L'Improviste

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:: Paris
When we arrived at L'improviste, we could see a lovely four-top set for three right by the door -- the only unoccupied table left in the restaurant.  The headwaiter (manager? wish we had gotten his name) met us at the door, and I mentioned we had a reservation under my name.  He spoke English with us right off the bat.  "Miller?" he said, and then, "Oh, Miller -- it's you!"  "Oui!" I replied.

Then he related with some frustration that he had been expecting us three days ago.  "No, monsieur!" I protested, "That wasn't me!"  Then he made me go over and look at the reservation book with him, and sure enough there was "Miller" written in on Jan 29, apparently a no-show that night.  "No, that's not me," I said.  "It is a very common name, you know."  He then gave me his best French whatEVERRRR look.  "Monsieur!" I protested, "I did not even make my reservation until Jan 31, see?"  And I showed him my printout of the email confirmation.  "OK," he said, "well...anyway, here is your table."  It was the one we had seen by the door, and it felt SO good to sit down, read the enticing menu board, and know that we would actually be having dinner after all in this warm, cosy little place.  We still had doubts, however, as to whether our host would be warm with us, based on the awkward "Miller" incident.

I looked down at our table, and a little plate of sliced hard sausage had appeared there, seemingly by magic.  We devoured it before the water even arrived.  ("L'eau gazeuse, s'il vous plait."  "Big bubbles or little bubbles?"  "BIG BUBBLES!")  We were starting to narrow down our menu choices when our host came and sat right down in the empty chair at our table.  "Ok, do you want...," and he started translating the menu into English.  I interrupted him:  "But, monsieur, we have made our choices!"  He was impressed that we had understood the menu, and at that point we knew he was starting to warm up to us.  Karin and Andrea both requested the chevre chaud salad, and I ordered the salad with ecrevisses.  I asked for blanquette de veau for my main, and Andrea requested something (I forget what) which she did not wind up getting because of what happened next:  Karin inquired about the andouillette.  "Oh no," monsieur said, "you will not like this.  It is very...strong, a very particular dish made from tripes that I really do not think you will like.  Very...strong."  "Then that's what I want!" interjected Andrea.  From her point of view, monsieur had just thrown down the gauntlet, and by God she was not going to let it lie there.  Monsieur was incredulous.  YES, Andrea insisted.  He looked very doubtful, but if madame insisted...  Karin opted for the tian d'agneau, and then we asked him to choose an appropriate wine for us.  Yes, he said, I know just what to bring you.

The wine came immediately, a lovely, simple Vin de pays d'Oc syrah.  The two couples at the table next to ours saw us swishing, smelling, tasting, and reading the label, and they took an interest in whatever it was we were drinking.  Soon we had a fun little game going with them, as we checked out their appetizers, then they checked out ours.  Next came their mains, about which we furtively speculated.  Is that the andouillette?  Maybe it's the lamb?  Definitely not the blanquette de veau.  Then came our mains.  I dug into the delicious blanquette de veau immediately, but we were all curious about Andrea's plate.  (Our neighbors were clearly impressed with her choice.)  "Wow," she said, "Yes, this really is very different.  But I like it!  Here, try some."

I'll try almost anything, and of course this was no exception.  However, I'm sorry to report that I found andouillette to be absolutely revolting!!  I thought it smelled like poop, and it seemed to taste like whatever poop must taste like.  I gagged it down and immediately took a mouthful of veal to try to get the taste out. 

But Andrea ate the entire sausage, and with pleasure; she genuinely liked it.  Monsieur was so impressed that from that point on she was his darling.  She was the darling of the entire restaurant that evening, as far as we knew.  We ordered our desserts, and after he brought them out he came back and very ceremoniously poured a shot of hot orange liquer over Andrea's pain perdu.  (Meanwhile the table next to us had finished their wine and ordered a bottle of the one we'd had, apparently as a digestif; they were finished eating.)  Then monsieur brought Andrea another shot of liqueur to drink!

We lingered long over our desserts and then coffee and chocolates, and finally we were so tired that we knew it was time to throw in the towel.  We asked for l'addition.  "No!" protested our host, "You cannot leave!" 

After another half hour of lingering and feeling very happy with our evening at L'improviste, we requested the bill again, and this time we were obliged.  The price was so good that we could hardly believe our bleary eyes.  "This is my new favorite restaurant in France!" declared Andrea, and Karin and I concurred.

As we were getting up to leave, our host came to talk to us one last time.  "There is something I must ask you," he said.  "Why did you come here?"

It seemed like an odd question, but I intuited that he must be wondering how we came to know about the place.  So I told him that my dear friends live in the neighborhood and had recommended his restaurant to us very highly.  "When they come back maybe they will mention us," I said (the notorious Miller trio with the andouillette!), "and then you will know who it was that helped us all have such a wonderful time this evening."

L'Improviste
21, rue Médéric, 17e Paris
Tel. +33 01.4227.8667

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This page contains a single entry by intrepidfork published on February 18, 2008 11:00 AM.

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