Desert Racer, Dallas, 5/31/20

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exterior

Nick Badovinus opened Desert Racer in 2019.   The Covid 19 outbreak temporarily closed the place and when it recently re-opened several major changes happened.  A concrete wall surrounds the small restaurant and large 8,000 sq. ft. patio.  Wall signs point to the original entrance but now the exit and entrance are through the same break in the wall, under the motorcycle.  Inside is a long bar and tables with garage door type windows that roll up to let the outside in.  The menu is currently called Vantina and based on a pop-up food truck, which is now parked in the patio but the food comes from the kitchen.  That means the menu is much smaller than when the place first opened but fits the setting. (The only dessert offered  was soft serve ice cream).   Currently they have just 4 “indoor” tables and two groupings of 2 seats at the bar were open.  The large patio had various means of shade and fans but some did receive full sun.  Lots of plants are inside and out and outside the polished wood tables are mostly on artificial grass.  Inside the same tables are on rugs on a concrete floor.  There is lots of parking in a dedicated lot and the patio is smoke free.  Servers were friendly, efficient and wore masks. Continue reading

Las Reses, Madrid, 3/7/20

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Exterior

Las Reses opened in 1964 and is set below street level.  It is spread over a couple rooms and bright with lots of red walls covered with decorations.  The floors are wood and no music is in the background.  The tables have adequate spacing and are set with white clothes which cover the floor length beige ones and large white napkins.  The staff were friendly but spoke limited English.   It is mostly a restaurant dedicated to beef steaks for which they have carts to come around to the table and show you the cuts of meat.  It is all a la carte and some of the cuts are sold by the kilo.  There were several larger parties there and it looked like they took their remainder of the meat back to reheat it after the initial serving.  Continue reading

Euskalduna Studio, Porto, 3/6/20

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exterior

Euskalduna Studio opened in 2016.  It was a small place with a couple tables in the front for groups of 4 and the rest of the guests were on the 10 high wood chairs with arms in front of a stone counter across from the open kitchen.  On the wall above the cooking area was a display of knives.  Behind was a wall of light wood, shelves for glassware and above, an interesting acoustical ceiling.  It felt very stylish yet casual.  Music was in the background and the lights were lowered.  Everyone in attendance is served a tasting menu but what is on your menu varies.  Each time you return the chef, Vasco Coelho Santos, will design you a new menu of dishes inspired by many cultures (particularly Japanese) but with a Portuguese twist.   We were lucky to sit next to their Number 1 fan who has been once a month and is now a real challenge for chef Santos to find new surprises to prepare for her.  With each tasting menu they do offer wine pairings as well as non-alcoholic options.  Wines are also available by the bottle and glass.  Pacing and portion control were just right.  I would put this on your list to get to if you can. Continue reading

Café Santiago, Porto, 3/6/20

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exterior

Café Santiago was a new looking and bright place, but has been in business since 1959 .  Windows to the street were on one end of the long place that reached through to the next block where there was another entrance.  A wood floor and tile walls are the room that housed the ‘lower level’ with closely spaced veneer topped tables.  Photos are on the walls.  Up a few stairs was the kitchen and a bar along with more tables.  It had a large menu but they are known for their Francesinhas – sandwich original to Porto.  It is commonly made with ham, fresh sausage and roast meat and then covered with melted cheese and maybe an egg and served with french fries. The sandwich comes in many variations and that seemed to be what most came for.  There were a combination of obvious tourists as well as some regular locals, who were recognized by the staff.   Continue reading

Nata Lisboa, Porto, 3/6/20

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exterior

Nata Lisboa was the third of the places we found where you could get freshly made, warm Pastel Nata (Portuguese custard tart).  It was one of several restaurants with the same name.  This one had a small interior with only table seating and a good sized patio with tables out front.  While the tarts here could be had warm they were a small part of the large menu.  The staff was friendly but the ambiance was off to me – it felt too much like a chain restaurant.  Even though the tart was served warm there was no evidence of the tarts being made on site.  The tart’s crust did not taste as buttery as the others we tried but the custard had a good consistency.  These were my least favorite rendition and one I wouldn’t go back to. Continue reading

