188, avenue Jean-Jaurès
Metro Station: Porte de Pantin (Line 5)
Type of cuisine: French
Days & hours of operation: Open seven days a week
Noon – 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. – midnight
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard, Amex
Located on avenue Jean-Jaurès, just across the street from the former site of the Villette slaughterhouse and meat market, Le Boeuf Couronné is a nostalgic reminder of what bourgeois Parisian dining must have been like in the late 19th century. The restaurant was founded (under another name) in 1865, during the epoch of Napoleon III. Although the interior now exhibits elements of Art Deco, other elements evoke an earlier period: dark burgundy-colored benches against a room divider that displays etched glass and brass rails; a wait staff dressed in black suits with white aprons; and tables lined in rows that run down the middle of the dining room. This is a restaurant where the customer can dine in comfort, in spite of the hubbub of activity swirling around him. (This is quite a noisy place, with clattering plates, loud conversation, and scurrying waiters.)
We came here to have lunch on a recent Sunday. The restaurant offers a 32€ three-course menu, called Menu Club Affaires that includes apéritif, wine or mineral water, and coffee. I selected from that, while my partner ordered à la carte.
For the starter, I opted for the Saumon mariné, a plate of thinly sliced salmon arranged in the shape of a large disk and garnished with an elegant swirl of olive oil and basil and a thin rondelle of lemon. The salmon tasted fresh and delicious. My partner ordered Salade de pousses d’épinards à l’huile de noix. The serving of tender, young spinach leaves in walnut oil with small fragments of walnut scattered about was generously portioned. After this fine start, we looked forward to the main course…but, unfortunately, we were to be disappointed!
My Onglet de boeuf en brochette (hanger steak grilled on a brochette) turned out to be a mouthful to chew! While the first morsel on the brochette was tender and flavorful, the remaining four pieces were tough, and one of them resisted my continual chewing efforts for several minutes until, determined, I was victorious and was finally able to swallow it. Nor was the accompanying serving of échalotes confites (browned shallots cooked in wine or vinegar) any more tasty. My partner found her Superbe onglet de boeuf poêlé, tombé d’échalotes confites to be unevenly cooked. It was a dish similar to mine, except that the hanger steak was in one large piece. And, depending upon the location from which she cut a sample, the meat was either extremely tender or extremely tough. As for the shallots, she found them to be watery and lacking flavor.
To accompany her main course, my partner ordered a glass of Saint-Emilion – Léo de la Gaffelière. This medium-bodied, nicely perfumed wine was the saving grace of the main course!
Thickly-sliced baguette was served alongside in a basket, along with a pat of beurre d’Isigny, demi-sel, a wonderful lightly-salted butter from Isigny-sur-Mer in the Lower Normandy region of France.
Following our unsatisfactory main course, we raised our hopes for the dessert. We noted our neighbors were served generous portions and that their desserts looked quite inviting. One diner received a huge serving of profiteroles, and two others, a giant baba, sprinkled with an ample portion of rum. The other two diners at the table elected to have Crêpes Suzette, and my partner watched from afar as the waiter added butter and Grand Marnier to a pan and flamed these super-thin pancakes. When our turn came for dessert, we found that our increased expectations for this course were to be met… and even surpassed! My Crème brûlée à la cassonade was a generous portion, served in a ramekin measuring about 5” in diameter by 1” in height. The custard was light and creamy, and its caramelized brown-sugar topping crackled when pierced with a spoon, just as it should. My partner continually commented on how great herCrêpes Suzette flambées au Grand Marnier tasted. She exclaimed that they were tender, buttery, and had perfect texture.
The bill for two persons, including one Menu Club Affaires; one starter, one main course, and one dessert ordered à la carte; and one glass of wine came to 77.50€.
Service here is quite hectic—the waiters rush about and do not have time to engage clients in conversation. They are, however, polite. For all their heroic efforts to serve their customers, I find it sad that the kitchen prepared such disappointing main-course dishes.
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first traveled to France in 1975. A native of northern California, he moved to France permanently in 1992. Reeves’ love of French language and culture inspired him to create Discover Paris!, a travel planning service that caters to Americans interested in cultural travel to Paris. His book, Paris Insights – An Anthology, has been called “the kind of insider’s view of the French capital…that first or even second time visitors pine for.” He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Paris Insights about history, culture, and contemporary life in the City of Light, and posts daily information about the French capital on Facebook.