I knew I shouldn't have. I really did. But sometimes after a few too many glasses we all make stupid dining plans. Last night's was particularly disastrous, even more so coming from a restaurateur that I've been frequenting for a long time.
I've been going to Madame Shawn's discreet little Thai bistro for a few years now, and although I know it's not the most authentic , and that their staff seem to change mysteriously with each ship coming in from Bangkok, I've always been able to trust their food quality and consistency. In the last couple of years, Madame Shawn has built a sort of empire, with new establishments popping up in the upper Marais, the 11th, the 16th and two others near her original restaurant near the Canal Saint Martin.
The most recent opening is Ari, in what was formerly Le Sporting, a sort of fusion place with Asian, French and Asian/French specialties. The staff weren't really able to explain the concept, (or even speak much French to tell the truth) , but none of the dishes seemed to be done correctly with a general confusion pervading the room when dishes showed up. We probably should have left at this point, except that the lady who runs the place we knew from the original Madame Shawn was so happy to see us, the terrace was full of apparently happy, good looking people ,and those four pints....
We decided to keep it simple. I took the green papaya salad with dried beef. Why, I don't know, but Madame Shawn's original Som Tam is my favorite in Paris. Here it was a total miss. Not spiced enough, and covered in strips of blackened, tough meat. The Asian "Brie burger" proved to be pretty much inedible, dry, piled too high with ingredients to eat, and accompanied by frozen potato wedges.
Funnily enough, throughout the meal, images of Kitchen Nightmares were going through my head, with Chef Ramsey lurching off to the bathroom to retch. That feeling was reinforced when seeing a kitchen staff member leave men's room without washing hands.
So sorry Madame Shawn, with all due respect, there's no saving this place in it's current form. Advice: Reduce the menu drastically to simple "exotic" snacks, chic comfort foods, crank the ambient music, and turn this trainwreck of a concept into a Canal friendly lounge that'll pay the bills along the line and keep your rep unsallied.