Antiqvvm, Porto, 3/5/20

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museum on the top, restaurant below

Antiqvvm was located on the basement level of a large building that housed a museum on the floors above.  There was a terrace off the back that had amazing views of the water and city but weather was not with us that day however the table we had was next to floor to ceiling windows which felt about the same.  The white cloth covered tables were well spaced and music was in the background.  The room we sat in looked like it was an enclosed porch but now had carpets on the concrete floor however the stone details of the walls and windows were still intact.  A timber ceiling had been painted over and some the the seating was in a bench format.  They had been open for 5 years last October and received their one Michelin star in the first year they were open.  They offered 3 tastings, one of which was vegetarian and one was entirely seafood.  They also had an a la carte menu and a special lunch menu of 3 or 4 courses (for 3 you chose between fish or meat and with 4 you get both).  They had a number of wines by the glass and we ordered some of them to go with the lunch menu.  Service was efficient, super friendly and our server spoke great English. Continue reading

Restaurante Pedro Lemos, Porto, 3/4/20

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exterior

Pedro Lemos, located on a really narrow little street, opened in 2009.  The downstairs level had wine storage, the bathroom and a large dining table for big groups.  In 2015 they did a major renovation and made the upstairs a room with more widely spaced  tables and took out a bar area and fireplace to make this additional space between tables.  The nice sized tables were set with white clothes, napkins, purse stools and armless padded chairs.  There were windows to the outside on 2 walls and a beautiful old wood floor.  A decoration of swallows crossed the ceiling and on to the upper part of the dark walls.  Music was in the background and the lighting was lowered.  They offered two tasting menus of 8 or 10 courses and optional wine pairings.  We chose the 10 course tasting.  Portions were on the large side and pacing was good.  The staff were quite friendly and spoke great English.  It has one Michelin star. Continue reading

Cafeína, Porto, 3/4/20

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exterior

Cafeína was a medium sized place in the corner of a building and has been in business for 24 years.  Small, closely spaced tables were set with white clothes and napkins and padded chairs.  Music played in the background, the floor was concrete with a rug in the center of the room, windows to the outside were on several walls, steel beams were structural yet decorative parts of the dining room and a bar counter is at the entry with dining rooms on both sides.  Noise  was not a problem even when the room was full.  The place had a relaxed atmosphere with guests enjoying themselves and many appearing to be ‘regulars.’  The menu was a la carte but at lunch they did have a special offered that was 3 course with choices for each course.  Specials on wine were also available for lunch.  The lunch special menu was not translated but our server was happy to help with any terms we didn’t know.  Service was efficient, friendly and helpful.  The lunch menu really appealed and so we chose that option and some of their wines by the glass.   The pours by the glass were fairly generous. Continue reading

Irene’s, New Orleans, 2/22/20

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exterior

Irene’s opened in 1993 and gradually expanded to 3 rooms over time.  Owner Irene DiPietro from Noto, Sicily is still active with the place but now her son Nicholas Scalco does most of the cooking.  In 2018 it moved to a new, much larger location on Bienville because of a problem with the lease on the original location.  It had been a hard table to get because of its size but delicious food made you try.  Going now to this location was a different feel.  There are about 5 eating areas, depending if you call the large bar area one.  Music is in the background, mostly old rock and despite the small rooms the noise level can be loud.  The small tables are set with white clothes and napkins and the lighting is lowered.    Walls, some of which are red, have lots of decorative items.  Our room had red paint on the top and wood below, an open beam ceiling, a fireplace and tile floor.  The service was very friendly but it was a little slow in getting our meal started and then moved quite rapidly, bringing the main plates out before appetizers were finished.  It didn’t lend itself to a relaxed fine dining feel.  The menu had a special entree and appetizer as well as a changing soup.  All is a la carte. Continue reading

