01 September 2010

who needs enemies? aux deux amis, 75011

A brief note on restaurant service, occasioned by my last two visits to Aux Deux Amis, an otherwise excellent wine / small plates place in the 11eme. If you've missed it walking by on rue Oberkampf, it's because it's disguised as any old run-of-the-mill Parisian bar, replete with tacky countertops and lighting that belongs in a dentist's office.

Visit #1: I'd read the place was founded by an ex-waiter from a nearby much-lauded restaurant called Le Chateaubriand. Had a decent bottle of Arbois over a light meal of their enjoyably schizophrenic pan-European tapas list. Dug the crowd. We were served by a grizzled fellow with an owner / proprietor mien about him, perhaps the guy I'd read about. Everything was delightful, actually, until our grizzled server, evidently feeling somewhat under-serviced by his bartender, bellowed at us furiously, insisting we ask said bartender for anything we needed, since he was in hearing range. 

Visit #2: Our dippy young waiter acted surprised when, after sitting ignored for forty minutes watching the table beside us get served almost their entire meal, we flagged him down somewhat ostentatiously in efforts to order a drink. Upon reflection, I don't think he was even acting. It was like an alien spaceship had just returned him to earth - in the middle of a busy restaurant shift! The meal continued at this galling pace until the aforementioned grizzled server / probable proprietor arrived on a scooter, doffed his helmet, and got to helping out. 

Now, complaining about restaurant service in Paris is in fact even less interesting than complaining about the weather. There is nothing we can do to change things. I mention the above situations only because they seem to illustrate two boundaries on a continuum of staff experience, between which something resembling humane service can theoretically be located (elsewhere). 

For my part, I'd always prefer malicious but efficient service to none at all. Perhaps that's why I feel so at home here. 


  1. Hilarious. How ever did you remain seated for 40 minutes without any 'notice' from the staff? I've left in the middle of a service for such treatment (the overrated Matsuhisa in LA).

    I hope your patience paid off in the form of a grand meal.

    -Danielle Mace

  2. It's easy to wait, if you see it as a study.
    In that case the meal is not the important part at all.

  3. I particularly like your labels. In a year or so I will search your blog for specifics like grievously awful service, alien abductions and polite responses to disclosures of vegetarianism.
    Keep 'em coming!

  4. I think the service in this place is totally part of the concept and I prefer to think that way, it is like going to the theater and you are part of the actors. Although it is packed they always try to find you a seat, even on a fridge or behind the bar. And everyone share comments about what they are eating and drinking... you just need to be in the right mood to go there.
    Loved the food, those small plates allows to try everything.