May 15th, 2010 § 6 comments

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


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§ 6 Responses to Ralph’s"

  • Lindsey says:

    It’s just as I had imagined, only perhaps more pretentious. I am curious to try it but the 27€ price tag for a burger is causing some serious hesitation, especially if you say it’s not very juicy (definitely a pre-requisite for “good burger” classification). But I’m intrigued… perhaps when the novelty wears off, I’ll take the plunge into what I can only imagine is like sitting in a Ralph Lauren catalog.

    Great review though!

  • Mark says:

    I doubt that a burger exists that is worth 27 euro – at least not one that I would pay for. That is just outrageous even for Paris.

  • Susan says:

    It’s unfortunate that Parisians are having sub-par american food. I loved eating in Europe and never missed hamburgers, etc when dining out…But at my home in Belgium…ah..that was another story. I’m sure Europeans are just as interested in American fare…but this doesn’t seem to do it justice.

  • Meg says:

    Your eye for detail is amazing as always, although I’m having a hard time imagining a French server sharing his name! Did you giggle out loud?

  • Barbra says:

    Lindsey: It was a lot like sitting in a Ralph Lauren catalog, not least because there seemed to be models everywhere.

    Mark: In my head I can imagine a 27 euro burger, but I am doubtful that one exists.

    Susan: You’re right, it’s unfortunate, because some Parisians may walk away thinking that’s the best of American food. Sigh.

    Meg: I swear it happened. His name was Julien. We were stunned.

  • emiglia says:

    Haha! Love the last line. It’s so true! And definitely one thing I don’t miss about America…

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