Restaurant le Soufflé, Paris. Good but not breathtaking.

Since people were talking about it and recommending it to me, one day I had to try this Parisian institution that is the Soufflé. It was done last October, the occasion to inaugurate the “restaurants” section of this blog, initially intended for our discoveries abroad but in which we do not refrain from talking about Parisian tables.

Listening only to these recommendations and not to those who told me to be wary of what was in their opinion a tourist trap, I let myself be tempted and took my sidekick Olivier on the adventure.

The concept

It’s written on it: the Soufflé has made the… soufflé its specialty and its trademark since 1961.

The setting

Le Soufflé can be found on rue du Mont Thabord in the 2nd arrondissement, behind a facade that smells like an old, well-established house that ignores trends.

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You arrive in a main room which looks like family dining room…in more big.

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It is sober and without fuss. You can feel that’s an old room that has been renovated and brought up to date without wanting to take it out of its historical “juice”.

Then a long corridor leads to a second room.

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Well, it doesn’t look like much but it’s in the plate that we judge a property.

A second room in the same spirit as the first…

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….sauf that it has no window and, we’ll talk about it again, seemed much louder to me because it resonates much more.

If the general style oscillates between old and contemporary, the decoration reminds us that we are in a property that has been established for nearly 60 years and that they are not newcomers.

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It’s a mix of styles and eras that in the end I don’t find very successful. Impossible to tell if it’s old and plastered to look young or young that tries to look older, because of the respectability of the house. It gives a dusty appearance that does not correspond to the reality of the property.

But in the end, this impression will fade because, as we will see later, the house makes you pay for what you have on the plate and not for a setting, which is better than paying for a setting and being disappointed by the plate.

Let’s talk about the plate, starting with the menu.

The menu of Le Soufflé

Guess what? Of course, there are many types of soufflés.

An “all Soufflé” menu

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Salted dishes and soufflés

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The tasting menu

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Starters…. with or without soufflé

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Desserts and sweet soufflés

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Here I must admit to a certain disappointment. You will think that I am a fundamentalist but why offer so many dishes besides the soufflés which are the house specialty? All of a sudden, for me, it brings down the “unique” side of the property and finally gives the (false?) impression that it plays in the same court as traditional restaurants having, in addition to their menu, developed a small menu of soufflés on the side.

After all, meat restaurants always have a fish or two on the menu for those who don’t want to accompany their friends (and vice versa for fish restaurants). But here the size of the “non soufflé” offer is such, and moreover with rather elaborate dishes, that it devalues the “core business” of the house.

It reminds me, to a lesser extent, of those restaurants that proclaim themselves “Pizza, Thai, Kebab”. No, when you have a specialty you stick to it otherwise it means you don’t have one.

Have you ever seen a menu of “standard” dishes in a creperie ?

The meal and the dishes

The house has two services in the evening: 7pm and 9pm (and by the way the reservation is almost compulsory, hoping to get a table by coming unannounced is like trying to win the lottery). We had a reservation for 7pm.

We wait a little in the passage. On the other hand, given the size of the room, if you are not seated at the table you are necessarily in the passage. We are taken in the second room which turns out, even to the 2/3 empty, much more noisy than the second.

The orders are taken. They immediately bring us bread and butter. Something to note because it is not obvious, the bread is very fresh and delicious.

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Here comes the starter A ham and cheese soufflé for me.

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The least we can say is that it is appetizing.

Once we get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s clear that the cheese has far outweighed the ham.

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It is light, tasty and creamy. Nothing to say…except that…

The starter arrived more lukewarm than hot. Nothing serious but we should not have waited any longer.

Then the consistency itself of the soufflé challenges me. Not only does the dough look pretty soft to me, but when you pierce it the soufflé doesn’t collapse like I’m used to seeing elsewhere.

Since then, some people have suggested that it could have been frozen (homemade in advance then frozen). I don’t believe in it too much but hey…it continues to challenge me.

In short, if the content is good, the container is a bit disappointing compared to what can be seen at the Auberge Bressane, which we will talk about soon. On the other hand it is far from being the same price.

Then comes a Henri IV soufflé with poultry and mushroom sauce.

The soufflé is brought to the table.

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Then the sauce is added.

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Same remark as for the starter on the “spongy” aspect of the thing.

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Otherwise once again the content is fine, unctuous, even if I would have liked a little more consistency (more poultry…).

Finally comes the dessert: the pear and chocolate soufflé.

Same ceremony with the arrival of the soufflé containing the pears….

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Surprise ! I was expecting a different dough, maybe thinner and definitely sweet. In fact, they obviously use the same one no matter if it is a sweet or a savory soufflé, the difference being only in the content (of course) and the napage.

We wait a little (too much?) before the arrival of the sauces which eventually show up.

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Unlike the starter and (to a much lesser extent) the main course, this is really hot

Without surprise it is good and very greedy. Another dish that can be enjoyed and that is easy to eat.

Oh I forgot, we had accompanied this dinner with a good Bordeaux.

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The atmosphere at Le Soufflé

I don’t think we can talk about atmosphere in such a property and that is not, in my opinion, what the customers are looking for. It seeks an authentic setting in line with the offer and the promise and it has it.

For the rest we are in a property without ostentation, a place where you come for the plate and nothing else and it is not bad.

On the other hand I found the room noisy and the fact that the tables are quite close together does not help. We followed without wanting it the conversation of the table next to us what dissuaded us besides to have one and to speak about too serious things.

The service

Apart from a bit of a wait for dessert it was quick but not rushed and the staff really friendly.

A small remark, however, because for me it is part of the service, the toilets would benefit from being monitored more regularly.

This is what I found before the end of the first service.

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The worst part is that they weren’t even dirty or smelly as the picture might suggest and that’s the problem. Even if they were totally “clean”, this scattering of towels and toilet paper gives the customer an image that is the antithesis of the real state of cleanliness and hygiene. Hygiene and presentation are two different things but they quickly become associated in people’s minds. It is not a problem of cleaning but of regular “monitoring” of the place because there it is not of the best effect.

Bottom line

It took me a long time to write this review. Not because it’s the first one but because of the conflicting feelings that existed between my memory and the notes I had taken.

Because finally apart from the setting, a little perfectible but it is only a question of personal taste it was rather good and fine and we had nothing to say about the service.

Or rather, the content was good and fine but there remains a little something that bothers me (rightly or not) with the soufflé itself. Aspect ? Spongy appearance ? Lack of finesse? A feeling that mixes a bit of everything.

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In the end, it was good but it leaves me with a taste of unfinished, because it was advertised so much that I was expecting great things from it and my expectations were too high? There must be some of that. After all we are not in a starred or a gastronomic restaurant but a good table in town, affordable moreover.

For the area and given the reputation of the place, the bill is anything but excessive (40 euros per head excluding drinks).

For this price there is nothing to complain about the service which is quite honest.

Le Soufflé is not a tourist trap as one may read or hear here and there. Of course there are a lot of tourists but it is as normal for them to tick the “soufflé” box in Paris as it is for us, French, to tick the Sushi box in Tokyo or the Schnitzel box in Vienna! At this price the accusation does not stand.

On the other hand, but criticism is easy when you are not a cook, I would have liked a more exclusive menu around the soufflé with more varieties of soufflés, and less dishes that could be found everywhere else and that unbalance the menu that I finally found less interesting than expected.

So yes, the property does the job even if I wasn’t as excited as I expected nor did I get the “Wow” effect I was expecting given what I had been told and what I had read. In the end, it was these rave reviews that did it the worst in the end.

I may have to return for a second opinion

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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