Not cookie cutter, but not quite original either
L’emporte-pièce is a modest restaurant in almost every respect: a small menu centered around simple fare like grilled cheese sandwiches, brownies and smoothies, each with a modern twist, and an equally small wine list, all available to go. Though, considering the tiny space it inhabits — only six seats inside (all taken when I was there) and maybe double that outside on the summer terrace — a take-out-friendly menu seems like the smart way to go.
The concept starts looking a bit more ambitious, technologically, when you learn that the menu is supposed to be updated daily on Twitter (it isn’t, judging by the latest tweets), and you’re allegedly able to place orders via text message (I didn’t try, and having never been to the place before, I wouldn’t have wanted to). But, at least they’re aiming to be cutting-edge, even if they’re not quite there yet.
On the menu the day that I went (and for at least a week prior), the choices of main dish were paëlla with chorizo and clam, salmon gravlax, and échine de porc (pork loin) with grilled vegetables. I would have chosen the paëlla, but they had run out (good thing I showed up in person), so I opted for the pork instead. It came in a convenient plastic container — the kind of thing you’d find in the ready-made meal section of your supermarket — so I decided to save it for the next day’s lunch. I did have a tiny bite, and it was OK, though, the dish hadn’t been heated up yet.
To satisfy more immediate hunger, I decided to go with my gut and order a pair of grilled cheese monstrosities: a massive goat cheese and merguez sandwich for me, and apple and cheddar for my wife. As side dishes, there were three salads to choose from: pesto pasta salad, potato salad and yellow beets with almonds; I picked the latter two.
The sandwiches had cooled off somewhat by the time I got home, but they heated up nicely in the oven. Unfortunately, goat cheese doesn’t melt very well — and the chef doesn’t skimp on dairy in the least— so the creaminess and somewhat puckering tartness of the cheese was the main texture and taste, overpowering even the merguez. My wife’s sandwich, dripping gobs of delicious, semi-sharp white cheddar and paired with thick chunks of cooked apple was wonderful.
Unfortunately, both salads were disappointments. The beet salad, which had a whitish coating, possibly cream cheese, was not particularly good, and the potato salad, which appeared to have specks of bacon in it, but tasted vageuly of smoked salmon, was downright gross.
On the upside, since I ended up having to wait over 20 minutes for my order to be prepared (there was only one cook and one server, both of whom were exceedingly nice, so points for that), I got an extra-large square of pineapple pound cake, heavy with butter and tropical fruity goodness.
Also, the whole thing cost $38 (tax was included in the listed prices), which in my book, makes L’emporte-pièce worth a second look.