01 September 2011
I wouldn't consider myself assimilated by a long shot. But I've been in Paris long enough by now that there are times I don't feel worlds apart from my adoptive society. From the street markets to the Velib system to the ready availability of natural wines, the place suits me fine - I often pass uninterrupted weeks under the sunny impression that I share some priorities and perspective with Parisians-at-large.
There is accordingly a great rupturing sense of alienation when I get dragged to a wrenchingly misguided but seemingly popular place like Le Floreal, a new-ish nonstop service restaurant opened near Goncourt by the folks behind 10ème bistro hangout Chez Jeanette. Le Floreal, with its huge menu, Mondrian-in-Vegas paneling, and incongruous chandeliers, fairly drips with investment money and ambition - all apparently in service of importing the worst American restaurant trends for ready consumption by credulous Parisians.
I say 'Parisians,' knowing full well that many restaurants here are conceived with some tourist traffic in mind. But there is no blaming the baroque idiocy of Le Floreal on tourist traffic: the place is on rue Faubourg du Temple, not the Champs-Elysées. Nor can one blame expats like myself - for what Le Floreal does, with much of its menu and beverages, is offer American standbys in versions so catastrophically Frenchified that they would be unrecognizeable to Americans, or anyone who had ever been to that country, or even watched an American TV series.
I didn't take a great deal of photos during my visit, on the spontaneous occasion of my friend J2's birthday a few weeks back. And I'll never return, save at gunpoint. But Le Floreal's version of a Manhattan can be seen accruing water content in the photo below.
At Le Floreal, which heavily promotes a long list of classic cocktails, it is in fact not possible to order a drink straight-up. We tried. Apparently everything comes in the same old-fashioned glass, with crushed ice. Which is to say what they are offering is essentially a list of deceptive travesties masquerading as classic cocktails. They have either done this because market testing has revealed the French like weak drinks, or because the folks behind Le Floreal are simply cheap and would sooner overcharge for water than booze. Either way it's inexcusable.
J2 and our mutual friends happen to be excellent cocktail bartenders, which made the irony of the situation all the more galling. We had come because someone had heard good things about the burgers; this too turned out to be misinformation.
They were bland, overpriced, and miniature, as was a hotdog someone ordered.
I only know from stolen bites, however. Given the extreme environment I was in, I'd gritted my teeth and taken the socially nuclear option of abstaining from ordering food altogether.* The deciding factor had been this, the monumental tackiness of which needs no explanation:
Le Floreal also insensibly offers an extensive raw bar of various shellfish, assuredly all of second-tier quality and overcooked or violated in some way.
I have no idea why they would do something like this, except in deference to the vague association in the minds of moron clubgoing Americans and their studious French counterparts between seafood and luxury. The raw bar is not the theme of Le Floreal, nor is a raw bar even a hallmark of Paris, the Chicago of France, as far as seafood goes. Le Floreal's proud raw bar is thus a sort of hokey prop, like a jukebox or a mechanical bull, the former of which two attractions the restaurant actually contains.
Given the level of sophistication at work behind le Floreal, I presume the bull was on back-order and will arrive shortly.
* Something I do far less often than I ought to, considering how many establishments make me sick to my stomach. But it is just not a cool thing to do, when you've sat down at a restaurant with friends, particularly if the restaurant is full, and someone has made a reservation. In this case we had walked-in, and furthermore I was fairly confident none of us would ever be returning and could freely burn all bridges with regards to the restaurant. The friends present were thankfully all good enough friends for me to rely on their eventual forgiveness.
150, avenue Parmentier
Tel: 01 42 08 81 03
François Regis-Gaudry deeming the vibe at Le Floreal comparable to that of Manhattan, the city, @ L'ExpressStyles, which observation makes one question whether the writer has ever left France
A negative review of Le Floreal that skips most of the sociology and sticks to the food @ GillesPudlowski, who insensibly deems the décor of the restaurant "successful," and, depressingly, spots more "bobos"*
A positive review, then a quick retraction of said positivity, @ MyParisNotebook, who spots "hipsters."
A review that credulously celebrates the predatory moron-tested diversity of Le Floreal's menu @ LeFooding
O Château, another deeply offensive restaurant
* The older the food critic, the more frequent the "bobo" / "hipster" sightings. I think I could chart this. The only explanation I can think of for the apparent armies of both swarming at every new restaurant in Paris is if we take both words to mean simply "younger people."