 90's, La Régalade was my favorite. The chef was clearly more talented than the rest. However, I found La Régalade to have deteriorated badly over the years. In fact, the last meal I had there was over a year ago. That meal was so bad, and the service even worse, that I vowed not to return again.
When I heard that the chef was leaving because of exhaustion, it didn't come at all as a surprise for me. I have been seeing it in his cooking for a while.
Anyhow, since I was free for lunch not too far from the neighbourhood, and I was definitely curious about the new chef who reportedly had a pretty good pedigree, I decided to pop in for lunch.
Even with the room only half full, the waitress took at least 15-20 mins to get to me for my order. I ordered the menu coup de coeur, starting with Bisque crémeuse de homard et petit crouton (Lobster bisque with croutons), and a Carré de cochon fermes, échalottes confites (pork loin with shallot confite). For dessert I was tempted by the peach ice cream that was on the menu coup de Coeur, but decided it was too early in the season for peaches, and opted instead for Fraises garriguette de Provence, sorbet lait menthe (garriguette strawberries from Provence and milk/mint ice cream).
After my order was taken, a terrine landed with a big thud on my table. It was the famous paté de campagne “La Régalade”. It was as good as ever, perfect chunky texture, with plenty of flavorful fat dotted throughout. I remember the first time I was there, I had to be physically restraint from eating up the whole terrine before my meal arrived.
My first course, Bisque crémeuse de homard et petit crouton, took its time arriving, but I was far too happy digging into the terrine to care. Finally, the soup plate arrived with bits of partially cooked lobsters, a few chunks of bacon and plenty of chopped chives. A small Staub pot arrived shortly thereafter, half filled with flavorful soup. The soup was delicious, but, unfortunately, the lobster itself was not so fresh. A few pieces of lobster were completely rare. If they were intended to be partially cooked by the soup, then the liquid was simply not hot enough to do the job. The rare bits tasted even worse than the somewhat cooked ones, and I ended up leaving most of the meat in the bowl. I was really missing the terrine then, I'd much rather be eating the terrine still.
The next course also took its time to arrive. I literally had to tell the waitress that I only had 30 minutes left for my meal. I arrived at 12, and was seated promptly, but it wasn't until almost 1.30 that my second course finally arrived. It was the Carré de cochon fermes, échalottes confites. The huge slab of pork was perfectly cooked, the meat very tender, and the crackling simply perfect. There was also a small green salad, and another small staub cocotte of mashed potato flavored with mustard. The salad was inoffensive enough, but the mashed potato was slightly oddly flavored, and I am normally such a fan of mustard. Unfortunately, I only had about ten minutes to actually eat my food, and barely finished half before I had to leave.
I told the waitress to bring my dessert immediately, as I am expected back at my hotel at 2pm for a meeting. I took a few bites of the dessert before I ran. The strawberries were no so sweet and weren't quite fully ripe. The ice cream tasted pretty benign as well, I couldn't taste much of the milk or the mint, to be honest. But then again that could perhaps be because I only had a minute or two for it before I literally bolted from the place, jumped in front of the first taxi I saw, and told him there will be 10 euros tip for him if he could get me back to the hotel in 15 mins. Happily, he did, so I was only a few minutes late.
The bottom line, this lunch has done little to win me back as a fan of La Régalade. The food was good, but I could get far better food at La Repaire de Cartouche or L'Entredgeu, where the service was also far better. I love the signature terrine, but it will have to take far more than that to bring me back there.