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 supposedly great burger? A staff trained by Danny Meyer? I just 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 hilarious title for a listing of supposedly good, supposedly American style burger joints in Paris. I wonder which part(s) of Brooklyn they mean? Probably not Gowanus.
The menu at Ralph’s is entirely in English, and I’ll tell you that it is a little strange to say, “Je prends le Fried Chicken”. 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 space is exactly what you would expect from Ralph Lauren, all dark wood, leather and horses, with a gorgeous terrace in shades of Cape Cod blue and white.
So how was the food? 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 (this was also an issue with the burger at Fish). 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, 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, 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 perfectly 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, 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; more about the idea, not 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
Alexander Lobrano visits Ralph’s for T-Magazine.
Wendy Lyn has the scoop as always.
Emmanuel Rubin gives two hearts to Le Ralph’s (en français).