HAND–Another Mediocre American Place in Paris, C

October 22, 2009

Get ready to wince–the latest dispiriting French take on American eating in Paris is called HAND, as in Have A Nice Day. Oh help! During the twenty plus years I’ve lived in Paris, the city’s popular idea of American food hasn’t evolved one wit. It’s still burgers, and burgers, and burgers, and Caesar salads, and brownies, and bagels, and Tex-Mex, and enough already! This stereotypical fat-fest is not only indigestible but just so totally wrong, as anyone who has eaten around America recently can tell you. From truly wonderful and very original little restaurants like Aldea in New York City to the terrific new wave of oyster houses in the South End of Boston, to say nothing of the gastro Renaissance of New Orleans and the endlessly appetizing food scenes of Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami and a dozen other major U.S. cities, America has never eaten so well.

So why the stodge fest in this great-looking little place with cobalt blue walls, industrial lighting, and the scuffed up wooden floors that are meant to recall, um, er, Soho? I went for Saturday lunch with one of many French friends who claim to love American food. She wanted a Caesar salad, a dish I could never imagine ordering in a restaurant, and what came to the table was something that might have been created by a drunk at a motel salad bar–chopped iceberg lettuce, oddly uniform chunks of lukewarm chicken breast, and a hair-pomade consistency dressing that had no taste at all.

Since I’m defenseless when it comes to onion rings, I had to have some with my bacon cheeseburger. If the burger was respectable enough, the accompanying “fries” were greasy, unpeeled potato quarters, likely baked, and an increasingly common cheat in busy profit-conscious French kitchen where real fries demand too much time and effort. To be sure, the “bacon” had nothing to do with real American bacon either and the bun was too large and too dense. But the beef was good, and if this burger didn’t clock in at 13.50 Euros, or almost twenty bucks at current exchange rates, I might be tempted to return from time to time. Oh, and the onion rings? Just plain awful, as in in deep-fried. oil-impregnated little O’s with the alarming consistency of a flabby arm. Or actually they reminded me of a deranged experiment a friend and I attempted a longtime ago with a box of Mrs. Paul’s Onion rings while on a Spring break trip to North Carolina. College students with empty pockets, we avoided restaurants and spent most of a week living on sandwiches. Then one hot afternoon on the way to the beach, we stopped at a convenience store to buy beer and the onion rings called to me from deep inside of a frozen food case. The problem, of course, was that we had no where to cook them…but wait! Maybe we could leave them on a piece of aluminum foil on the hood of the car while we were swimming and the sun would cook them! The soggy, greasy muck that we found when we returned three hours later immediately went into a litter bin, and I swore off a career as a physicist.

HAND, 39 rue de Richelieu, 1st, Tel. 01-40-15-03-27. Mo Pyramides or Palais Royale. Avg 20 Euros.

  • Nancy

    I believe I may have been there the same night as you! It was a delightful and quite delicious experience. Daniel Rose is a charming host and a skilled cook.

  • adrian

    Actually the Spring Boutique will be rue de l’Arbre Sec, the restaurant will be rue Bailleul..

  • Alec Lobrano

    Thanks for the heads up Adrian, and I completely agree with you, Nancy–it was a delicious experience, and one I’m still enjoying mentally. The chicken was just so good, and I loved the pear cake, too.

  • What’s up with the "American" food here. I had never heard of Tex-Mex until I moved to Paris. The French, and I am talking the "intellectual" French, have weird perceptions of American food. I actually had a friend tell me that we do not eat enything other than beef in America. She was shocked to hear that in California, for example, we eat a lot of sea food. Oh well. For a good burger or club sandwich, I like Razowski’s in the 1st http://www.razowski.fr/.

  • Alec Lobrano

    Thanks, Saralinda. I have Razowksi on my list and plan to get there this weekend.

    Re US food, and wine, I think the embassy should do a lot more to promote both in Europe. Too many stereotypes about American food are transmitted by US TV sitcoms and movies that have very little bearing on reality.

    Cheers, Alec

  • lauralilli

    I have discovered a very good restaurant to eat good american food,named coffe link in Paris. I have found this address in http://www.mybestaddressbook.com where I always finnd very good restaurant and reviews on it.