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Au Fil Des Saison


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Why isn't this place packed? I read write ups by Clotilde and Chez Christine about this Bistro called Au Fil Des Saison. It's situated between the 3rd and the 10th on a two-block-long side street. Since I moved to Paris I have gone three times in the last three weeks. The first time was a Wednesday and it was basically empty. The second time was a Friday and it was full, mostly anglophones though. This last time was a Monday and there was one other group besides us. Now I normally would not have frequented the same place three times, especially in a new city where I have a laundry list of blogger and EGullet recommendations I want to try, but Au Fil Des Saison is that good.

The last time I was there, the chef was actually serving and brought out a Langoustine broth with a touch of cream that gave it a silky almost soy milk finish. I ordered a Fois torchon with mixed greens. The fois was sweet and velvet smooth without a trace of sinew. My entree was veal medallions with asparagus and white beans. Perfect texture and sear on the veal. The asparagus had a nice snap and were dressed lightly so you could taste the market freshness. Dessert was three warm chocolate fondants (white choc, milk choc and dark choc).

Which brings me back to my question, why isn't there a three-week waiting list? My first guess is the neighborhood. It's situated perfectly near absolutely nothing. I mean unless you are really into that south end of Canal St. Martin or enjoy loitering the Art et Metiers museum after hours, you're basically in Siberia. Seriously though, its not as if L'os a Moelle is on Isle Saint Louis and that place is always packed. I had dinner at L'os two nights ago and my meal at AFDS was better.

My next guess as to why it's not that busy, would be the space. It's a bit cavernous with stone walls and exposed beams. It's the kinda room only a mother can love (if she's into BDSM). Again though, there is worse, a lot worse. Most of those others restaurants that fail in the decor also fail in the food. Here the beauty is on the plate and with what they are serving we might as well be on a patio in Saint Tropez.

I guess I could keep my mouth shut and be happy that I can still get a Friday reservation on the same day, but I like this place. I like the chef too, he has been super helpful and nice each time I have dined there. There was an Asian couple there this last time and he informed them (in English) that if they didn't like something they ordered, then he would just make them something else. Believe me, you're not going to find many chef's with that attitude, and you're not going a lot of bistro chefs that are cooking at this level.

Au Fil des Saisons

6, rue des Fontaines du Temple

75003 Paris

01 42 74 16 60

Lunch on dinner M-F, Sat dinner only, closed Sundays

Metro: Arts et Metiers

2 Courses 28€ 3 courses 35€

"When planning big social gatherings at our home, I wait until the last minute to tell my wife. I figure she is going to worry either way, so I let her worry for two days rather than two weeks."
-EW
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Thanks for sharing this report, Braden. I haven't eaten there in a little while, and it's good to know that they're still maintaining a good level of quality.

About the lack of notoriety, I agree that it has a lot to do with the (mildly depressing) décor, and the fact that it's on a street with zero foot traffic. I also think they're not getting written up in the press because journalists need an angle to talk about a restaurant, and AFDS isn't really giving them one: perhaps they just need to hire Darroze's PR person! :smile:

And if you like AFDS, you may be interested in trying its Italian-oriented sibling, Al Filo Delle Stagioni (8 rue de Beauce in the 3rd, 01 48 04 52 24). I've never been there myself, but I believe it's owned by the same guys, and I've heard good things about it. Perhaps someone can chime in with a first-hand report?

Clotilde.

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Clotilde,

Thanks for the info. We will try Au Fil's Italian cousin on Tuesday and let you know how it is. Tomorrow we are checking out Au Bascou. We have heard good things and it's pretty near our apartment. I will report back tomorrow night on Bascou.

"When planning big social gatherings at our home, I wait until the last minute to tell my wife. I figure she is going to worry either way, so I let her worry for two days rather than two weeks."
-EW
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I went to Al filo delle stagioni with three friends. I'm very sorry, I'm afraid my report won't be very positive.

On entering, a sign on the door: "No credit cards". Hmpf. But okay, their machine may be temporarily broken, we can cope with that.

Inside, a weird feeling of being crammed. There are two dining rooms, front and back, we're in the back. Uncomfortable to say the least. A voluminous ham slicing machine — beautiful, that's for sure — takes up half the width of the doorway between the two dining rooms. Obviously it's not easy to walk through it back and forth and not get your hip bruised once or twice on the handle. But the waitresses are slim and pliable so I suppose they're trained.

We sit down at our round table for four, three would be more reasonable. There are chairs with a narrow back and very impractical rounded armchairs that take up so much space that it is very tricky to circulate between tables. Whenever you try to take a step, you sort of bounce from one armchair to another. This is not a dining room, it's a pinball. You have a choice between being squeezed with your back to the wall or being in the way. What exactly is the problem (badly designed furniture? Too many tables?) is not clear. My back and shoulders get bumped two or three times by waitresses merely trying to reach a table or by guests leaving theirs. Ouch. One friend points out: "Being physically molested is normally not part of a restaurant experience."

