16 Haussmann - Not Quite Sweet 16

If only I had known how excellent the praline croustillant dessert was going to be, I would have ordered three and called it a night. As it was, Co. & I ran the gamut of 16 Haussmann's three-course fixed price menu (37€ each) and wound up fairly disappointed.

Not to say it wasn’t a pleasant evening. We happened upon one of the two Friday nights per month when a three-piece ‘gypsy jazz’ combo plays the room and the group ran through a couple of tasty sets. The room itself—designed by Philippe Stark—is spacious and handsome, with royal blue walls, ochre drapes, and mahogany furniture. The bright yellow 16 Haussmann logo appears prominently throughout, guaranteeing we would not forget where we were eating. A small intimate bar is located just to the left of the entry, and the restaurant boasts a nicely-appointed terrace for summer dining.

I would have felt perfectly comfortable pulling out and lighting a fat cigar to accompany the free glass of champagne, assuming it was still legal to smoke inside restaurants and assuming I smoked. The restaurant resides inside the 4-star Ambassador Hotel, a hop, skip, and jump from the grands magasins’ and the Opéra Garnier. And therein lies our tale. When Co. summarized the atmosphere as ‘inauthentic,’ her basic complaint was that the restaurant and its staff seemed to be trying a bit too hard to cater to the tourist trade. The first thing we were asked upon entry was whether we preferred a French or English menu, and the amiability of the staff seemed a bit forced. No wonder – the clientele ranged from a middle-aged couple whose sense of fashion consciousness could best be described as ‘cro-Magnon beachwear’ to sophisticated and elegant Parisian connoisseurs like, ahem, Mortstiff & Co.

Chef Michel Hache knows how to add a creative touch to his dishes, which is not to say that it always makes sense. The entrees arrived with great visual promise, but the execution fell flat. The green fruit and salad glass did nothing to enhance the taste of the three tempura shrimp arranged vertically on sticks based in a lime wedge. And the smallest serving of crème brulee ever seen this side of the Seine that accompanied Co’s entrée was purposely chilled, a decision that did not compute. Co’s roasted sea bass with provencal bread crumbs was the far more satisfying main course. My supreme de volaille stuffed with chevre was tasty enough, but about as interesting as the tennis shoes tapping along to the music at the next table. On the bright side, Chef Hache clearly has a flair for desserts.

The wine list is short and sweet, both in terms of selection and price, with wines arranged by price, from high to low. No complaints regarding our 31€ Chinon.

What else can I say? Here we have another Parisian restaurant that appears on many online lists under the heading ‘inventive.’ Spare me. Maybe the Ambassador’s tourist trade will be impressed, but I think Parisians deserve something a bit more cutting edge. On that score, Mortstiff & Co. continue to search.

16 Boulevard Haussmann
75009 Paris (in the Hotel Ambassador)

Overall note: 6+ (with music), 5.5 (without)
Food: 5.5 (without dessert), 6+ (with)
Ambiance: 6 (nicely appointed dining room, but you couldn't help feeling that you were in a hotel)
Staff: 6 (efficient and tourist friendly, to a fault)

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