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Le Comptoir du Relais-9, carrefour de l’Odéon


fresh_a
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We were at La Regalade about three years ago when Camborde was there. We quite enjoyed it then. We were there again on October 19 (under new ownership and chef) of this year, and we thought it was far, far better, and extremely firendly. We arrived over an hour late due to the transit strike. Even though we had called ahead and said we were going to be late, we were even later. When we arrived, we were greeted with "its a bad night for everyone, how about a drink" and the evening when on from there. I've wanted to go to Comptoir but at this point, my feeling is why bother.

Edited by hughw (log)
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I happened to have two lunches there in October, both excellent. The cochon au lait with lentils was wonderful. Both times I was seated outside and my neighbors were French-speaking. Admittedly we heard quite a lot of English spoken nearby as well.

Having failed to snag a dinner reservation after a couple of attempts in the last year I no longer try, but if there's a table available when I'm in the neighborhood at midday, I grab it.

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Camdeborde is — and I still believe this in spite of the dreadful lunch I had at Le Comptoir the last time — one of the greatest French chefs alive. He had a choice to enter the star race and preferred not to. He was an important influence on the French bistrot style of the early 2000s, he left a deep, durable mark on French restaurant history, and his former co-chefs like Stéphane Jégo and Benoît Bordier are now the best incarnation of his style. Better than him, I should also add. Clearly Camdeborde, even on his best days at Le Comptoir, has never reached the excellence of his former days at La Régalade but I think it is partly a fatality (the place is very different) and partly a choice. Managing the hotel at the same time makes a big difference and I think much energy is devoted to that — getting people to rent rooms in order to eat at the restaurant. Hence, perhaps, the icy attitude of people at the reservation desk if you're not a hotel guest. However, when Camdeborde really concentrates on cooking, he is the best of all. It all depends on what he concentrates on.

Poppy, it would be a bit strange if there were not one French person sitting at Le Comptoir at lunchtime. What Margaret wrote above remains true: Le Comptoir is a victim of its international fame and, apart from a few neighbors who can easily grab a table at lunchtime or the ever-present faithful friends, or food journalists who are not likely to be treated like the common customer, the place is considered lost for Parisians and I am not sure the chef minds that much.

Still I believe Le Comptoir is better at lunch than at dinner. On good days, that is.

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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The icy attitude at the reception is probably due to five million intrusions by tourists every day because of all of the reviews in travel glossies...I'm sure they don't even have time to do their jobs!

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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Camdeborde is — and I still believe this in spite of the dreadful lunch I had at Le Comptoir the last time — one of the greatest French chefs alive.

Oh, wow! "one of the greatest French chefs alive"? I have enormous love and respect and admiration for you Pti, but I have a problem with consistency, or should I say inconsistency, and the fact that I've had 33.3% bad meals at Le Comptoir and 12.5% bad meals (notably when I touted it and took friends/colleagues/acolytes with me) to/at La Régalade makes me cautious. Now you/one could counter that 66.6% and 87.5% ain't bad but ........ I got better things to do with my life.

Perhaps we should start another topic on something like; you've got a limited time left here for any number of reasons (worst - death, intermediate - transfered, best - PDG of Baker & McKenzie) - so where would you eat?

John Talbott

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Since I first started this topic, some 10,000+ posts later - is the Comptoir still relevant? I find there are so many more interesting places out there, and so many less touristy places...I mean, I'll go to the Relais if I miss braying New Yorkers saying how great the "paté" is.... (right)

Edited by fresh_a (log)

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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The icy attitude at the reception is probably due to five million intrusions by tourists every day because of all of the reviews in travel glossies...I'm sure they don't even have time to do their jobs!

I never saw them particularly stressed. And it is many other people's job to greet lots of tourists everyday, they're not the only ones. The least that can be expected from them is to be courteous, all the more since it is actually part of their job to take the reservations.

As for the reviews in travel glossies, if they are so bothered by the result, let them just give up the reservation system entirely. That is how crowded places perform the best. I think Yves has been making a mistake from the start by serving more "elegant" food at dinner. The place is just not meant for that and he no longer seems to have the stamina to do that well. If he stuck to the excellent bistrot and traditional fare he's known for, with the odd touch of refinement here and there (that was his style at la Régalade), he'd do much better.

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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Camdeborde is — and I still believe this in spite of the dreadful lunch I had at Le Comptoir the last time — one of the greatest French chefs alive.

