Terroir Parisien, the new bistro by Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno

We’d been meaning to get down to Terroir Parisien for a while now, not because of chef Yannick Alléno’s three Michelin stars (shamefully, we didn’t even know) but because it’s housed in the grand old Mutualité building on the left bank, and we’d heard a lot about the interior design.

We left feeling distinctly underwhelmed. Read on to find out why…

photos : JasonW

Initial impressions are good… ish. The slatted, arching wooden ceiling is making a statement (i.e. look how big I am), the giant mirrors are hiding the fact that the room is pretty small (but that’s not really a problem), but the most striking feature is… brown. Brown wood, brown fabric, brown serviettes. Everything is brown or beige, earth-toned, neutral, dare we say bland.

Only the kitchens break the monotony, with their large windows showing three chefs running around and regularly bumping into each otherThe restaurant’s website says that particular care has been taken over finding quality suppliers and using only the best produce. Terroir Parisien is so proud of their ingredients, that they are listed on the walls and displayed in showcases. One can’t help bu think that this is going slightly over the top.

In their favour, the vast majority of products do actually come from the Paris region. It’s a concept, OK?We took a barstool seat at the central bar, from where we could overlook the room. Service was cheery and rapid – the waiters know their stuff – and prices are astonishingly reasonable. Dish of the day at midday only costs 15 euros, and the rest of menu seems deliberately low-priced. Similarly to some high-end fashion brands, perhaps this is Alléno’s outlet store then?

We ordered our wine and decided on the starters. I went for the old classic (usually reserved for tourists) French onion soup, served here with beef marrow and comté croutons. It was deliciously salty and thankfully lacking in the heaps of gooey cheese that can practically choke you in some standard restaurants. The croutons were an interesting twist on the hunks of crusty bread you would be served elsewhere.

My co-diner chose slowly-cooked tender carrots with”Gatinais” saffron, which were fresh and simply presented, but whose subtle taste left us wanting for something with a little more of a signature to it.Main course was to be sea scallops cooked and served in a broth of white wine from Suresnes (just outside Paris), all sitting on a bed of simmering leeks. Frankly, it turned out to be very bland, lacking in seasoning, swimming in a neutral milky soup that did nothing to titillate our tastebuds. Even the scallops, generally melt-in-the-mouth and tasty, were strangely lacking in taste. We were most surprised.

The pan-fried grey sea bream in a mustard sauce and served with potato croquettes was also completely bland. No real taste of mustard, no real taste of fish. The croquettes were greasy. Pretty much a disaster.

Thankfully, the side order of french fries was well seasoned and crunchy. Perhaps we should just have ordered three of those!By now it was pretty obvious that the meal was going to be a disappointment, but it was out of the question to go home without having tasted the desserts. The raspberry and cream millefeuille was impeccably constructed, very handsome, and obviously extremely fresh. We can’t say it was the best millefeuille we’ve ever had, but it was definitely well executed.

The fresh-from-the-oven honey madeleine was more of a success. Steamed in a pot with herbs, they had infused the cake, giving it a different, refreshing zing. It was visually pretty stunning too, simple but effective…
Not knowing Alléno’s reputation and culinary accomplishments before eating at Terroir Parisien meant that we didn’t go with any particular expectations (we did find it odd that his name is written all over the placemats though).

It’s puzzling that we found the dishes so extremely ordinary. Is Alléno better with meat dishes? Should we just be thankful to get a hint of his amazingness at (let’s admit it) a very reasonable price? Is he spreading himself too thin, or were we just not wowed enough by the concept? We imagine that other people’s snobbery may make them insensitive to the lack of taste in the plate. For us, Terroir Parisien was a blah experience we won’t be repeating any time soon.

Terroir Parisien is at 20 rue Saint-Victor (here)

Telephone +33 (0)1 44 31 54 54

Open every day, all day, from breakfast to dinner. Brunch served on Sundays

Official site: www.yannick-alleno.com/restaurant/paris-le-terroir-parisien

Facebook page: facebook.com/terroirparisien

To check out all our photo, clicj the play button on the slideshow below, then clicj the four little arrow bottom right to go into fullscreen mode.