UPDATE: PROVENCE IS OFFICIALLY SHUTTERED
Ok, there’s great news and less good news.
The GREAT news is Provence is back and has the potential to be better than ever.
In a shrewd move by the Meyer/Freeman restaurant team (the McNally team seems to have stumbled, at least in reviews, with Morandi, straying from their usual Franco-restos), Provence’s excellent bone structure has been kept intact. The exterior window frames are still blue. Whew. They haven’t done any serious mucking about internally either. Three rooms, like a wider railroad apartment have interlocking yet distinct personalities, as my dining companion Shari noted.
The front room was made famous, in my teenaged mind, by the movie Crossing Delancy. Whilst the sun shone through that glorious wall of windows, a Belgian cad and writer seduced our Jewish heroine with poems of ripe plums by Confucius. And it almost worked. The front room has retained that seductive charm especially paired with a light drizzle and candlelight such as it was last night. Ah, April in Paris indeed.
The middle room seems more multigenerational in tone: we were cornered by families with in-laws and parents with kids. It felt home-y, neighborhoody, very cozy.
The back little garden is intact too. (What schmuck would dismantle that institution I don’t know but atrocities like that are committed daily in the city of constant renewal). The ceiling is draped with a soft fabric, somewhere between Moroccan nights and fourposter bed; sexy without overt sex appeal and also quite date-a-licious.
More GREAT news: I called earlier in the day to let them know Allergic Girl’s allergy sitch. They said that wouldn’t be a problem. When our waiter approached the table, he had a ticket that said nut and fish allergy and he was prepared. Excellent news especially as the menu was like dodging deathly bullets for me: lots of hazelnuts and walnuts in dishes; lots of fish or meat with anchovy sauces.
Even more GREAT news: our food came with pedigrees. My chicken came from a cage- free happy environment in North Carolina, I think he said. Shari’s fish had a similar story. And given that I’m in the middle of reading the panic inducing book The Ethics of What We Eat, I was glad to hear about my happy chicken.
LESS GOOD news: The waiter never checked on our table. Not until the busmen, who had been hovering and clustering around our table like bus-buzzards, cleared away our dishes. Normally I would only note this as poor form but not a blot. In this case, had he checked in, I would have told him that my lovely looking rotisserie chicken was rubbery, bouncy, pink, and generally under cooked. The sauce was a light and tasty au jus and the snap peas were fine but the chicken, bouncy. Not nice. And not encouraging.
Not getting chicken right is like screwing up scrambled eggs. Something is not working in the kitchen. Well, not yet; they did JUST open after all.
When I told him about my still sqwaking bird at the end of our meal, after we had asked for the check, he apologized. The manager came over and also apologized and took the chicken off our bill. That was a gracious surprise. And I completely appreciated it; however, it could have been avoided if the waiter had checked in.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that I didn’t flag him down either. He was fluttering around other tables; we never made eye contact but we could have. Frankly, I was curious. I ran my own mini-experiment about when he’d come over to check in. The answer was only when he brought dessert menus.
As we left I saw the same gracious and lovely seeming manager. I thanked her again for taking the chicken off the bill and she apologized again for its under-cookedness; all was sweetness. I asked if they planned on a brunch any time soon. She said about two to three weeks. That will be cool.
The UPSHOT: the rooms are lovely (who doesn't look great in candlelight?), they totally took care of my allergic needs without batting an eyelash, they comp’ed the chicken when then needn’t have, and they were very gracious. They’ve been open less than, what, two weeks? I think I can forgive them some rubbery chicken and try again in a few weeks.