Sometimes when I have mixed feelings about a restaurant, I like to submit it to a time test. To wit, will I remember what I ate a week later? Over a week after my meal there, the much lauded Le Passage 53 in the hip Passage des Panoramas didn’t stand up very well. To be sure, I have a huge admiration for Hugo Desnoyers, the superb butcher who is one of the main backers and who furnishes the restaurant’s sublime meat, but overall, I found the service mannered and the cooking pleasant but timid and rather self-conscious. A perfect example was an amuse bouche of broccoli creame garnished with a crunchy hail of raw broccoli buds. Tasty enough and not a bad idea, but if the point of an amuse bouche is to tantalize you for what’s to come, this little cameo was underwhelming.
To be fair, I was more than distracted by my friend La Mime’s enchanting conversation and also from the fact that my long legs couldn’t find a comfort zone on the low, metallic chairs in this over-lit, under-decorated and very badly ventilated space (the “side walk” smokers from Le Passage 53 and several other restaurants stepped outside as required by law, but the draughts in the passage meant that their second hand smoke was sucked right back in the door). The first half-memorable dish of the evening was a tartare of cameo pink veal tartare with chopped razor shell clams and Granny Smith apples, a sensual but deja vu meeting between mer and terre, with the veal struggling to be anything more than a sweet mineral-rich foil to the potent iodine of the clams. A twiddly portion of turbot was good enough, and a thin strip of guineau hen was beautifully cooked and full of flavor, but overall our six or seven course tasting menu lacked real passion and was way overpriced at 65 Euros. So would I go again? Probably not.