Oh, wow! "one of the greatest French chefs alive"? I have enormous love and respect and admiration for you Pti, but I have a problem with consistency, or should I say inconsistency, and the fact that I've had 33.3% bad meals at Le Comptoir and 12.5% bad meals (notably when I touted it and took friends/colleagues/acolytes with me) to/at La Régalade makes me cautious. Now you/one could counter that 66.6% and 87.5% ain't bad but ........ I got better things to do with my life.

Perhaps we should start another topic on something like; you've got a limited time left here for any number of reasons (worst - death, intermediate - transfered, best - PDG of Baker & McKenzie) - so where would you eat?

Yes, I do believe Camdeborde is (potentially, I should have added) one of the greatest chefs alive, and I also agree that he is inconsistent, and lately, more than inconsistent. I have had, personally, 80% bad meals at Le Comptoir (the 20% account for the time when I was lunching with a food journalist, so that hardly counts). I have had 100% great meals at La Régalade in his days. But if I had only that experience I would not be so enthusiastic. I have eaten stuff that was prepared by him for special events when he really bothered and meant to impress people and steal the show, and what he cooked that night I will always remember as some of the very best food I ever had. Something that I did not think existed anymore since Flaubert wrote his descriptions of Norman banquets. Incredible food, clearly above a lot of 3-star food I have been served..

So it is only normal that I judge him as a chef in the light of the best he can do. You wouldn't judge Alain Passard from one of his bad days.

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Maybe I'm not as discerning, but I've had several meals at le Comptoir and loved all of them, from my first dinner with John probably on day two or three to subsequent dinners later and several lunches. For lunch I have never had to wait more than a few minutes to get in and have been fairly lucky at dinner too. However that was when it first opened so I'm sure if I had to wait 6 months, I might wonder what all the fuss was about.

I decided to take a chance last Friday since I was in the area and stopped into the hotel, waited to speak to the very busy receptionist and was very nicely told that they were completely booked as expected. Tant pis.

I agree with Fresh A that the hotel receptionist is probably called 1000 times a day and must turn away 98% of those who call, so it must be tiring. In the US they would have a reservationist who only handled reservations, but this is not the case in a small hotel in France. I'm sure they reserve most tables for hotel quests, which is normal, save a few for regulars, friends, etc and then have a very small number of tables left for reservations.

Like Pti, I think they would be better off not taking reservations at all, except for hotel guests.

It's a great restaurant but certainly not worth jumping through hoops to get a table. There are many restaurants that are equally good in Paris that don't involve reserving months in advance.

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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It's for sure they keep a lot of tables on the side, as Mme Cambdeborde (after I wrote an article on them at their opening) told me, that if I ever needed a table to give her a weeks notice and she'd take care of it..

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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It's for sure they keep a lot of tables on the side, as Mme Cambdeborde (after I wrote an article on them at their opening) told me, that if I ever needed a table to give her a weeks notice and she'd take care of it..

How nice of you to say so; I assume that eGulleters who are told to wait 8 months for a table can PM you so that you can arrange something for them?

If not, why mention the well-known fact that the rules are different for those who have some sort of grip on a restaurant's image (or are believed to by the restaurateur) and for the hoi polloi?

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Ptipois, Indeed. If you've been paying attention, most of the things I say are without interest, and have already been said elsewhere. I never took her up on it though, because I like to be incognito and pay my own meals. Not that I have to explain myself though...

Edited by fresh_a (log)

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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I stopped by for a very late lunch on Friday and was seating right away (it was already 14h30). I realised that I had not been for lunch in nearly a year and things have certainly changed. The prices have all been raised by a few euros and the plats which were 13-14€ when they first opened are now 17-20€. The other notable difference was the service. In past visits, one or two harried waiters/waitresses handled the whole dining room whereas now there were at least 5 waiters. Customers were definitely international.

My beef cheeks served over macaronni with black trumpet mushrooms were delicious, with a rich red wine sauce with hint of garlic and lemon zest. However, I agree that there are many other restaurants serving equally good food, without the international fame.

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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  • 6 months later...

Not that it will or should hinder anyone from visiting, but Camdeborde's whole Relais is covered with Christo-like stuff and after 14h30, there's quite a racket as what looks like a huge renovation goes on. Himself, however, was cheery and friendly so it doesn't seem to have upset his equilibrium.

John Talbott

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  • 2 months later...

Hello,

what's the latest on Le Comptoir? Is it still being renovated? And I've noticed the adjacent hotel does not mention the restaurant, although the owners are the same and share the same receptionists. Strange... also, does anyone know if the restaurant has a website? Tried finding it through Google, to no avail...

thanks!

A.

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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Hello,

what's the latest on Le Comptoir? Is it still being renovated? And I've noticed the adjacent hotel does not mention the restaurant, although the owners are the same and share the same receptionists. Strange... also, does anyone know if the restaurant has a website? Tried finding it through Google, to no avail...

thanks!

