I suppose I should start this with an explanation. I don’t normally review restaurants. In fact I don’t care to review restaurants, or at least I didn’t care to do so. But I found myself in a situation where it was necessary and I surprisingly jumped at the opportunity. This is because of an incident that transpired during my first weeks here in New York. I had just attended my graduate school’s orientation and the second year students offered to take the first years out to their regular watering holes. They first chose to take us to a nice, Parisian style establishment named Café Loup, I suppose since it seemed to be the most evocative of the writerly spirit. So we all made our way there en masse, guided by the tender prodding’s of our more experienced brethren. However the fact that we were all so excited to be finally involved with the program proved to be a point of contention for the staff of Café Loup. We were warned that if we did not quiet down we would not be served, followed shortly by a demand to pay our checks and vacate the premises.
Needless to say many of us were miffed by this. We were after all paying patrons who had a right to socialize with our compatriots. I, however, was incensed. I was so flippantly angry that I puffed up my chest and brazenly walked up to the man who had ejected us from the premises. Tapping his shoulder I made damn well sure we made eye contact and with the most indignant voice I could muster I told him, “Fuck you.” I then proceeded to storm out, foiled temporarily by a reticent door that consequently made me feel stupid. Damn door could have ruined the moment.
So when I found myself confronted by the option to write a review about a restaurant I immediately thought of Café Loup. What better opportunity to incite a hilariously disastrous dining experience than by returning to a place where the staff would undoubtedly remember me as the “fuck you” guy? What could go wrong? Well, everything. But that was exactly the point. Look, to put me in a mythological perspective, and to avoid the typical descriptions of “dick”, “POS”, “prick”, etc., I am the living embodiment of Loki. With mostly tamed social anxiety issues. But that’s beside the point. What is right on the point is how I failingly attempted to coax several ladies to dinner with me and then finally proceeded to cause what mayhem I could on my own. Aside from the absence of an oblivious date, the night was ripe for exploit.
Whether you believe me or not, I was not nervous. I was unclear on where exactly the café was and experienced a moment of shock when I found myself confronted suddenly by its ominous light blue awning; but again, I was not afraid. I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive entering the café as I expected to be yelled at and asked to leave, an outcome I had already decided to resist and force them to physically eject me from the premises as I yelled beautiful inanities.
But that wasn’t the case, unfortunately. I was met by a man who looked like he was prime for a midlife crisis, politely asking me if I would like a table. I was confused at first both by his pleasant approach and the fact that I initially took him for a customer. In any case I told him that I would rather eat at the bar since I was on my own. I don’t mind doing things on my own, but there’s no point in adding injury to insult. Yes, I meant to write it that way. Leave me alone.
What bothered me the most was the fact that the man who I had “Fuck You’d” did not appear to be present. Scanning the pleasantly lit dining room I only saw well-dressed baby boomers chatting over delicate plates of cuisine and glasses of wine. I took a moment to congratulate myself for dolling myself up for the occasion, otherwise I would have stood out like a cock in a bowl of noodles. But I was disappointed. Not having “Fuck You’d” man here essentially negated the entire point of coming. What was I to do now? Sit here, eat their food, drink their spirits, and then write a review about it? What a waste of life.
All that was left now was to sit at a fancily appointed bar and stare at myself in the mirror, which to an extent I was okay with. I wanted to make a few faces to pass the time but decided that the other patrons would not understand. Behind me, enveloping the old geezers properly picking at their orders, was the dining room. The entire space felt cozy with its low ceiling and dim lighting, an appropriately cultured soundtrack resonating softly as a final touch. I could see why these folks, who appeared to be regulars, liked coming here. This was as close to Paris as one could get beyond shelling out ones hard-earned money for a flight. What I could not understand, though, was how any of my classmates thought this would be a nice place to write. While a pleasant setting, Café Loup did not in any way seem to be conducive to creative inspiration. At least not in the way I imagined Henry Miller finding inspiration. Or Bukowski.
As I mused about the atmosphere and the copious amount of spirits on the shelf before me I suddenly realized that “Fuck You’d” man had appeared. For whatever reason he had stepped away from the bar, and now facing each other I could see a sudden moment of clarity in his mind. I imagined his internal dialogue going something like this: “Ah, another patron. Let me provide him with a menu and… oh great this prick!” I swear he took a double take, but he said nothing of the affair. I was slightly disappointed. I came for a scene, for some form of mild civil disobedience, or wait, I think it would have been more along the lines of unapologetic impropriety. Despite the fact that he had apparently recognized me, that I had the gall to return and put myself in a position that forced a confrontation, that I offered no apology or inkling of remorse, this good man handed me a menu and asked what I would like to drink.
So there I was waiting excitedly for him to yell at me as he had done to my compatriots before, and instead I was being served like all the other geezers around me. I would like to say that I felt relieved, but I wasn’t. Now I found myself in a position where I had to behave as an upstanding patron and actually order something. I had already come to terms with the fact that I was going to dish out a considerable amount of money, but to do so for a dinner void of excitement, well that was a travesty. Not only that, the bourgeois air was weighing so heavily on me that I now felt like I had to breathe it or suffocate. Therefore a proper dinner was in order.
The menu was quite sparse, to the point of my flipping it over to see if there were more options, which there weren’t. They did provide a “prix fixe” menu, which I took to mean “fixed price” by my modest deductive and French language abilities. For $32 I would be able to select an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert, each consisting of three options. In a continued effort to find the diversity of their menu I proceeded to compare the prix fixe menu and the regular one. To my dismay the prix fixe menu consisted of select items from the regular menu, so that was that. I opted to go the $32 route, selecting a green salad with olive oil and cheese and a rotisserie style chicken with steamed vegetables. Noting that I was having trouble selecting what I wanted, “Fuck You’d” man kindly offered to bring the menu back after I had finished my entry so that I could select my desert.
