Le Meating–Say What? A Gallic Steakhouse

February 14, 2009

Le Meating certainly won’t work for everyone, but if you’ know Paris well and are enough of an intrepid gastro-sociologist to sacrifice a slamp-dunk good meal for one that’s oddly interesting, you might enjoy this very popular steakhouse in the 17th not far from La Porte Maillot. Since Americans have been doing their own riffs on various bandwidths of the French restaurant spectrum for years, it’s actually sort of fun to see what the French get up to when they decide to have a crack at one of our emblematic tables, the steakhouse.

Before diving in on an account of my recent dinner here, I’d pause to note that a broad spectrum of Parisians truly love this place. Show biz types, Mohammed Qaddafi’s daughter (seriously, she was sitting at the table next to us), pairs of yuppie ladies on a let’s-splurge night out, and the 17th arrondissement in all of its curious splendor–nouveau riche, ancienne regime riche, etc. packed out this place with a low-lit lounge-bar decor of patterned carpet and flower-motif appliques on the walls.

What’s got the gang really going, though, is the new 34 Euro menu here, which includes three courses and a half bottle of very decent Bordeaux (a la carte, it’s much pricier). Settled in at a table overlooking the sidewalk outside, which the genial host referred to as “La Mer” (the sea), we loved our starters–a delicious tuna tartare garnished with bean sprouts, fresh coriander, lime zest and ginger and a scallop carpaccio served on a bed of diced celery root. Squid sauteed with oyster mushrooms was delicious, too, as was the bread that came with these first courses.

Next, la viande, bien sur. My Nebraska-raised pave de boeuf (well-marbled steak) came with first-rate potato puree in a copper sauce pan and a trio of sauces–bearnaise, a good beef jus, and a curious slightly peppery barbecue-sauce inspired gravy, while Bruno’s veal chop from the Correze, was succulent, flavorful and perfectly cooked. The included-in-the-menu Bordeaux was good, too, as were sides of mixed green veg (snow peas, strin beans and zucchini) and a saute of button and oyster mushrooms.

To be sure, most Americans would find the portions dainty compared to what you’d get in a New York steakhouse, but in the habitual context of this idiom, it was a relief not to be leaving behind a sadly wasteful amount of food by the time our plates were cleared.

Desserts, however, are decidedly French, including a citrus salad served in a water glass capped with a hollowed out orange half filled with meringue and rice pudding with a clever assortment of garnishes–salted caramel suace, pop corn, and candied nuts and dried fruit.

All told, this was a very pleasant meal, and one I’d recommend to anyone who wants a night off from more adventurous dining during a trip to Paris. It’d also be an ideal spot for a business meal, since service is courteous and brisk, the room is quiet and tables are widely spaced. The only thing that went missing? Onion rings, but otherwise the Gallic refinement applied to a decidedly red-white-and-blue restaurant staple was very welcome.

Le Meating, 22, Avenue Villiers, 17th, Metro: Pereire