1, rue du Mail (2)
There is more than one Chez George, each unrelated. Book the right one. Situated in the 2nd, a beacon of warmth on an otherwise deserted street. Terrific, busy; the good news and the bad news. Reportedly, lunch is all French. At dinner, half American. It doesn’t change the food; it does compromise the ambiance.
It was announced in the fall of 2010 Chez George had changed hands, not good news. The buyer owns Bistro de Paris and Chez Rene. In fact, so far, so good. Nothing changed, including classic bistro food, friendly service and high prices.
A return after several years to Chez Georges, which used to be a favorite.
The good news: high energy, classic bistro menu, very good food all intact, along with the traditional décor. A Hollywood French bistro.
The less good news: If it was half Americans before, it is 2/3 foreigners today, mostly Americans. Tables packed tightly, so highly likely your two is an effective table of six with Americans (or Japanese, or Italians) on either side. Service and turnover quick – too quick, allowing for at least two turns. In some ways Chez Georges has become so authentic it is inauthentic, a problem if you are looking for the same great food, classic preparations and attractive décor, but in a French environment.
The restaurant is doing just fine. It has not changed its standards except to accommodate to the demand, but it is not the French bistro experience it once was.
Roasted cepes couldn’t be better. Grilled Dover sole (no sauce offered, even though I asked), impeccable. Tarte tatin and profiterole with chocolate. Great meal, but a compromised experience.
A return visit to what was once a favorite three years later, a paradox.
Chez Georges is an old, traditional French bistro, physically authentic in every way and movie set perfect exactly as is, including the efficient, black-clad team of hardworking waitresses. Crowded. Busy. Always full. The menu is as authentic as the surroundings; classic French specialties unchanged from three years ago; well-sourced, well-cooked, quickly served, accompanied by a long and varied wine list at every price level. One or two seasonal blackboard specials. So the good news is very good still, and unchanged.
But so is the bad news: alongside the two long mirrored facing walls tables for two or four, with a long banquette and facing chairs. Not uncomfortable because of the spaciousness of the room, but literally no space between the tables. And to the left and to the right, English – almost exclusively. English spoken mostly by Americans, but also by English, Germans and Italians. Some French squeezed into the bar area.
Try to explain it: Among the most historically correct and attractive French restaurants taken over by American visitors.
We prefer to experience France among French, but it often means passing up the few remaining French restaurants still true to a history which has mostly passed them by.
Bistro classics – salads, terrines, a famous smoked herring, meats, plenty of fish, all with wonderful sauces. Profiterole an irresistible dessert. Entrees slightly boring, served family style. Serve yourself. Wonderful, though pricey fish.
Efficient and friendly. Like the food, without finesse.
A la Carte. Medium/High.