Unable to snag a Feb. 15th post-Valentine's Day table at the more romantic Les Magnolias, Co. and I ventured out to the decidedly unromantic Le Dauphin, Inaki Aizpitarte's tapas wine bar a couple doors down from his remarkable Chateaubriand - the latter, as anyone who has followed this blog is well aware, is one of my favorites. As pithily described at took over Le Dauphin, a previously non-descript Parisian cafe, he called upon Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas who transformed the space "into a modern white cube carved from Carrara marble." That's one way of putting it. Another way is to sit at your little table surrounded by walls of mirrors and imagine butchers of yore happily splattering the marbled floors with blood and guts, ash descending from their cigarettes, sweat pouring from their brows. Maybe it's just me, but the exaggerated clash of marble and mirror has that kind of effect on me. When I say unromantic, I mean clinical. The centerpiece bar is where the action is, with scruffy clientele mixing with animated scruffy bartender/servers.
Although I enjoyed experimenting with the vague list of tapas offerings, I kept thinking about how much more enjoyable an evening at Chateaubriand would have been. Still, when it comes to the spate of contemporary and oh so French tapas venues popping up around town, you have to rate Le Dauphin up there with Aux Deux Amis and Au Passage. For lack of better documentation, here's the bill listing the various offerings that comprised our dinner, followed by some photos - good luck matching the photo correctly with the itemized dishes on the bill.
Tasty? Check. Diverse? Check. Inventive? Check, well, for the most part. Unforgettable? Not really. I must admit, any time I can snag a risotto in black ink without having to book a flight to Valencia, I'm a happy camper. But that clinical atmosphere got to me, and not in a good way. Honey, I love you, but give me Chateaubriand.