L’Aiguière - Wake Me Up When It's Over

Fresh off the heels of our rustic dinner in the countryside, the choice last weekend was restaurant L’Aiguière which, according to the review posted at their website, offers “low wooden beams, a rustic atmosphere, beautiful, soft music playing in the background,” “like you are out in the French countryside, with picturesque windowsills looking out into a quite Parisian street.” (Give me a break!) Another rustic atmosphere, and this time without having to trek outside Paris. I’m not sure my heart can bear such an onslaught of pastoral charm. This is Paris, after all, where we expect traffic jams, arrogance, spitting in the street, pollution, lousy parking habits, and cigarette smoke blown into our eyes.

First, let me debunk the ‘beautiful, soft music’ that is supposed to seduce couples into marriage proposals – no kidding, it’s there on the website. The music was contemporary pop, far from beautiful, but the volume was low, so I guess it rates as ‘soft.’ I didn’t see anyone down on his knees bellowing ‘marier-moi!,’ so I guess the other patrons were as unenchanted by the music as I was. Now on to the food. If L’Aiguière is known for anything in Parisian gastronomic circles, it is for the 58-euro ‘menu accord mets et vins’ (which bumps up to 68€ if you want it with cheese and porto). This little adventure consists of four courses, each of which is accompanied by a glass of wine specifically selected by the maître sommelier/owner, Patrick Masbatin. Co. & I went down that route a few years ago when we first tried this restaurant and, at least for us, it didn’t work. First, we prefer red wines and only sample whites when under extreme duress. Second, when you really like to sample the wine throughout your eating experience, including the pauses in delivery of the actual grub, this menu arrangement doesn’t do the job. One is left tapping one’s fingers on the table, wondering how long before you get another opportunity to slake your thirst. Okay, no mets et vins menu; instead, we opted for the reasonably-priced (32€) three-course (plus cheese) ‘formule Gustavienne,’ named as such in honor of, ahem, Gustave Trois of Sweden. Do we smell the faint aroma of pretentiousness here? For the budget conscious diner, you’ll have to bring your calculator to assess which menu provides the best value. Unfortunately, you probably will forget to ask for the wine menu until you’ve already ordered the relatively less expensive Gustave 3. Can you say ‘pricey’? We counted a grand total of 3 bottles priced under 40€ on the wine list.

Although you may be detecting a slight tinge of negativity to this review, let me say I do not intend to pan the menu courses themselves. Everything was adequately prepared, but leaning toward the ‘ho-hum’ and ‘damn, given this restaurant’s rustic pretentions, I expected a hell of a lot more gastronomic idyllic charm than this!’ Such was my reaction to the briquettes de chèvre frais glace de chêvre au miel d'acacia appetizer and the ensuing poêlée de rougets de roche en vinaigrette d'huile d'avocat purée de panais. Believe me when I tell you, these are two of my all-time favorite dishes – the chèvre and the rouget. The goat’s cheese was well-prepared, and it was nice to find a little ball of honey sorbet on the plate. But it was no better than the many other preparations of this dish I’ve previously sampled in French restaurants. Same goes for the red mullet, which not only induced pastoral musings, it nearly put me to sleep. Once the remaining morsels started to blend with the vinaigrette and remaining drops of the purée, my taste buds finally awakened with a ‘hey, what’s that?!,’ but unfortunately, the pay-off was too little and far too late. This rouget preparation couldn’t compete with the full-sized entire grilled rouget I was served a couple weeks ago a couple blocks away at Bistrot Paul Bert’s adjoining seafood restaurant, L’Ecaliller du Bistrot. To add insult to injury, the ala carte price of the red mullet dish at L’Aiguière was set at 42€! They must be joking, n'est pas? Co. was similarly disappointed, especially with regard to her main dish, fricassée de rables et cuisses de lapereau à la moutarde de figues. The accompanying sauce was not enough to prevent an ultimately dry experience. Desserts were adequate, nothing more. As for wine, we opted for a 2001 Graves, Chateau Haut Selve, whose initial bitterness wore off by the main dishes. And this time, we avoided the famous disappearing bottle act by informing the waiter that we preferred to have the bottle remain on the table throughout the meal. It worked.

Just to add, there is a mezzanine. Never sat there, but it looks pretty nice.

37 bis, Rue de Montreuil
75011 Paris


Overall note (out of 10): 5

Food: 6- Ambiance: 7 (rustic wood beams!!, and you can propose marriage even with the bland pop music) Price/Quality: 4 (believe me, we got off way easy at 108€ for two, including wine. But don’t even think about ordering ala carte or finding an inexpensive bottle of wine among the list) Service: 5 Eh. Adequately bland.

In sum: Not a bad meal, but I bet you’ll be disappointed you didn’t go somewhere else in this vibrant neighborhood, midway between Nation and Bastille.

Also mentioned:

L'Ecailler du Bistrot
22, rue Paul Bert
75011 Paris
tel. +
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