Christian Constant is the owner of Le Violon d'Ingres and, it seems, of just about every other establishment in the neighborhood, as well as of some serious real estate on a TV screen near you. We'd had dinner at the Violon years ago, and had loved the food, so we thought we'd check out its current incarnation. Summary: lively spot, the decor has been lightened and simplified, and the waitstaff giggles a lot. Food: yes and no. The menu reads like the chapter headings of everyone's first French cookbook, with a nod to seasonal availability. My first course was clear consommé of game: beautifully clear, a slight whiff of gaminess, no flavor. Himself ordered the pressé of tongue and foie gras, and reported that he'd had better.
However, I loved my main course, which was a Parmentier of lobster. Lobster - well, we get such wonderful lobster on the East Coast that I rarely order it while travelling. So, ok, OK, I was inspired, and this was inventive: delicate potato slices interleaved with slices of lobster tail, on a bed of mashed potatoes with chunks of lobster, topped with chives and salmon caviar. The potato was popularised in 18th century France by Dr. Parmentier, an early student of what was not yet known as Nutrition ("Filling! Not poisonous! Can be cut up and fried! Will not cause leprosy!"). Dr. Parmentier finally convinced the Paris Faculty of Medicine to declare potatoes edible in 1772. Potato dishes are named after him to this day. Well, that lobster owes Dr. P. a lot. Great dish. Want more.
Himself ordered the cassoulet, after a discussion with the captain to make sure that everything he wanted had gone into the preparation (he insists lamb is key, besides the goose, duck confit, pork belly, etc. No argument here.) We've had a number of cassoulets in the southwest, of varying negative degrees of appeal, I think this dish is something that's offered because the regional restauranteurs feel obliged and tourists will try it because they're in the region. Obviously while it's not regional to Paris, M. Constant's cassoulet got an A+ (19/20). Moving on, dessert - mine: the house millefeuille, his: cheese, Vacherin de Mont d'Or.
Interesting note: unusually for a French restaurant of this caliber, the tables turned over twice and there were quite a few walk-ins.