Well, maybe the food will compensate? The antipasti are good: excellent san daniele ham and salami, mortadella, etc., served with pickled grilled vegetables that are okay. But a mere look at the menu raises suspicion: all pasta dishes are also available in risotto version. I mean, there is "pasta carbonara" and "risotto carbonara", and so on. I have never seen that in an Italian restaurant, where each dish stands for itself. We wonder how they achieve that. Or rather, we prefer not to wonder too much.

One friend's arrabbiata has no chili at all. Well, he did say "not too spicy" but this is not spicy at all. The pasta is no better or worse than cafeteria pasta. All other three have ordered risotto. Two with speck and fresh broad beans, one carbonara. They all arrive entirely covered in speck slices as if they were hiding — we quickly understand why. Thick, dry, doughy, pasty, heavy, plaster-like, very little flavor, they're hiding from our judgement, that is. I can only eat one third of mine and I notice my friends haven't done any better.

We tell the waitress that it's not very good. She says she is sorry. She adds: "Have you any experience of what it is to try to impress a chef?" We say: "Oh, of course, we understand. But please send him to us then, we'll take care of him." "He's gone home", she says.

Only one of us is willing to resume the testing by ordering tiramisu. We prefer going directly to the coffee stage. The coffee is very good. I take a bite of the tiramisu: bland, except for the nice detail of crispy roasted Pavesini biscuits.

I haven't managed to understand the locking system in the bathroom, but I think there is no locking system at all. As we go out, I see a cute little mouse escalading the red velvet curtain in the back of the second dining-room (calm down, it's not like rats at KFC, this is the Marais and there often are mice in the wooden frames of the buildings. There always have been). But this creature, at least, looks happy.

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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I went to Al Filo delle Stagioni last night I have to agree with a lot of what Ptipois said. While I appreciate that Au Filo sprung for the Ikea armchairs rather then the tiny wooden backs, they were impossible to work with. The chairs were heavy, the tables were heavy, and everything was crammed together. At one point our waitress couldn't get to our table and was passing plates to us from a arm length away. No credit credit cards was also a bummer, since dinner for two with wine was 80€.

As for that cool Ferrari red meat slicer, I loved it. I got to the restaurant at the elderly hour of 8pm so navigating around it wasn't that big of a deal. Watching the waitress spin the Model-T wheel and shave paper thin slices of meat was fun. Starting with an amuse of freshly shaved meat was also a nice Italian touch.

The menu reads more like a Chinese restaurant rather then an Italian restaurant. Carpaccio was available in 6 different meat and seafood options each with the same set. Risotto and Pasta had nearly identical listings; risotto with asparagus, pasta with asparagus, risotto with summer truffles, pasta with summer truffles, risotto vongole, pasta vongole. I would have liked to see a little more hand of the chef in creating composed dishes rather than choose-your-own-adventure.

Our adventure started with Carpaccio di Manzo, a rump steak of beef with oil, balsamic, pesto and an arugula salad. Nice starter with good flavor. We also had the "Mille Feuilles" of Mozzarella and roasted red pepper. I guess I should have seen this coming, but Mozz balls sliced in half with half a red pepper on top and half a red pepper in the middle should not be called "Mille Feuilles". You added two knife cuts to the cheapest cheese and 30 cent red pepper and want to charge 11 euro? Shame on you.

For dinner we had the Gambas, black tiger prawns sauteed in their shells with balsamic and grilled veggies. Nice flavor, nice accompaniments. I ordered the Calimari Fritti, thinking about the last time I have the Sicilian Lifeguard Style Calimari at Babbo. What I got was something else. About 10 rings of thinly sliced squid with a half inch of batter. Looked like the chicken fingers you get from a Chinese food restaurant, tasted like the onion rings from Burger King. What was worse was that these nasty rings were served over risotto instead of the advertised greens salad. Mmm, heavy fried food over heavy risotto. Even if this dish was the booby prize of the menu, how can a chef or even a cook allow this to leave the kitchen? All this shows to me is an utter laziness bridled with antagonism towards the diner.

At the higher end of the mid priced restaurants in Paris, this guy is making too many mistakes. Italian food is cheap, none of the ingredients he is using are expensive and with some exceptions, very little of the menu was seasonal (summer truffles?). As for not composing dishes, he is either lazy or lacking confidence. More then half of the menu items could be dropped. Given the price of the ingredients, another course could be added for the same price as the two courses they offer. It bums me out that this place was so busy when its French cousin is serving much better food, with a greater awareness of the market, and a daily changing menu.

Edited by BradenP (log)
"When planning big social gatherings at our home, I wait until the last minute to tell my wife. I figure she is going to worry either way, so I let her worry for two days rather than two weeks."
-EW
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I called Au Fil des Saison today in regards to their Italian cousin and she said "Oh no, I think that place [Au Filo] is closed already, it has nothing to do with this place [Au Fil des Saison]." Odd response given that the website for Au Filo Delle Stagioni in the press section lists both restaurants. The mystery continues.

"When planning big social gatherings at our home, I wait until the last minute to tell my wife. I figure she is going to worry either way, so I let her worry for two days rather than two weeks."
-EW
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