First off, it’s an interesting (if not overwhelming) experience eating at a place that eschews paper menus in favor of just having their food splayed out for perusal. Within the restaurant, there are stations that specialize in various cuisine items, from generic “Oriental” to “Barbecue” to “Seafood” to whatever. The idea behind it is to mimic a French market atmosphere in a creative way, but there’s something about the whole presentation that just doesn’t seem quite genuine. Between the “passport” you receive when you enter, the odd array of possible food choices, and the rarified and almost mechanical way in which things are prepared it almost comes across as some sort of compact Epcot Center. Ok, a compact Epcot Center for hipsters… there was no end to the gaggles of young, beautiful people wandering about.
Here and elsewhere, fusion food tends to draw out the magnificent.
My meal consisted of the following elements:
Italian – mozarella and tomatoes, mussels steamed in wine and garlic (cooked inexplicably with shredded carrots and celery)
German – smoked salmon with rösti (a sort of pan fried potato concoction)
French – an enormous banana-filled crêpe with chocolate sauce
In all, it was a pretty good meal. There was something about it that left me wanting, though, and I think it has something to do with the artificiality of the place itself. There’s almost what seems to be an institutional lack of understanding of their own base concept. The thing that strikes me when I consider the experience is that in a market environment, the choices available will be limited to and varied by what’s in season, and that’s just not so here. Just as an example, they are serving spongy tomatoes (the only kind you can get here in late winter) to keep an item on their base ‘menu’ offerings. That they’re apparently willing to make that sacrifice seems fundamentally at odds with what they are trying to accomplish.
The desserts and pastries are just over the top. The crêpes are about as big as my head and not surprisingly, they're priced at about the same level as most of the “meal” items. I’m tempted to say that the desserts are almost too opulent in comparison to the aesthetic of the rest of the offerings. Desserts appear to be the only dishes that use the beautifully oversized, European style plates for service, and compared with the merely functional kitchen plates on which your stroganoff comes, it’s a little confusing as to whether desert should accent the meal or vice-versa.
(Why they don’t have savory crêpe offerings is beyond me, but that’s another story.)