135, rue Saint Dominique (7)
In 2006, Le Violon was downgraded from 2-stars to one. This led to a complete change in décor and menu, from plush to less formal and more bistro-like. Still, a bistro it is not. The cooking is refined, the menu a mix of original and modern spins on more traditional dishes. Either way the food is first rate; carefully imagined, well cooked, artfully plated. Open Sunday.
Violon has changed since we last ate there in 2011.
The décor has been freshened. High tables have been added near the open kitchen. Prices have risen – by a lot. A 208€ dinner in 2011 was 235€ in 2014. A la carte menu still a modern take on traditional dishes and the cooking still quite good. Service has slipped, with weekend fill-ins eager to please doing on the job training for high paying guests. This is a very good restaurant, but shockingly expensive and no longer “good value for the money”.
After a three year gap, we return to Le Violon, unchanged physically and in evaluation. The menu, food and history of this restaurant merit an “A”. The restaurant overall merits a “B”. In every way, the food in conception, choice and execution is better than the restaurant, recognizing “A” level food is increasingly rare, even in Paris.
Considering its high prices (263€ with a wonderful 66€ wine from an extensive French list), long-held Michelin Star and pedigree, a “B” reflects choice; a giving up of what is possible.
Pedigree matters. The owner/chef (not clear if he ever cooks), Christian Constant, is a legend. He led the brigade at the Crillon Hotel and was the first top chef to go off on his own to found the upscale bistro movement, now dominant. He was followed by his team, many of whom established their own small and individualized restaurants, numerous of which (chefs and restaurants) remain well-known and successful today. (Their photographs, with Constant in the center, dominate one wall of the well-decorated and maintained dining room).
The website for Le Violon pictures 6 personal specialties. Three – eggs moellet, sea bass with almonds and chocolate torte made up my meal. Each was delicious, if not 3-star in the perfection of plating or decoration. Wonderful food.
The relatively small a la carte menu lists six or so choices in each category. No specials.
What otherwise makes it a “B” restaurant – unchanged from 2014 – is the staff and service. Young, unpolished, poorly supervised and insufficiently trained/experienced. Friendly and earnest (and largely bilingual), but not close to equal to the food. That by one-star standards the restaurant is large – at least 60 covers – means a small army of young servers bumping into one another throughout the meal.
But that said, the food is worth a visit, what merits an “A” rating.
Meat and fish. Entrees: terrine of foie gras layered with thin sliced beef tongue, fish crudo, cold soups, “Caesar” salad. Plats: Rotisserie of the day (roast lamb), roast fish, pigeon, sole soufflé. Desserts: vanilla soufflé with caramel.
Friendly; particularly competent, with vestiges of its former pedigree. English spoken, with plenty of guests using it.
Prices: A la carte and not cheap. Entrees: 15 – 20€, Plats: 36€, plus or minus. Desserts 10 – 15€. That said, good value for the money.