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Le Buisson Ardent


sharonb
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Yesterday evening we decided to try out this restaurant on the rue Jussieu near where we live. In a sinister little nook between the rue du Cardinal Lemoine and the great, ongoing dismantling of the asbestos-infested Jussieu university tower, this small restaurant glows warmly and its Bib Gourmand recommendation from the red guide led us to try it.

After a glass (or two) of NV Pierre Gimonnet Brut 1er Cru "Cuis" champagne at home, a sumptuously pure and balanced blanc de blancs, we headed out into the cruel cold.

The atmosphere at Le Buisson Ardent is warm and homey behind the thick curtain that protects the door from the cold. We were led into a second room, which was even more cozy than the first. Beige and light-brown painted walls, just four tables, two with booths (we had a four-seater with booths); it was warm yet minimalistically hip; modern yet timeless. I liked the feel of the place.

That was the last thing I liked about the place. I knew things were off to a bad start when we had to wait 30 minutes to receive the menus. As noted, there were only three other tables in our little room, and there were three different wait staff bringing things to and from those tables (at their speed). A good number of times, one would look over at our table as though checking that we were doing all right, seemingly decide that yes, we were, and leave again. Why it would seem we were doing all right when we were sitting there talking for half an hour with no menus or anything else is beyond me.

At last we were given them, along with one of the shortest wine lists I have ever seen. The wines, that said, were quirkily and well chosen, though the markups were on the high side, especially for the lower-priced wines.

We ordered, and ten minutes later were brought out tiny glass cups of soup, of which we were told (insultingly) that these were a thing called a mise en bouche, which would preceed the meal and help us patienter. I should note that the other three people with me were French and I was also speaking in French, so it was not that we were coming across as lost or new.

The mise en bouche was a pumpkin soup with two swirls on the top, green and red, presumably for the Christmas season. These turned out to be a dash of pesto and a dash of red pepper coulis. They had nothing to do with the soup, which was a nice, fairly standard pumpkin soup, and really didn't go well with it.

For our first course, three of us tried to order a "crème brûlée de magret de canard et foie gras" (creme brulee with duck breast and foie gras) and were told that there was no more. It was 9pm on a Saturday night, so this was kind of strange.

The three of us then ordered a veloutée d'endive et de noix au bleu d'auvergne, a soup of endive and walnuts with blue cheese. The endives, walnuts and cheese had been blended together, and studding the soup were chunks of raw apple. I saw the attempt: the famous salad of endives with those other things cut up into it, but pureed all together and broken up with sour chunks of apple, it was just unpleasant. A complete miss. (Not to mention that this soup, too, had swirls of red and green pesto and red pepper coulis! Even worse here than with the other soup.)

I had actually ordered a different first course, lentilles corail tièdes, ris d'agneau et lard croustillant (warm pink lentil salad with lamb sweetbreads and crunchy bacon). I took one bite and switched with my kind boyfriend. The lamb sweetbreads were chewy and overdone and not even de-skinned, and there was some really off taste to the lentils, something treacly.

The bread was thick, compact pain au levain that had the consistency of a squooshy dark supermarket loaf.

The main courses were next. I had ordered a crépinette de veau et de cochon, légumes racines rôtis au four (caul-wrapped packet of veal and pig, oven-roasted root vegetables). The whole thing was swimming in sauce, like a soup of root vegetables (which had been boiled, not roasted), with four slices of a mixed veal-pork preparation wrapped in an astonishingly thick layer of fat. The crépinette was pretty good, but the sauce had an offputting dose of maple syrup in it (why is that the fusion element of choice in some trendy restaurants?!), and the vegetables were bland. I ended up eating most of the meat and giving the rest of the dish a miss.

Friends had ordered a joue de boeuf (beef cheek), which was apparently too fatty; and brochettes of saint-jacques and shrimp with a peanut sauce, which went without comment.

Wines were a 2005 Domaine de Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem Côtes du Roussillon Villages, which is a new wine being made by Chapoutier, which we had had the chance to taste a couple of weekends ago at the Grand Tasting in Paris. A nice, suave southern Syrah.

