It was a sort of twisted curiosity that drew me to Ralph’s, the restaurant in the new Ralph Lauren shop on the boulevard St. Germain. Fried chicken? A great burger? A staff trained by Danny Meyer? I wanted to see if they could pull this thing off.
Certain American foods are everywhere in Paris at the moment: Brownies, crumbles and cupcakes, to name a few on the sweet side. Le Figaro just ran a story called “Des Cantines comme à Brooklyn,” a list of supposedly good, supposedly American style burger joints in Paris.
The menu at Ralph’s is entirely in English, and it’s a little hard to say, “Je prends le Fried Chicken” with a straight face. There’s meat loaf, too, along with burgers, lamb chops, shrimp cocktail, clam chowder, grilled lobster and large salads. The wines are mostly American, featuring big names like Coppola and Mondavi.
The burger, topped with cheddar and bacon, was not so bad. But it lacked the juiciness that I think characterizes the best burgers, perhaps because the mix was a bit lean. I liked the fried chicken, crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside — hooray for dark meat — but the square of cornbread served along with it was tragic, paltry and dry, and whoever was in charge of the mashed potatoes seemed to have forgotten the salt.
My chilled pea soup was good enough, fresh and minty (“French,” one might even say), the clam chowder was aromatic and flavorful, and the crab cake had some spicy kick, enough to make my friend (an American) tear up. A proper wedge of carrot cake finished the meal.
The burger, by the way, is 27€, I suppose because it’s grass fed American beef from Ralph Lauren’s own ranch, and I suppose because it’s being served by fresh-faced model-types in a luxe, clubby room (exactly what you would expect from Ralph Lauren, all dark wood, leather and horses, with a terrace in shades of Cape Cod blue and white), to people who don’t bat an eye at high prices, the female half of this group looking like they don’t eat much anyway.
Ultimately Ralph’s is more about fashion than food. And more about the idea, than the fact, of American cooking. Still, there were two details that were spot on, at the start and end of the dinner: First, our server smiled and told us his name when he greeted us. And later, he brought the bill before we asked for it.
Ralph’s 173 blvd St. Germain, Paris 75006 +33 (0)1 44 77 76 00