Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Other dinner plans fell through last week, and we were looking for a bargain, so we couldn't resist when we stumbled upon Wadja's 14€ menu.
Hold your horses, the 14€ menu includes only the entrée and the main dish and you only have two choices for each. The night we went this was outside the restaurant:But I've got to warn you, what you see is not what you get (I'll explain the little switcharoo in a second).

This daily 14€ menu is the reason to go to Wadja; otherwise, it gets too expensive way too quickly. Main dishes start at 20€, and I think appetizers were in the 10€ ballpark, as are desserts. I'm assuming the big gap between the set menu and the à la carte items is because the set menu is a loss leader - I'm sure I'm not the only one who made reservations based on the low price alone. Once you arrive, however, and see that there are only two choices and nothing you like, I bet many customers give up and order what they want regardless of price.

I didn't feel like paying 25€+ for dinner, so I sucked it up and went with the set menu even though it was a choice of two lesser evils for the entrée - tongue terrine or raw sea bream. For the main dishes, the sautéed veal's liver was immediately crossed out, leaving the roasted cannelet. The tongue terrine was actually *ok* as long as I could keep the image of tongue out of my mind. It was topped with a garlic and onion vinaigrette, and came with a mesclun salad. The vinaigrette was strong - and yummy - enough to allow me to finish about 1/3 of my terrine, but as soon as I noticed tastebuds I had to turn it over to my boyfriend, who has never met a terrine he didn't like.

We had ordered glasses of red wine to go with our main dish, so when I noticed the waiter editing the menu as we were eating our appetizers, I wondered what was going on. I asked him about it and he responded that yes, indeed, the menu had changed. No more no less. We assumed that they had run out of the duck and had replaced it with fish for those who had ordered after us (even though it was quite early in the evening - we got there at 8:15 pm). A few minutes later he brought out our glasses of red wine (I think it was a St-Emilion), and what do you know, instead of the cannelet we thought we had ordered, we were served...fish! Imagine our surprise. I was happy; I love fish. My boyfriend was disappointed, to say the least, and also slightly peeved that they didn't ask us about changing the wine (the good Frenchman that he is, it pains him to have unmatched dishes and wine such as red wine with fish).

The fish was served over mashed potatoes with leek, which were Thanksgiving-worthy, and surrounded with a bouillabasse gravy, equally Thanksgiving-worthy. I was satisfied but the switcharoo definitely put a damper on the meal. I was going to write that Wadja would be a good place if it was around the corner from where I lived - that way I could always see if the 14€ menu caught my eye, and on the days that it did I would eat there. But if you can't even trust what's written on the menu because they'll change it in the middle of the meal without telling you? It becomes a bit less appealing. Even if you don't mind spending 40€ minimum for 3 courses, there are much better choices in this price range.
(Here's the full menu for you to think it over)
The wine selection is good, and we learned (after we had ordered) that they also have "vins au compteur", like at Louis Vins, where you only pay for what you drink. The interior is cute and cozy, and the walls are full of great prints that are all about wine or food including their advertisements for their annual Beaujolais Nouveau tastings. I don't think I'll be going back, but that shouldn't stop you from trying it out if you're in the area. I guess that's one way to separate restaurants - those that are worthy of a metro/cab ride vs. those that you should only go to if it's convenient or nearby. I consider Wadja to be the latter.

Wadja Restaurant
10, rue da la Grande-Chaumière
75006 Paris
01 46 33 02 02

p.s. Strange sidenote: It was full of Americans, which is mystifying because 1° it's not in an especially "touristy" section of Paris 2° I've only seen it mentioned in a French guide (Routard). As we were leaving (around 10 pm), the Frenchies started trickling in, but the majority were still Americans. Can anybody explain this? I know that more Americans are in the city because of spring break, but I had never heard of this place until I bought the routard guide. Is it featured in Fodor's or Frommer's?



le Meg said...

I may be able to explain it: It's on the Patricia Wells list of best inexpensive bistros. It's also in the Time Out guide (both print and online, I think).

I too have been twice-lured by the cheap menu but have never actually ordered anything off it.

I get the impression that the staff there are a little strung out on tourists. The last time I was there, it was full of Japanese visitors clutching guidebooks. It's not actually so very far from Montparnasse, which is a major tourist haunt.

I think I'm done with Wadja for a while, but it's not terrible.

LeRoy said...

Spent far too much money on this major disappointment. We arrived in a rain storm, 10 minutes before opening, and we're sent away. Setting is nice bistro. Entre of Auvergne beef was nice, but then the Agneau, a la care, came, and was so tough and unflavourful. It would have needed a chisel to get the meat off the bone. 27 euros for something awful. No one asked our opinion.
Staff was weird. Male waiter was very nice, but woman was cheeky, and made remarks about clients after they left. I think they are sick of tourists as well. It would be nice if they at least provided good food. This was the worst meal in 16 days of good food in France. The worst.