Brennan’s (update), New Orleans, 2/22/20

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entrance

We had lunch at Brennan’s in Dec. 2016 in their garden room but this time we were in one of the front dining rooms for brunch.   It feels more formal in this room where the walls are decorated with oyster plates and audubon prints.  The cloth covered tables are set fairly close and some of the seating is banquette style.  It is a huge place and located across from the police station in the French Quarter.  Service was friendly but not particularly efficient.  The menu  is a la carte but they do offer a 2 course special with 2 choices for each of the courses.  We chose that option with a couple side dishes for our meal.  For drinks they had a special drink of the day that was strawberries, sparkler and something as well as several wines by the glass and half bottles.  They also had some good prices on what they called “breakfast bubbles” and we chose a bottle of that to go with out meal.

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exterior

Continue reading

Sylvain, New Orleans, 2/21/20

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exterior

Sylvain is named after the first opera done in New Orleans which was a raucous comedy and they wanted to emulate that in their atmosphere.  Located just off Jackson Square it is  in a late 1700’s carriage house in the French Quarter.  It has one long dining room that ends in windows to the street out front and some patio seating in the back.  Inside there is a long bar where guests can eat and/or drink.  Small bare wood tables are set with a variety of chairs and the distressed concrete walls are decorated with art.  The lighting is lowered, there is music in the background and the floor is very old wood.  They specialize in southern style food and lots of cocktails.  It was a lively crowd but service was a bit slow.  We started with Sazeracs which were well made but took a while to get to the table.  In fact they didn’t get to the table before we started to order including wine and almost cancelled their order because the timing was off for the meal but they did arrive and everything moved forward at a leisurely pace. Continue reading

Doris Metropolitan, New Orleans, 2/20/20

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exterior

Doris Metropolitan has two other locations, Houston and Costa Rica, besides this location in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  The climate controlled meat aging room can be seen from the street through some windows.  It also is adjacent to the reception area that is on the end of the room which has the kitchen on the other end.  In between is a curved bar that is as much about eating as drinking.  At the front of the kitchen is a counter with cuts of meat for sale by the pound.  Lights are on but not overly so and music plays in the background.  The fairly large polished wood  tables are closely spaced and set with striped cloth napkins and a large paper napkin.  The server said the paper napkin was so your flatware would never have to be on the bare table.  Some of the tables use bench seating and others are set with armless chairs.  Wine bottles and art cover the walls, the floor is concrete, there is exposed ductwork all of which does not provide much sound dampening.  Service was friendly and helpful in making choices.  A starter menu included a choice of caviar and champagne.  The regular menu has a number of starters but for main dishes there were lamb and fish options but otherwise everything was cuts of beef.  They do offer A-5 Japanese Wagyu as well as there regular steak options aged either 21 or 31 days.  They also had some nightly specials. Continue reading

Taberna Malvasía, Granada, 1/25/20

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exterior

Taberna Malvasía is a small place with a “L” shaped bar counter and a couple of small high top tables and wall counters.   Opening in September 2016, it is a very stylish place with sound board on the ceiling mounted in various shapes, a distressed wood floor, some stone walls and one wall featuring bottles of wine.  Beer is on tap but this seemed to cater much more to wine drinkers.  The kitchen was tiny but turned out some really fine food.  We enjoyed several free tapas with our glasses of wine but also bought a couple plates that sounded too good to pass up and I’m really glad we did.  Everything was really well done and the atmosphere is relaxing and sophisticated.  The owner, Miguel Vázquez,  was at the bar and spoke great English.  He was super friendly and glad to talk about the qualities of the different wines he had by the glass. Continue reading

