I don't expect to have a decent French dinner in 45 minutes, but I do expect to at least be brought a drink in that time. And clocking the wait at La Cuiller à Pot at 45 minutes is generous; we were 15 minutes early for our 8:30pm reservation, so it was pretty much an hour from when we were seated outdoors before we had more than water.
Why didn't we stalk off? Why didn't we slide over to the neighboring Tunisian restaurant, where 6 or 8 tables were seated and served steaming couscous while we sat merely steaming? Well, if you've been adding, it was already 9:15pm, an iffy hour to start looking for another restaurant. And we weren't being exclusively treated to slow service; the other 4 or so tables were in the same non-moving boat. And this was, after all, the top-rated restaurant in Strasbourg.
It gave us plenty of time to speculate. DId the waitress go through the kitchen doors to another universe, where she had to fight epic quests in a different dimension, before resuming her guise as earthly waitress to bring us food? Was the cuisine de marché really something the chef was still figuring out how to cook, out of what he/she had gotten from the market that day? (And la Cuiller à Pot is a "chalkboard" restaurant with only 4 starters and 4 main courses, and those having common side dishes, so really, how difficult could it be?)
After the server came to take our wine order (she looked at our table 3 or 4 times in the meantime, but never actually came back to us), then drop off an amuse-bouche of foie gras in a pain au lait bun, things went at a more normal clip. But there was never any reference to or apology for the bizarrely long lull, which at most French restaurants comes somewhere after the main course to allow for conversation and the polishing off of the wine. Not when the wine order has yet to be taken.
We fell on the amuse-bouche, then on the starters of stuffed saddle of rabbit and coconut-crusted fish fillet with fettucine that followed not too, too long after. If those starters sound a lot like main courses, well, we thought so too. It occurs that there is a reason that restaurants have terrines, soups and other more plate-ready starters on offer: speed. It's a thought. Well, a suggestion, really.
To a dish, the food was more ambitious than amazing, tending toward the hearty and a trifle overcooked. The magret de canard was copious, but suffered most from too long on the heat, with an unidentifiable and undistinguished filling. The monkfish, the last piece of the night, was undeniably not at its peak even wrapped in prosciutto, lacking any of the sweet notes of a well-prepared fresh lotte. The entrecôte, under an herb butter that was again strangely indistinct, was the most popular dish at the table, it and its accompany thick-cut chips, but left us all with the greasy lips.
Dessert? Even though the pace had picked up, we didn't want to risk putting in another order, so no dessert and not even coffee.
Wine was an OK Pierre Arnold 2009 riesling, about €19. WIth wine and shared starters, we averaged €32 a person (about US $40). Overall, prices compare to Paris market menu prices, with à la carte (the only choice) running about €27 for two courses and €35 for three.
Without the wait, we would still have found it a bit surprising that this is restaurant is so well-regarded. With the wait, it is downright confounding.
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