A.

Yes the receptionist handles both the hotel and restaurant bookings, as far as I know it is the same business. I have never come across a website for the restaurant probably, I suspect it is because Yves Camdeborde wants to stay true to the simple bisto concept. One of the few ways of eating in the bistro (Monday to Friday evenings only) rather than the brasserie (lunch and Saturday and Sunday dinner) is to stay in the hotel as they keep a few tables for guests, otherwise it can be a wait of many months.

I have eaten at both regularly and enjoyed both formats. The bistro format is far better, with linen tablecloth, better glassware and only half the covers. The bistro has a set menu with 5 courses for approx. $50 (last went 18 months ago) with a good cheeseboard, and overall the cooking slightly better than the brasserie format although some dishes are on both menus.

On balance though I would head for Le Regalade, similar concept but I think the cooking is better.

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We recently called for a reservation in October.

There seems to be a new approach now. No reservations taken. Instead show up at a time of your choosing and wait to be seated.

This is actually a more straight forward approach than a reservation system that goes out so far in the future it does not work and creates ill will in the process.

Boston

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We recently called for a reservation in October.

There seems to be a new approach now. No reservations taken. Instead show up at a time of your choosing and wait to be seated.

This is actually a more straight forward approach than a reservation system that goes out so far in the future it does not work and creates ill will in the process.

Boston

It has been stated on this board several times that the reservation system is a gimmick to indicate big demand and that one usually has no problem showing up for lunch or dinner.

I am also surprised that people are still interested in him.

As far as i am concerned he is a has been.

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There seems to be a new approach now. No reservations taken. Instead show up at a time of your choosing and wait to be seated.

They have never taken reservations for the daily lunch service or for dinner on Saturday or Sunday. At these times they run a simple brasserie concept with quite a different menu to the evenings.

For dinner Monday to Friday you still need to reserve, and this is what the long wait of many months is for. It is a bistro format with a set menu and IMO far better cooking than the brasserie format. If you only judge Le Comptoir on the "no booking" brasserie format then I am afraid you have missed the part that can be very special.

We lived around the corner from the restaurant for a couple of years and we were recognised/welcomed by the staff. We probably only managed to get a table for dinner 20% of the time we tried without a reservation. So no I don't think it was a gimmick.

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.

For dinner Monday to Friday you still need to reserve, and this is what the long wait of many months is for. It is a bistro format with a set menu and IMO far better cooking than the brasserie format. If you only judge Le Comptoir on the "no booking" brasserie format then I am afraid you have missed the part that can be very special.

We lived around the corner from the restaurant for a couple of years and we were recognised/welcomed by the staff. We probably only managed to get a table for dinner 20% of the time we tried without a reservation. So no I don't think it was a gimmick.

MY experience has been different.I Have tried a few times a year ago for mid week dinner reservation and was told nothing was avialable for the next 6 weeks ,then i showed up and was seated with no problem.

I have dined there a few times since they opened and found the food "pas mal" but nothing special.One has better options

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As far as i am concerned he is a has been.

I've told my tale before but Pierre's post prompted an addition to it: while Phyllis/Felice and I had a terrific dinner there just after it opened and I had one OK lunch the following week and one disasterous lunch soon after - I have not gone back, despite my many meals at the old Regalade. (I also have recounted my declining experiences at Bruno Doucet's Regalade).

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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As far as i am concerned he is a has been.

I've told my tale before but Pierre's post prompted an addition to it: while Phyllis/Felice and I had a terrific dinner there just after it opened and I had one OK lunch the following week and one disasterous lunch soon after - I have not gone back, despite my many meals at the old Regalade . (I also have recounted my declining experiences at Bruno Doucet's Regalade).

John/Pierre - I agree it has declined since it opened. However, I did enjoy a very fine lunch there in late May. Always tricky to compare and contrast but I thought is was worth the money and the cooking and service were appropriate for the price. I also enjoyed a very fine lunch at La Regalade last month, I haven't been there very often so can't comment on the comparative standard, but again it was on the money for cooking etc. More than happy to eat at both again

My guess is that these are two restaurants (amongst others like Spring) where the hype gets out of synch with the concept and delivery. I find all of them deliver good food, are good value for money, and do what they set out to do (deliver honest straightforward cooking). I enjoy them all, but I don't think any of them are exceptional restaurants that I would travel for, or be disappointed if I went to an alternative.

But this is not the same as restaurants that are hyped up, and don't deliver. They are simply triumphs of marketing over substance and should be vilified at any, and every, opportunity - my experience at Les Ombres for example.

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