You will enter through the door of the restaurant that can easily be missed among the sea of eateries near Forum des Halles. You will be greeted by a textbook version of a French waiter in the entrance near the worn down bar. “Bonsoir. Vous avez réservé?” Yes, you will have wanted to have called ahead and reserved a table, “Oui, monsieur.”
You will be seated in the old-timey, red checker tablecloth-ed dining room, quite likely at a table where someone else is already sitting. You will squeeze your hips past the other diners to take your seats and politely nod to your neighbors, both realizing, “Okay, well this is kind of awkward.”
You will survey the room – the energy will be electric. You will look over at your neighbors’ plates. They will notice and if you speak the same language (literally, not figuratively), they will likely happily tell you what they’ve having. (The couple to the left was having the skate appetizer; to the right, the enormous côte de bœuf for two. Both American.) You will wait to be handed a menu – it will not arrive. Upon further inspection, you will find it hand-written on a chalkboard leaning on a wall. There is no wine list either. You are to select one of the two house reds or the white. If you’d like to switch wines during your meal, just say so – you only pay for what you’ve drunk here, even if it’s four-fifths of a bottle (so our chatty new friends tell us).
You will order a light starter, like the paper-thin slices of raw salmon marinated in lemon and bathed in olive oil that Rene and I shared, as well as a steak – yes, definitely a steak – and probably one wildcard item, like our choux farcis (stuffed cabbage).Your bottle of wine will arrive, the first glass of which will prompt you to strike up conversation with your neighbors if you haven’t already. “So where are you guys from? How did you find out about this place? Oh, it’s your anniversary? Congratulations!”
Soon enough your steak, along with a mountain of golden frites to share, will arrive. You will erupt into a joyous noshing. This will surely be one of the juiciest, reddest, most satisfying steaks you will ever experience. Your wildcard, like our rustic, ground beef-stuffed cabbage in a carrot, onion and tomato sauce garnished with strips of crunchy bacon, will be a welcome respite from the gravity of the aforementioned meat and potatoes. You will eat and drink with abandon, feeling that rare sentiment of being in the right place at the right time. And if the cards are truly in your favor, you will have room for dessert – the baba au rhum, specifically. We were not so lucky but our new friends to the left went for it. The voluminous portion arrived on their side of the table looking regal as ever, alongside a bottle of rum for optional extra drizzling. You will look on and drool with envy.
Eventually, the time to vacate your table will come. You will gather your things and make your way back to the worn down bar to pay your check. You will want to thank your waiter profusely for the beautiful food, for the attentive service, for the unforgettable experience. Your French may not be good enough, however, so a simple merci beaucoup, monsieur will have to suffice.
You will be back outside again, merrily making your way toward the metro. You will realize that even though you’re still getting over that stupid argument you two had last night, and that this afternoon’s frigid climb up the Eiffel Tower was a waste of three hours and 34 euros since the fog was so dense you could not see a thing from the summit, today turned out to be a really, really good day.
La Tour Montlhéry – Chez Denise
5 Rue des Prouvaires
Paris, France 75001
Phone: +33 1 42 36 21 82