Friday, July 4, 2008

La Coupole

For our anniversary, and thanks to the generosity of Rex's parents, we had a Long French Dinner at La Coupole, one of the most famous brasseries of the Montparnasse district. Founded in 1927, it was frequented by artists and writers from Jean Cocteau and Man Ray to Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. The interior is done in an Art Deco style with columns decorated (for about a meter's length between the capitals and the ceiling) by local artists, back when "local artists" meant Modigliani, Leger, Picasso, and Matisse. On the walls currently is an exhibition of photographs of the sculptural work of Niki de Saint Phalle, along with photographs of the artist herself.

The food at La Coupole is classic French brasserie food, with a few specialties left over from the politically incorrect 1920s (when Josephine Baker and her bananas danced in the basement dance-hall). The most embarrassing of these was the lamb curry, which was served by a South Asian waiter in costume (kurta pajama, scarves, turban, etc.) from a rolling cart. His only job was apparently to serve the curry when it was ordered, as we watched him stand on the sidelines of the enormous dining room (said to seat 450, and full the night we went) for three hours.

We had champagne and foie gras de canard, and I had an entrecote of veal with chanterelles and gratin dauphinoise (a rich potato gratin). Rex had the Chateaubriand steak, which is part of the tenderloin, with frites. For dessert we split the crepes suzette, which was more than enough after all that rich food. It was all delicious, though you wouldn't want to do it too often.

Because it is a brasserie, the dress code is fairly casual, though one can dress up if one feels so inclined. We did, because we were celebrating, but we saw everything from jacket and tie to T-shirt and shorts. A white-haired couple across the way were deep in animated conversation, he in a jacket and tie with mitered French cuffs and she in a classic 1940s-style dress, and her hair in a French roll. She looked like Lauren Bacall. Next to us were two men in T-shirts and cut-off shorts, carrying backpacks and saying little.

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