Restaurante La Farala, Granada, 1/24/20

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interior

Restaurante La Farala is on the second story of a building that has a Flamenco club on the first floor.   They have been open one and a half years.  Music is in the background and the lighting has a yellow tint to it.  The polished bare wood tables are set with a gray or black stone placemats and a contrasting white or black napkin. Bench seats are along the walls for some of the closely set tables and others are free standing with just chairs.  Several large square columns divide the room and one wall had some heavily draped windows overlooking the street.  The floor is a nice wood plank and the ceiling had some recessed portions.  The show downstairs was over so there was no noise from there but seating is available when the shows are on and in that case there is another way to enter the restaurant.  The menu offers a la carte items and 3 tastings of different sizes.  Optional wine pairings are available.  We ordered the middle size menu and our own wine.  The waiter said the longer menu would take over 3 hours and you should be really hungry with it. Continue reading

la Fábula, Granada, 1/23/20

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entrance

La Fábula was in the Hotel Villa Oniria and has had the same chef for 10 years.  The 10 large tables were widely spaced and draped with white clothes and set with napkins embroidered with the restaurant name.  There were lots of banquet seats opposite the well stuffed armless chairs.  Carpet and sound panels in the ceiling assured that conversations would be private and noise level would remain low, even with music in the background.  Cute decorations were on each table instead of the standard flower or candle.  Lighting was lowered but it was not dark.  Staff were super friendly, spoke great English and could easily talk about each dish.  The menu offered a la carte options as well as a tasting menu that had an optional addition of 4 more courses.  Wine pairings were available for both sizes of tasting.   We chose the smaller tasting and ordered our own wines.  The meal had good pacing and portion control. Continue reading

La Botillería Granada, Granada, 1/23/20

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building

La Botilleria was a larger place with a long counter, tables and tables outside.  They obviously serve lots of wine as there were corks everywhere – in tables, in old register – but they also served beer and mixed drinks.  It was a much more laid back atmosphere with out the bustle.  We only had one drink here and with it got a chicken on cous cous dish.  It was covered with a lovely curry sauce.  The chicken was not dry and the fish filled with flavor.  A good experience and nice atmosphere.  With the chicken they also brought a dish of olives.

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Taberna La Tana, Granada, 1/23/20

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exterior

Taberna La Tana is a small wine centered tapa bar.  It serves beer but is obviously about the wine when one wall is covered in bottles.  There were a few seats at the counter and some seats to go with little wall ledges. It was packed and seemed to draw an older crowd.  The staff were friendly and willing to talk about the wines by the glass that they served.  Besides the wine there were lots of things hanging on the walls.  A small service area was behind the bar and the kitchen was off to the side.  As with most tapa bars in Granada, they had a menu but people just wait to see what they get with each round of drinks. Continue reading

Taverna Santa Chiara, Naples, Italy, 12/21/19

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exterior

Taverna Santa Chiara is in small rooms on 2 floors. It is set off a pedestrian walkway.  We sat on the bottom floor which had about 5 bare wood tables set with paper placemats and napkins.  Music was in the background and the place had lots of decorations.  The kitchen was right off the dining room but separated by a glass partition.  The menu was translated on itself and a couple of nightly specials were presented by the server.  They sold a house wine that was available in various quantities.  Chef was in the kitchen and came out to talk with friends but did not visit with all guests.   Continue reading

Taverna dell’ Arte, Naples, Italy, 12/20/19

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outside

Taverna dell’ Arte was a small place that opened in 1990.  The small tables were closely positioned and covered in beige cloths on top of black ones and set with beige napkins.  Outside there was a porch area with lots of candles.  Inside the lighting was lowered and music was in the background.  There are several rooms divided by half walls and some full partitions.  There was lots of dark wood and various decorations were on top of things and hung on walls.   The windows were covered.  The staff was friendly and spoke fairly good English, as I heard several tables speaking English.   There was a large menu in both English and Italian and everything was a la carte.  There were a lot of drink options.  The chef came out and visited with some but not all of the tables.  Overall this place was okay, not great. Continue reading

Mangi & Bevi, Naples, Italy, 12/20/19

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art

Frattoria Mangi & Bevi is a small place of 2 rooms with the third room being the kitchen.  It is a bright place with no music in the background and the tables are covered with plastic.  It seemed to be mostly populated with local, regular patrons.  The floor is tile, the walls are brick and lots of old photos decorate the walls.  Not much English is spoken by the staff.   It serves good, home style comfort food.  The menu is passed out with a small card.  You write on the card what you want and turn it into the waiter.  He brings stuff out as it is ready.  Service was efficient, fairly fast and portions good sized but not huge.  Wine is available by liter or fraction of and served in pitchers with plastic cups or they have beer.   Continue reading

