11 rue Dupin (6)
For years, Epi Dupin was our go to place. And we were not alone. Full lunch and dinner, tourists and French. Gradually the front of the house staff who brought some order from the chaos and who allowed Epi Dupin to work for us as the surging crowds made it harder to snag a table and to enjoy its unique menu moved on, one by one, for reasons we concluded had nothing to do with the restaurant itself. We were again strangers and we moved on too. So, after an absence of several years, we scored a last-minute dinner reservation. And now we know why. Now Dupin. Same address and décor, more or less, with half the seats removed. But nothing else but memories. Chef retired. New chef and format. He rented the real estate.
Our familiarity with the address (and our error in thinking we were returning to our one-time favorite) initially disorienting. Epi Dupin would have hopeful diners waiting on the street at 8:00 p.m. On a rainy Thursday, one table. An hour later, a sprinkling of more guests to order a la carte from a limited menu of beautifully prepared, complex multi-ingredient choices (pigeon, char-roasted veal, mushrooms). Much to visually admire, but not deeply flavorful. The space seems physically incongruent with the delivery of the food. Half the original number of tables, but the contrast (and the surprise – entirely our fault) made it all the more difficult to embrace the meal we were served verses what we came for.
So many restaurants like it – each would be greeted gushingly in New York (In Boston there would be a parade). But now common in Paris: a brilliant young chef trying to rise above the crowd offering carefully executed, complex and beautiful food at 75-100€ per person, but without the essential combination to make it memorable.