What’s going on at “Le Baratin”…


…a bistro that has been all the rage in the past one or two years or so? Let me quote Meg Zimbeck first who once wrote about one of her preferred places: “In a city with so many incredible restaurants to try, repeat visits are a sure sign of love.” Well, I agree, and yesterday I’ve been dining out at Le Baratin high up in Belleville for the fourth time already, that’s a lot, yet last night my love story ended.

Raquel Carena, Le Baratin's charming chef: too much, too many?

I wouldn’t mention that, normally, I mean, every cook can have a bad day, and every restaurant has its ups and downs, but I’m afraid that my love affair with Le Baratin and with the chef there, charming Raquel Carena from Argentina, has come to an end because I feel betrayed somehow. Worst thing to say would be that they’ve lost the spirit of convivialité up there. I mean, the guy at the bar has always been on the pompous side but now, with tourists coming in and foodies from all over the world, he turns out to be simply impossible, a cliché of the arrogant Frenchman and that’s something I can’t stand anymore.

I had booked a table for two at 8 pm and I only got one “until 9.30”. I know that’s quite common in highly frequented places but yesterday they started to get nervous at around 9.20 pm already. As a guest you felt driven out, asked to leave, you felt like finishing your café quickly in order not to upset the staff, to set the bill right now and fast – and that’s not how I imagine a pleasant dinner.

Beef cheeks lacking love: just another pot-au-feu.

Food wasn’t brilliant either. The Joues de boeuf, beef cheeks, with lemon and stuff I had ordered was in fact and without a real warning an ordinary pot-au-feu which makes a weird meal in springtime. The Escabèche was lacking the last loving touch you can always feel when it’s there, here it wasn’t. Dessert was a pretty mediocre clafoutis with cherries, and the kitchen hadn’t even thought about taking out the stones. I know, that’s how classic recipes have it but who cares in a restaurant… well, ok, here it comes, I am decided: Le Baratin has gone over the top. Success is threatening their quality, they do too much, too fast for too many but I wish them well. I mean, we were in love once.

Where love stories end: clafoutis à la Baratin.

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