Essencia Restaurant, Naples, Italy, 12/19/19

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exterior

Essencia Restaurant just opened last May.  The building has a bar and kitchen downstairs and upstairs are a couple rooms for dining.  Window doors open to the outside and music is in the background.  The small tables are set with beige or white cloths on top of a contrasting floor length cloth.  Coordinated napkins and different colors of fabric on the chairs complete the stylish set up.  Bench seating was on one wall and the seats were pretty comfortable although the small tables are fairly close.  The walls are decorated with various pieces of art.  The menu offers a la carte selections and tastings of 4 or 5 courses.  I didn’t notice wine pairings being offered but the wine list was fairly reasonable.  Staff were very friendly, welcoming and spoke great English.  We chose the 5 course tasting.  Pacing and portion control were both wonderful. Continue reading

Osteria “La Chitarra”, Naples, Italy, 12/18/19

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exterior

Osteria La Chitarra is a small place with about 9 tables.  Wood beams cross the ceiling and were topped with Christmas or non-seasonal decorative items.  Music was in the background and lighting was lowered.  The bare wood pedestal tables were set with placemats and large paper napkins.  The menu is all a la carte and wine is available in bottles and also by liter or portion thereof.  We bought a pitcher of the house wine and it was very drinkable.  Service was provided by the wife of the chef/owner and she was friendly and efficient.  The chef, Giuseppe Maiorano did come out and visit with a few friends but did not make the rounds of the room, perhaps he only spoke Italian.  This is a place of home cooking at its best. Continue reading

Pizzeria Da Attilio, Naples, Italy, 12/18 & 12/21/19

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exterior

Naples is the home of pizza and Da Attilio served the best pizza I’ve ever had.  It’s a medium sized place in a touristy area but packed with people speaking Italian.  The red cloth covered tables are topped with plastic and set with paper napkins.  A large pizza oven is at the entrance to the restaurant where there is room for a few people to wait for a seat.  The wait was not bad.  The counter keeps a list and calls outside when it is your turn.  Inside there are a couple rooms with fairly close tables and lots of decorations on the walls.  No music is in the background just the hum of people happily eating pizza with friends.  When you get to your table there is a large menu and sometimes a special pizza of the day.  After you finish there is a counter up front where you can pay.  They serve wine and beer but I didn’t see hard liquor.  The staff were very friendly but pretty much in a rush as they have lots of people to attend to.  It was so good that we came back for a second visit.  Chef Attilio is the third generation of ownership of this business, named for his grandfather who started the restaurant.  He started helping his mother at the age of 6. Continue reading

La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec, Paris, 12/7/19

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exterior

La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec opened on October 9.  You enter on the street level and there is a stunning bar counter and a few tables.  To go to dinner you head down the stairs to the totally stylish dining room.  Banquette seating is along both of the long walls in the rectangular room.  One end of the room is the open kitchen  and opposite that are a couple free standing tables.  The tables are marble topped  and appointed with lovely linen napkins.  The walls of the room have curved wood pieces and lighted opaque glass between them. It is truly striking but very difficult to describe, so look at the pictures below.  The tables are on the small side and fairly closely set but each had lovely flowers in an unusual vase on them.  Music is in the background and the room is softly lit.  There are a couple seats at the kitchen counter and carpet is on the floor, so noise was not an issue.  Chef Le Quellec was in the kitchen and did come out to the room to visit with all the guests.  They offer several tasting menus (3, 4 or 7 courses and a truffle menu) and a la carte selections.  Since we were there they have been awarded 2 Michelin stars. Continue reading