To maintain the image of a moneyed, young professional, I decided to drink wine. Not knowing how to pair any of the wines (again, the selection was modest), I asked “Fuck You’d” man to offer a recommendation. My request was met with a flair of frustration; it was apparent to me that he did not really know how to pair wines himself. After looking pleadingly at another staff member he finally suggested a pinot grigio, but as I preferred red he then recommended a pinot noir. The only pinot noir on the list. My first impression of the wine was that it was far too acidic and light. As the night would wear on and as I began working on my second glass, however, I would end up changing my mind. He did fill my wine glass to the absolute brim both times, so at least that was consistent. And much appreciated.
Food having been ordered I found myself in the awkward position of not knowing what to do while I waited. I spent some considerable time stink-eyeing myself in the mirror and giving the other diners bored looks. A basket with three types of bread was eventually placed in front of me. I have no way of knowing what was what so I will call them white bread, wheat bread, and rye bread. They were all enjoyable in their own right, but what was delicious, almost a delicacy, was the butter. While not direct from the bovine it was light and sumptuous. The salad was much like the bread: tasty but not quite noteworthy. The greens were good and bitter, the olive oil was just right, but what was heavenly was the brie. I think it was brie.
To be honest the cheese threw me through a loop at first. Upon setting eyes on it I could feel the flood of endorphins in my brain. I instinctively thrust my fork towards it, ready to enjoy its creamy goodness. But as soon as my fork hit I found that it was rock solid. I was utterly confused and momentarily angered. Was this a beet? How in the world, why in the world, who would do such a thing? Is not a love of cheese a universal truth? Never mind the lactose intolerant. Hell my best friend is lactose intolerant but refuses to stop eating cheese, therefore making him the most hilariously gassy person I know. And he’s about to become a doctor.
Once my momentary rush of anger subsided I grabbed my knife and resigned myself to not having my brie. But as I cut it I noticed that it was crumbling in a manner that a beet would never do, at which point my hypothalamus lit up once again. It was brie! And lord, was it the most angelic brie I had ever had. I can only guess that my physical reaction to eating that brie, along with the arugula, was akin to the rush a heroin addict must feel as they shoot up. It was heavenly (I suppose it is now apparent that I have a particular affinity for the udder).
Once I had finished my salad and sampled the breads I was finally brought my piping hot entrée. And when I say piping hot, I mean nearly infernal. I spent a considerable amount of time blowing my meat and looking like an imbecile before I was able to put it in my mouth. Look, I am all for bringing out a customer’s food as quickly as possible. Nobody wants to wait. But to have to sit with your meal in front of you, waiting for it to cool down, teased by the luscious odors that waft up into your nostrils is cruel and unusual. Waiting to eat your cake is worse than not getting your cake at all.
To make matters worse was, when I finally managed to taste the chicken, what had once smelled delicious turned out to be overly sweet. It was cooked well (and definitely thoroughly) but lacked any intrigue. I cannot say how disappointed I was by it. The one item that was supposed to be sweet, the mashed sweet potatoes, was perfectly balanced with understated notes of sweetness. The mashed potatoes were equally enjoyable; they had a definite buttery note in the manner in which my father prepares them. Additionally there was steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and some other stem like vegetable that I failed to recognize. They all tasted like steamed vegetables and I nearly forgot to eat them.
Aside from the disappointing chicken there was also the issue of presentation. One would expect that an establishment that models itself on French customs would serve appropriately sized portions. What you receive at Café Loup are bastardized American portions, by which I mean that they pile an inordinate amount of food onto your plate. It was so bad that I had to dig through the mashed sweet potatoes and regular potatoes to find the vegetables. In fact my plate was so cluttered with the food that I am just now remembering that I also had another cooked sweet veggie on my plate, which was surprisingly good. I don’t know what it was. Ultimately the presentation was nothing short of a hodgepodge of forgettable edibles.
What was not forgettable was the peach tart “Fuck You’d” man suggested I try. Remember my love for the brie on the salad? That was close to my reaction to the tart. The tart was capped with a generous dollop of wonderfully light whip cream and ringed with blueberries, pineapple, kiwi, and strawberries. The final touch was a sprig of mint which I found, when broken apart and arrayed on the tart, made the peach tart orgasmic. The desert would have been a dream if it were not for the fact that I had been overloaded by an entrée I was unable to finish. Due to that massive entrée, I struggled to remain focused on the subtle deliciousness of the peach tart and my accompanying black coffee.
When one goes to an establishment to eat, the hope is to leave sated and ready to relax. A good establishment will make you happy to stay and digest the food comfortably, perhaps ordering a few aperitifs or coffees. That is the ideal. However this is not what I experienced at Café Loup. Sure there were some high notes, but by the time I got half way through my desert I was already feeling the itch to skedaddle. Nothing about what I had experienced left me feeling satisfied. I felt bloated and disappointed. By the food on both accounts, by the lack of havoc on the second account.
So what I had hoped would occur never came to fruition. After watching “Fuck You’d” man ring up my bill on the archaic cash register that I had thought was decorative, I introduced myself, offered my hand and an apology. The specifics were not mentioned, just that I was sorry for what I had said. I suppose I can now return without any concerns, but honestly I don’t think I care to.
ps: the title is referencing a gay couple that was obviously desperate to talk to me the entire time I was there. As I was getting to ready to leave they both very blatantly began staring at me, which I ignored in an equally blatant manner. After a considerable moment and an awkward silence between the two, one of the lovers said to the other, “My face is like, three times bigger than yours.” I tried hard not to laugh.