PARIS - With a great deal of fanfare and more grand plans for the future, the omnipresent designer Philippe Starck opened his first restaurant, Bon, on the first day of spring in Paris's 16th arrondissement.
Situated in a huge, 700-square-meter (7,500-square-foot) space along Rue de la Pompe, Bon personifies everything that is wrong with internationally aimed restaurants today.
For starters, the multipurpose space is uncomfortable, the place is so dark and the type on the menu so small that you cannot even read what you might want to eat. The food has a proper organic-vegetarian approach, but fails miserably in flavor, presentation and satisfaction. And on a given night one risks total asphyxiation as this bio-healthy-wholesome crowd smokes up a veritable storm.
I admire Starck's energy and commitment to a healthy lifestyle, but I wish he had stuck to toothbrushes, chairs, buildings and sofas and stayed clear of creating menus for the restaurant world.
Along with his partner, Laurent Taieb (of Lo Sushi fame), Starck has attempted to put together a restaurant for everyone at all times. Bon is designed to fill the needs of a single person for breakfast - organic sweets from Laduree can be grabbed from the revolving belt that serves to deliver your sushi at lunch and dinner; a single for lunch - who can join one of the several table d'hote in the first dining room; a romantic couple for dinner - there's an intimate dining room in one section of the restaurant, or a group meeting-dinner in the video room fully equipped with the latest technology.
There is, as well, a large room decorated with giant white sofas, the idea being that people can feel as though they are dining at home. And there is a brasserie-style area for those who like being elbow-to-elbow.
The place has many brilliant Starck touches - the giant marble-top table d'hote that is lighted from underneath and topped with candelabras, and a lovely outdoor space decorated with ''walls'' of thyme set in giant picture frames. There is also a small boutique where you can purchase Bon's tableware; kitschy objects such as a faux-mink cover for your soft-boiled egg; Laduree's macaroons prepared with organic ingredients, and the designer's own line of organic products, from spaghetti sauce to champagne.
The menu, alas, is just plain silly, and about the only edible things our group of four diners found were a few meager pieces of sushi thrown into the ''menu dietetique,'' which included an unsavory compilation of sushi, miso soup, a mishmash of vegetables and a naked chunk of iceberg lettuce. What could Starck be thinking? The food was served TV-dinner style: all at the same time on an awkward platter.
Everything at Bon is not good for you. One small section of the menu is entitled ''I Am Bad,'' and featured steak and potato chips that, on our visit, emitted an odd flavor, like rancid oil.
The Paris Bon is the first of a chain, with plans for others in New York, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Madrid and London. Heaven help us.
25 Rue de la Pompe
Open daily 8 A.M. to 2 A.M. About 150 francs ($22) a person, including service. All major credit cards.