Le Vent d’Armor (update), Paris, 12/7/19

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building

We had dinner at Le Vent d’Armor just over a year ago and so this time went for lunch.  The food was as good as last time and this time we had the wife of the chef working the front room and she was super friendly too.  It is a lovely place and a good value.  Seriously, everything we ate was terrific, with great clean tastes – you need to put this place on your list to go to soon.  The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming.  The room is brighter in the daytime, obviously because the windows let in the sunshine but otherwise the physical layout had not changed.  The nicely spaced tables are set with white cloths and napkins and no music is in the background.  They do offer two lunch menus of 2 to 3 courses, however we wanted to eat off the a la carte menu, that is like what they have at dinner. Continue reading

Le Bon Georges (update), Paris, 12/6/19

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Frankie shared the restaurant information

It’s only been a year since we were at Le Bon Georges but this time we went for dinner and sat in a different room, but it was still the most fun place with absolutely fantastically friendly staff.  I can’t stress how welcoming and gracious the staff are.  Helpful, fun and efficient,  they really make you want to come back and eat again.  This visit we sat in the lower room, that doesn’t have the bar.  It has a higher ceiling, a tile floor but like the other room has windows to the street, small bare wood tables closely spaced and set with large paper napkins and a chalkboard menu to order from.  After a fancy vegetable heavy lunch we wanted simple meat and potatoes. They sell Polmard beef by the gram and this night they had strip steaks ranging from 700 to 1000 grams.  This special beef is aged, which is rare in France, with a cold air system.  We added some of their fabulous fries to go with it.   Continue reading

Arpège (update), Paris, 12/6/19

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building

It’s been 3 years since we visited Alain Passard’s Arpège and while the interior hasn’t changed the prices have continued to creep up and the surprise tasting lunch now contains no major meat course, that is to be ordered separately off the a la carte menu.  It’s still cheaper than dinner but it’s definitely more expensive.  They also have more expensive tastings and the a la carte menu if you so chose.  We took the surprise tasting and added the roast guinea fowl (lunch took about 4 hours).   I was surprised to find so many dishes that were similar to our past visits.  Another change was when we arrived they tried to seat us downstairs.  Mind you it’s a nice room downstairs and it is on the same level as the bathroom but it feels a little like you’ve been banished to the non-French room.  We asked to sit upstairs and they had to deliberate a bit which considering that no one was seated there seemed off-putting.  Chef Passard was in the house and worked the room and was most gracious when he visited with us, but I felt for those others who meekly took the table they were guided to.   Another change was that vegetables no longer adorn the tables as decorations and instead new plates add color to the table. Continue reading

Le Pré Catelan, Paris, 12/5/19

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building

Le Pré Catelan is in a rental conference building that dates back to 1935.  It was a casino in the days before it became a restaurant that now holds a 3 Michelin star rating.  The elegant room is set with large tables covered first with a floor length beige satin cloth and then covered with a white linen one.  Music is in the background, heavy drapes are beside the windows that look out on the lighted landscaped grounds.  The green carpet makes a nice contrast with the white marble parts of the wall.  Lots of sculpted plaster adorns the walls with lowered lighting in the room and an huge chandelier hangs in the center of the room over the small service table.  Candlelight is from the long stemmed candles on each table.  A couple of the tables near the windows are set with rounded couches opposite the chairs but otherwise the tables are appointed with comfortable arm chairs.  The room exudes class and only holds 10 tables, but the service is nicely friendly and welcoming, not stiff or too formal.  Perhaps they detected my preference?  The menu is a la carte with one tasting menu option. Both pacing and portion control were good. Continue reading

Restaurant Chez Allard, Paris, 12/5/19

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exterior

Chez Allard opened in 1932 and is a large place spread over several rooms. The tiny tables are closely placed and set with white clothes and napkins.  French music is in the background of this old style restaurant.  The lower half of the walls is dark wood and the top half is covered in fabric where there aren’t windows.  Red velvet bench seating lines the walls that serve that tables that have wooden chairs opposite.  Art is on the walls, the floor is tile and service is friendly and efficient.  They offered a special 3 course lunch menu or an a la carte menu.  The lunch menu is a good value at 34 euros but we wanted to try some of the items on their regular menu so chose to order a la carte.   Continue reading