Chef-entrepreneur Alain Ducasse has moved in to resuscitate yet another classic Parisian bistro (both Benoit and Aux Lyonnais are already in his stable), and he’s off to a start -- but he needs to roll up his sleeves. The standard dishes from the days of Madame Allard are there, including their landmark duck with olives (photo), garlicky snails, giant sole meunière. The etched glass windows, burgundy banquettes, and elbow-to-elbow seating remain unchanged, and unchanged also, it seemed on a recent Sunday, was the obvious detachment of the waitstaff. But the trademark duck with green olives, the big garlicky snails and the sole meuniere were as good as they get, and the updated wine list includes some winners such as Henri Bourgeois’s fresh Sancerre, and Les Cailloux’s meaty Châteauneuf-du-Pape. But my salade de frisée (curly endive with cubes of bacon and croutons) arrived as an ignored orphan, without even a sprinkle of the classically vinegary dressing, a very sad presence amid the rest of the table’s offerings. The green bean salad starter was brightly dressed with a touch of tarragon cream, and the oeufs cocotte (eggs baked in a glass terrine) arrived warming and welcoming, dressed up with freshly cooked button mushrooms. Desserts have a way to go: The small round profiteroles filled with cream and sauced with chocolate were delicious if just chewy enough to make me think of yesterday, but both the fig and the blackberry tarts looked and tasted as though they had been made for a much earlier date, with under-cooked crust not worthy of a neophyte let alone this famed bistro, which was celebrated for its hearty fare since opening in 1932. The well-priced lunch menu is there for those who want to get at least a hint of what Ducasse is up to here. Though I don’t think I’ll be racing back right away.
41, rue Saint-André des Arts
Tel: +33 1 43 26 48 23
Métro: Odéon or Saint-Michel
Prices: 34€ lunch menu. A la carte, 44 to 86€