By day seven of our Paris trip, D. and I had eaten a lot of decadent French food. We braced ourselves for lunch at Mini Palais, the new restaurant installed in a wing of the famous Grand Palais, where all the elaborate Chanel shows take place. Surely this would be the pinnacle of decadent French-ness.
But already from the looks of things when we walked in, Mini Palais was not what we had expected. We were hoping for something classically romantic, like the Last Year at Marienbad themed Chanel show, but what we got was something between the grimness of the smoldering earth theme and the chilliness of the iceberg theme. Mini Palais has the soaring ceilings and huge French windows you would expect, but the dreary gray and beige tones of the decor and industrial lighting quashed any ideas of romance. If you didn’t know you were in a palace, you might think you were in a corporate dining hall.
Food-wise, an airy, buttery brioche seemed to bode well for the meal. When the appetizers arrived, however, it was hard to believe they had come from the same kitchen.
Sparkling fresh scallops sliced thin lay in a crème fraiche sauce infused with citrusy yuzu and garnished with flowers (carpaccio de Saint-Jacques mi-cuite, 16€) . Crunchy flakes of sea salt and silky caviar topped off this delicious dish.
On the other hand, the shrimp tempura (tempura de gambas, 15€) was absolutely ordinary, bland, in fact. There was no seasoning to speak of except in the sauce, which tasted bizarrely like Russian dressing.
We fared better with an entree of the poitrine de cochon (25€), a juicy cut of pork redolent with herbs. It erred on the salty side, though, and the sauce and the potatoes didn’t add much.
Mini Palais’ version of steak tartare, good quality meat mixed with egg, cornichons and onions, stayed true to the bistro standard – but for 21€, it probably should have exceeded it.
The fries were quite good.
Service continued in the uneven vein. They’re unusually friendly and nice at the door at Mini Palais and make it convenient to get reservations by either email or phone. But the servers were often MIA, with so much turnover between who was waiting on us that we never did figure out who our server was.
Then, after being ignored on and off, we received two little homemade marshmallows speckled with chocolate crisps with our noisettes. A sweet touch at the end of the meal showed some effort. It might be worth going in warmer weather to dine on the terrace overlooking the Seine and the Petit Palais, but otherwise, there are other grand monuments to French cuisine in Paris.
3 Avenue Winston Churchill (the Seine side of the Grand Palais)
01 42 56 42 42