New Delhi, India
June 3, 2009
The interesting history of L’Ancienne Douane was enough to attract us, and we went one day for dinner. The restaurant, all wood panelled and with crimson upholstery, looked cosy enough, but a summer evening merited an al fresco meal. So we asked for space on the terrace and were guided to a table with a pot of bright red and pink geraniums on the railing beside it. It was a bit cramped—I had to squeeze into my chair because the chair at the next table was tucked up against it—but that was a minor matter. The view across the canal was great, to compensate.
For food, Tarun ordered a steak with shallots, while I settled for a matelote, described in the menu as a `fishermen’s stew’. When the food came, neither of us was too excited by what was placed before us. Tarun’s steak was good, but the shallots (which Tarun was looking forward to; he’s fond of them) were conspicuous by their absence. Possibly they were part of the thick brown sauce that came in a sauce boat alongside the steak, but we couldn’t be sure. Tarun did, however, get a side of green beans and a gargantuan helping of fries, so that, along with the juicy steak, kept him happy. We also got a couple of hard rolls that Tarun used to help mop up the sauce.
I ended up digging into the fries too, because my matelote was disappointing. The fish was very fresh, but the sauce itself was extremely insipid. Other than the fish and a few stray mushrooms and shallots (had these wandered here out of the steak’s share?!), there wasn’t much in this stew—not even flavour. Even the buttered flat noodles served alongside didn’t redeem it.
The meal, though, was filling enough and we ended up skipping dessert. We paid €45 for our food, including a tip and payment for our drinks—a beer and a lemonade. Reasonable enough, but with this restaurant’s fine reputation, I’d have expected the matelote to be a lot better. Maybe I just chose the wrong dish? I’m not sure I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
From journal Eating and Sleeping in Strasbourg