The second wine was a 2003 Benjamin et David Duclaux Côte Rôtie, which was suave yet with a nice, bracing acidity that betrayed none of the heat-wave year leanings. I will look out for this producer again.

After such awful fare on the food side, only one of the four of us wanted dessert, which was some kind of chocolate fondant with a cup of grapefruit granité.

I can't remember the last time I have had such spectacularly off-the-mark food.

Edited by sharonb (log)
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I can't remember the last time I have had such spectacularly off-the-mark food.

THank you Sharon for saving me from a disaster.Le buisson ardent was on my list of restaurants to try.Like you I was attracted to its homey and warm look.

Its been around for ages and I thought it was time to try it out.

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Le Buisson Ardent ancien - an historical note.

One of my editors was a professor at Paris 7 in the 1970's and when I visited Paris we would always lunch at the old Buisson Ardent. He chose it. I found the biblical reference interesting. The food was simple fare, well executed, unpretentious but nothing special. The editor died in an automobile crash towards the end of that decade and I've never gone back. From the posts it seems the current restaurant with the same name and it seems the same location is very poor indeed. Too bad.

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Yes, pierre45, a must avoid!

John, why do you think the Michelin guide liked it?! They seemed to have everything wrong, including the worst service outside of purely trendy spots.

Dave, the menu (entrée + plat + dessert) is 31 euros, but you can order each course à la carte for: entrées, 9 euros; plats, 19 euros; desserts, 6 euros. We noticed that getting a first and main course was not much of a deal compared to the menu, but three out of four of us quit while we were ahead...

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John, why do you think the Michelin guide liked it?! They seemed to have everything wrong, including the worst service outside of purely trendy spots.

I don't think any guide is infallible. We could start a whole topic on this subject - for example Pudlo's Bistro of the Year, year before last, was one of the most awful meals I've ever had and when I wrote it up a French-American critic wrote me and said he agreed with me 100% and how could Gilles have got it so wrong. I read a lot in the print media and some blogs and I've never found anyone whose taste is 100% my taste. Which is why I encourage people/members to try to find folks whose tastes are both similar and different from theirs.

As for the Michelin, again some of the worst meals of my life have been in the provences where they liked a place - and I or Colette have written complaining (to absolutely no avail). Maybe it's because they only have 5-6 inspectors, maybe because they only go multiple times to the big guys, maybe because they wait three years between most visits, maybe because they care more about toilets and flowers than food, maybe the chef had a good or bad day or a waitperson or two didn't show up or came in extra bouncy - I dunno. I assume you've read Pascal Remy’s “L’inspecteur se met à table,” which I gave a stab at describing; I reckon he points out their deficiencies pretty accurately.

I should clarify my prior post in light of pirate's post. My first meal at Buisson Ardent was indeed when it came under new management a number of years ago and I mentally crossed it off my list from then on, despite the fact it is, as he says, in a nice position vis a vis the University/Monde Arab/etc. Then in the Spring of 07 it was taken over by an ex from Miss Betsey which I also had hated but because Pudlo, Figaroscope and Rosa Jackson wrote nice things about it, I put it on my April list of possibilities, only to come to my senses later and conclude that enough was enough.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Wow, great link, John. (I followed the path to your detailed review; great reading, though I was late for an appointment as a result... :) )

Since I am not the world's most frequent restaurant-goer I tend to look to outside sources for "pre-approval"; here that tactic was a complete bust, and I can (sort of) see why. But does the infrequency of visits from inspectors imply this restaurant might have been good before?

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Quite simply there is a "before" and an "after" period for Le Buisson Ardent and unfortunately the "before" period was quite a long time ago.

Since Le Buisson stopped being a nice neighborhood bistrot with motherly aged permed waitresses wearing black dresses and white aprons, and that must have been in the late 80s, it has been consistently terrible.

Food that used to be served there was coquilles saint-jacques provençale, blanquette de veau au coulis de poireau, bourguignon, everything was good. Then it became a "bistrot moderne" and it was the beginning of the end.

I just pass by it and hardly ever notice it's there anymore. Too bad for the lovely setting.

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