Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Gratinée des Halles at Cremant

Gratinée des Halles
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
We've all heard that "it's never as good as the first time," but that doesn't keep the disappointment at bay when the saying is proved true yet again.

Last night we had dinner with John and Jenny at Cremant. After my birthday dinner, Chris and I had been aching to go back and J&J gave us the excuse we needed. Unfortunately, this time (despite the excellent company and a couple of outstanding dishes) I couldn't shake the urge to compare to the first time.

Cremant continues to be exceedingly popular. There were a few empty tables when we arrived that were immediately filled and stayed filled all night. The bar was constantly packed to overflowing with people waiting to be seated. Several large celebrations were taking place in the restaurant last night and it was definitely full of beautiful people. Chris and I spend a lot of money on food, we appreciate good restaurants and talented chefs, but we most definitely aren't beautiful people and although the waitstaff was by no means surly I still felt that we were somehow dining above our station and being treated accordingly.

For example, seated right next to me was a couple on a date. The man knew a little about food, mentioned Tony Bourdain's Les Halles in reference to the "Gratinée des Halles" but he was no more an expert in French food than I was. His date knew nothing and kept asking him to explain things on the menu to her. I overheard our waitress spending lots of time on multiple stops at their table going over the preparations of the different menu items. She bubbled and enthused in great detail when the girlfriend asked about the chocolate chaud, how exactly it was prepared, how it was "like someone melted a chocolate bar for you to drink," etc. When Pramas asked about the chocolate chaud, she merely said, "It's hot chocolate."

I nursed my glass of wine through the entire meal and when it got down to about two sips worth I waited to see if anyone would come by to see if I might like another. No one did. Our water glasses stayed full, the bowl with Chris's mussel shells was removed and replaced promptly and the service certainly seemed friendly enough if you weren't paying attention to how other tables were being greeted and effused over.

At the busiest point in the evening, the owner was in a fit of pique as late-dinner reservations were showing up but early diners were still lingering. Again, it was only obvious to me because I was paying attention to him in particular (happy to see the owner working the front) and aware of his grunts and growls. At least two parties of eight or more who had been seated before Chris and I even arrived at the restaurant were still lingering, so it's not as if it was our fault in particular but I still felt like we were overstaying our welcome. I would have happily wrapped up our meal a little more quickly but service was slow, with a long lag between dinner and dessert. The mousse showed up several minutes before the coffees and my chocolate cognac, dragging the dessert course out yet further.

All my complaining aside, the food was still quite good. The French onion soup was among the best I've had, very rich and satisfying. The rillette was as good as I remembered it, though we did have to ask for extra bread in order to have enough to finish the pot. The smelt were delicious, but the mussels were not as good as Chris had hoped they'd be, John felt the cassoulet he had at Crow earlier in the week was better. The gratin of leeks was right up my alley. Not sure what Jenny thought of her duck confit. The chocolate mousse was divine, like someone had taken a chocolate chip and transformed it into something fluffy and light. Even so, when we stepped out of the excessive noise and heat of the restaurant and out into the cool, quiet of the night, I didn't feel any eagerness to find an excuse to return to Cremant as soon as possible, the way I did in November.

Perhaps that's best for our budget and our waistlines, anyway...



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