Ah, Day 2 of my Paris Food Adventures, and dear reader, I was failing. After three amazing, rich meals in a row, I didn’t have the strength to search for another bistro mentioned in the New York Times and try to get into a second sitting. And it was really, really cold outside. So, I thought I’d do a little research.
The evolution of travel has been fascinating. In my university days, fellow travellers would debate the merits of Let’s Go vs. Lonely Planet. We would pour through pages written by expert travellers to find the right hotels and restaurants, and show up to see if there was space. But nowadays everything is available through e-mail. Trips are researched beforehand, reservations made online, and that privileged position of reviewer has broken down into the wisdom of the masses. An internet connection is an essential feature of a hotel room.
Did you know that on googlemaps you can simply enter the name of the neighbourhood where you wish to dine and the word “restaurants”. So, from my hotel on the lovely street Rue Malher, I connected to wireless, and didn’t even have to fill in the full search name – the autofill function turned ‘Restaurants 4eme’ into ‘Restaurants in 4ème Arrondissement, Paris, France’. Zooming in on my area showed me a dozen restaurants less than 5 minutes away, and a sidebar shows details with links to reviews. The reviews with Google are a bit of a muddle though, they’re grabbed from all over the net (and in different languages too)
So, to tripadvisor we go, which with some sort of complicated algorithm rates all of the restaurants in a city that it has listings for. I’m not sure I’m completely trustworthy of it. The current Number One restaurant in Paris only has 13 reviews. Certainly, the 3rd rated “Le Relais d’Isle” with 206 ratings should get some bonus points for that? There’s also no distinction between kinds of eateries, so Pierre Herme, with its fabulous macarons comes in at #16. Still, if you’ve made it in the top 100 of 6,593 restaurants, you must be doing something right.
The Sydney listings give me a better idea of how the list works. A restaurant that only has a handful of reviews, but all good, is going to be advantaged (though I suppose one bad rating could bring that score down quickly). But more importantly, the lists are skewed to tourists and travellers (which makes sense, it being tripadvisor) rather than locals. I assume that the number one rated Medusa Greek Tavern (which I’ve never heard of) is surrounded by hotels in its downtown location, with possibly a good reputation with hotel concierges! Meanwhile, Captain Cook Cruises rates as the 12th best restaurant in Sydney over 14th placed Tetsuya’s, which is probably the best restaurant in Sydney, though most reviews seem to talk about the views of the Harbour rather than the food.
But I digress. Le Bistrot Des Comperes, at #22 in Paris (formerly called Le Framboisy), received rave reviews, as well as sounding like a cozy neighbourhood restaurant. I was surprised I got in, but there was an empty table waiting for me, after walking down rue Charlemagne, a quiet street just south of St. Paul’s metro station, to find a warmly lit set of windows, a classic French bistro. I should perhaps have taken other reviewers’ advice and had the entree of Chevre onion confit creme brulee but was instead tempted by the home made foie-gras on a salad with smoked duck. The cranberry-like sauce on the foie gras reminded me of Thanksgiving turkey and the dressing was a little wet and sweet. But it was tasty.
For the main, a special of the day. A beef bourguignon of sorts. I looked a little too excited when the waiter mentioned it, imagining the dish I remembered from the movie ‘Julie and Julia’. He explained that it wasn’t exactly traditional, more like a beef stew.
With the perfectly cooked green beans, and the mashed potatoes, it was a hearty, savoury meal that went well with my glass of red wine.
I was too full for dessert though tempted by the homemade profiteroles.
It was a pleasant evening and what I was looking for. Not too much food, and not too fancy. It was still rich though – being French food. To tell the truth, I think the high ratings come as much from the charm of the place and location than the food – it offers tourists an authentic French experience in a charming bistro and on a chilly Paris night, not quite Spring, what more could one want?
Arriving back to Australia I receive an email messages from the restaurant. I only gave them 3 stars. Couldn’t I rate them higher? Ah: so that’s how they have such a high tripadvisor rating!