02 September 2013

idiot simple : grillé, 75002

If a successful restaurant concept aims to serve cuisine that inspires respect for its chefs, then, conversely, the hallmark of a successful fast food concept is cuisine that any idiot could throw together.

For the subtext of the business plans of any of Paris' recent crop of fast food concepts - Freddie's Deli, The Sunken Chip, and the subject of this post, Bourse-side haute kebab shop Grillé - is potential expansion. As satisfying as it is to provide tastemakers with baroque tasting menus in twenty-five seat rooms, any restaurateur knows the real money is made with well-branded empires of One Perfect Product : one recipe replicated and varied unto infinity with multiple locations, catering service, O Magazine features, book deals and frozen supermarket versions.

Grillé is a home-run by these standards. You can tell the place is eminently replicable because only way to ensure getting a kebab (or a "grillé," as they preciously have retitled their creation) without a thirty minute wait is to arrive precisely at noon when they open. You can tell because the product itself - a magazine writer's dream kebab, composed solely of luxury name-brand ingredients - is delicious. And you can tell because on the corner of rue Saint Anne and rue Saint Augustin, in its inaugural location, the product is being served and assembled in the most disorganised manner possible by inexperienced jokers.

This bodes well for the future of the concept. A single experienced cook could utterly transform Grillé's service. I took my friend G, a former sous-chef at Marlow & Sons, to witness the chaos, and he couldn't stop laughing.

Neither of us could believe that they weren't using tickets. Clients place orders, are handed a receipt, which they are then asked to hand back to the two chefs, who don't appear to speak the same language or ever talk, and are otherwise on total autopilot making batches of kebabs.*

They'd be much better off instituting a numbered receipt system, and double-printing them so the chefs could have a line and know what to assemble in advance. As it is, it's like watching the Keystone Cops.

Anyway, the only reason I'm posting this is I've had a lot of time in line at Grillé to think about it. The product is excellent: meats by Hugo Desnoyer, herbs by Annie Bertin, the wrap baked sur place from organic flour.

Some early reviews have complained about the small-ish size of the wraps, for the 8,50€ price tag, and their lack of meat relative to traditional kebabs. To me this reaction evidences the shortsightedness of many food writers, all of whom ought to be aware that the value of meat is unsustainably low in the minds of consumers precisely because consumers are used to shite industrial meat, i.e. what they receive in just about any other kebab in Paris.

Desnoyer's product, and by extension Grillé's product, does no more than restore to veal or pork or lamb (depending on the day) its true, unadulterated value. This is a laudable thing.

I would only complain about the fries, which are limp and greasy, nowhere near up to the standard of every other component in the take-away bag.

Grillé is the creation of Frédéric Peneau, an associé at Le Chateaubriand and Le Dauphin. This portfolio connection is reinforced in the restaurant's elegant blue & white décor, which was done by Clément Blanchet, the same Koolhaas alum credited for Le Dauphin's cacaphonous marble-and-mirror construction. Grillé's design is a vast improvement over the latter restaurant.

But it's all window-dressing in the end. A concept this indestructible could be hawked from a car trunk.

* I refuse to keep saying "grillé." It's like asking for a "venti" coffee.

15, rue Saint Augustin
75002 PARIS
Tél: 01 42 96 10 64
Métro: Bourse or Quatre-Septembre

Related Links:

A complaint about lack of meat in Grillé's kebabs at LeFooding.
A mostly unjustified bad review of Grillé at Mr.Lung. (To be fair, when he went, they were charging ,30€ for ketchup, which is stupid and would leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth.)
A rave about Grillé by François Simon at LeFigaro.
A rave about Grillé by Stéphane Leblanc at 20Minutes.

More recently opened Paris fast food: The Sunken Chip, 75010

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