Pharamond, C-

January 14, 2010

The recent loss of so many great old-fashioned Paris bistros probably explains why I suddenly had a desire to try and find a couple of other old-fashioned Paris bistros that are still producing good, reasonably priced French food, and I so I met two friends for lunch today at Pharamond, a real old-timer in Les Halles. I hadn’t been there in ages, and coming in on a sunny afternoon, I was cheered by the intact beauty of its art-nouveau faience tiles and the tables of businessmen wearing ties that matched their socks. Maybe, I briefly hoped, we’d eat well. Maybe this place was still solidly good and had just gotten under my bistro-loving radar.

Alas, aside from the very pleasant service, our meal went asunder the moment our first courses arrived–horribly overcooked ravioles de Royans (wonderful little ravioli from the Dauphine region stuffed with tangy cheese) in a completely unseasoned cream sauce and a sad looking bowl of vegetable soup with no garnish whatsoever.

Next, dried out confit de canard with an avalanche of baby potatoes, instead of the to-be-preferred pommes sardalais (made with duck fat and garlic), a decent but dull onglet de veau, and for me a very sad blanquette de veau. Blanquette de veau, veal stewed in lemony cream sauce with mushrooms, is one of the my favorite dishes, and this take was light years from anything I’d ever call by the same name–dry, stringy chunks of veal in a decent but underseasoned brown sauce with mushrooms and, oddly, carrots.

Pain perdu (French toast, which the French eat as a dessert instead of a breakfast meal) came with a thin almost tasteless caramel sauce, and ultimately the only redeeming things about this meal were the restaurant’s stunning interior, the nice service, good company and a nice bottle of Quincy.

Chez la Vieille, 37 rue de l’Arbre Sec, 1st, Tel. 01-42-60-15-78. Metro: Louvre-Rivoli. Avg 70 Euros.

Pharamond, 24 rue de la Grande Truanderie, 1st, Tel. 01-40-28-45-18. Metro: Etienne Marcel or Les Halles. Prix-fixe menu 28 Euros, lunch menu (two courses) 18 Euros, a la carte 50 Euros.

  • R Watkins

    Pharamond is really a sad case. It used to be wonderful for tripe a la mode de Caen and pommes souffles, but for the past 15 years, it’s been one revamp after another.

  • Alec Lobrano

    Pharamond really is a sad case, and what makes it even more surprising is that it’s listed in the Paris Michelin Guide.

    Does anyone have other examples of sad-case Paris restaurants they’d like to share?

    One of my top saddest addresses would have to be La Coupole, which could be so good, but is just abysmal.

    Cheers, Alec

  • Roy Lane

    Two places I’d add to the sad-restaurants-in-Paris list are
    the Maison Blanche, which is awful, and Le Boeuf sur le Toit, ditto.

  • Karen Lee

    I was incredibly disappointed by my lunch at the Grand Vefour last month. The room is beautiful, but the service and the cooking felt forced and phoned in. SO not worth the money!

    Best, Karen

  • Alec Lobrano

    Hi Karen,

    Quite sadly, I completely agree with you re Le Grand Vefour, which could and should be so magical, but is presently way off the mark.

    Best, Alec