Reviews: Restaurant a l’Impasse

31 Mar

4 Impasse Guemenee (just off rue St. Antoine between rue de Birague and rue des Tournelles), 4e. Metro: St. Paul.

I just had one of the best meals of my life. After getting totally lost leaving the Louvre tonight, I eventually found my way back to my dinner destination of the Marais, the neighborhood Sharlene raved about from her trip to Paris and where many of Susan’s favorite restaurants are. I wanted to try a tea salon, but Le Loire dans la Theiere, one Susan recommended seemed to be closed, so I decided to splurge on A l’Impasse, which Susan described as a typical, neighborhood French bistro.

Although I didn’t immediately recognize anything on the menu besides the steak, I went in. Maybe I was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservationsepisode where he eats all sorts of livers and hearts and such. Let me clarify: I was inspired enough to try something new, as long as “new” didn’t mean “critter guts.” I walk in, wonder if I’m supposed to say, “Bounjour madam/monsieur” when I walk into restaurants (it makes all the difference when you go into a shop, honestly), and before I have time to agonize over that question, the staff all say, “Bon soir!” and one waiter asks me something. “Comment?” I ask. He repeats it. “Je ne comprends pas. S’il vous plait, plus lentement?” “Do you have reservations?” the woman in the kitchen asks me. I say no, and they cheerily seat me anyway. The place was empty, but it seems like the kind of place that would find you a seat.

As I discreetly try to translate the list of plats du jour with my French phrase book, one of the waiters came over and asked, in perfect English, if I needed any help with the menu. With a little help of a food French-English dictionary, he told me it was guinea fowl (he knew it was guinea something) and cabbage. When he took my order, he let my practice my French and was really patient and friendly. He even walked me through some common descriptions of wine, translating them into English when a blank look came over my face.

Speaking a foreign language comes with all the steps of success that playing an instrument does: you might kick ass in the privacy of your own home, but when you have to put it into practice and use it with people who are fluent? It’s a little harder. Once I get past my initial nerves, I usually do OK. Not great, but OK. And pretty much everyone has been willing to work with me.

I took one bite of the cabbage, and I was in heaven. And no, the really nice glass of Bordeaux hadn’t gone to my head yet. I mean, how good can cabbage be, right? It was incredible–subtly flavored and cooked to the perfect texture–not mushy, not too crisp, just right. And the meat just fell off the pintarde. Again, perfectly flavored, yet really simple. I didn’t want to stop eating.

The woman who translated the reservation question for me took my plate, and I wasn’t sure if “I could die right now” would have the same meaning in French as in English, so instead I just said, “C’est tres, tres bon” and made googly eyes at my empty plate, hoping I was speaking the international language of food lust. I was going to try Berthillon for ice cream for dessert, but the entree was so good, how could I not see how their desserts were?

So I ordered the “sublime au chocolat,” a slice of dense chocolate mousse surrounded by a vanilla-coffee cream. The presentation was so beautiful, I nearly took out my camera to snap a photo. I kind of wish I had.

It was, of course, sublime. The coffee flavor in the sauce was very subtle, but it perfectly balanced the richness of the mousse. I finished my meal, read some more of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, listened to the animated conversation between the patrons and the staff, eventually looked up how to ask for the bill, and basked in the afterglow. A bit of a splurge (25 euro for main course and either an appetizer or dessert, and glasses of wine are between 4 and 7 euros), but sooooooooooo worth it, both for the food and the exceptionally friendly service. I want to learn how to cook French bistro food now. Maybe on my next trip to Paris. When I’ll also be buying an apartment here. After I win the lottery, of course.

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One Response to “Reviews: Restaurant a l’Impasse”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Paris Wrap Up… at chadwest.net - September 10, 2007

    […] left the best restaurant to the last night of my stay. After reading Nicole’s review of Restaurant a L’Impasse I knew I couldn’t miss out. Well it took me over an hour to […]

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