It was meant to be a meaningful New Year's Eve dinner. I was in France, and of all places, Paris.
A fine dining experience was to be expected. And L'Ardoise was strongly suggested; and soon it would be added to my list of series of unfortunate events in France.
This was a long time ago, and my first lesson to French fine dining: always reserve before arrival. First rule of thumb to the start of any good dining experience, always call up to reserve a table, and always ask for the best table. With the best view, in a quiet corner, avoid seating close to the toilet or entrance.
In this case, I called to reserve, but didn't inquire about a table. In Malaysia, it is fine to assume when you call up to reserve early, the restaurant manager will automatically assign you to the best table, or a reasonable one; but in France, if you don't ask for it, you get a table, but you don't get guaranteed a good one, and in most cases, you will be allocated to one of the worse tables in the house. As you've guessed, I was seated terribly close to the entrance.
Upon entrance, I was asked to sit down immediately, and was served an amuse bouche (basically a pre-appertizer, usually comes in bite-size serving). I assumed it was complimentary since we weren't given any menu. So I ate it. And then looked through the drinks menu while waiting for the food menu. It didn't come. So I asked for it.
To my utter surprise, the waitress told us we have already been served first course of that evening's set menu. And it cost 80 euro each. That was more than RM700 at that time. And we weren't even given a choice! Neither were we informed about the fix set menu info on NYE's dinner, since we read up all the reviews and knew what we wanted to order that night.
We could have walked out, but it was NYE and we didn't know where else to go and we felt bad for having eaten the first course, thought now that I think back, we SHOULD have walked out. But in my defense, that was not knowing what we would be expecting next.
Food came. First, second, third, fourth courses. Appertizers were good, first main and second main, bad and worse.
some bisque soup that was decent
by now we were impressed because scallops and sauce were great.
This was when things go downhill, the foie gras that came in a jar was tasteless, possibly because it was steamed and there's the taste of lard and fat and well.. nothing else. It was one of the worst foie gras I've ever put in my mouth.
Really good dessert, perhaps the only thing the French can never do wrong; apart from good appetizers, the French can really do excellent dessert.
When the main course chicken (before the dessert) arrived, it was too much to bear. The chicken was SO DRY and TOUGH it was impossible to even chew and swallow. We complained this to the waitress, to which she just shrugged and said: " well we can't do anything about it."
"Well, if you could head in and inform the chef, that's all we want" we said. Which was true. We weren't looking for any compensation, but if the food's bad, I think it's the customer right to voice it out, and an opportunity for the chef to improve.
"Okay I will do that but we can't do anything about it" said waitress.
WTF x2 ?!
Few minutes, she walked out from the kitchen.
"The chef said he cannot do anything about it." she said.
Effing serious? Are you running a restaurant? Are you qualified to even be in the service line?
And then we realized the senior French couple sitting next to me were having something we're not. They were having a la carte food! (with wine) Did we just got conned into having the set menu?
Furthermore, what's with the horrible service attitude? Well, apparently it's extremely rude to complain that the chef's food is horrible in France. I suppose it's also the best response to tell their customers there were nothing they could do about it. Viva la France, indeed.