Dame Tartine is in the Marais, right on the corner of the Pompidou Centre (a post on the Musee Pompidou soon to come). So once you leave there, head straight over to Dame Tartine and have dinner. You won’t be sorry.
At Dame Tartine, you’re in a row of restaurants, sitting on the edge of this modern kiddie reflecting pool that is charming at night, overlooked by this giant playful image of what I think is Mr. Pompidou on the wall. Everything is lit, and you can see apartments well into the distance. Lovely in a way few cities could ever be. Paris somehow manages to be expansive and intimate at the same time.
The tartines here are light and delicious, and the servings are generous. I had the marlin tartine, which was outstanding and came with a little side salad that was equally outstanding. This for 11.50E. The peach pancake dessert was also good. Not fabulous, but quite good.
But what really sets this place apart is the atmosphere, and that’s because of the service. I’ve been to this restaurant twice now, and both times I had the same two waiters. Lucas, a young, tall cute guy with dark hair who is totally friendly in a nice way. Not ingratiating or smarmy, just cheerful and amusing. And there’s also another equally friendly guy, probably in his 40s. I’ll say he’s slim and hair-challenged, just for identification purposes. Between the two of them, they are waiting on 50 tables, which is insanely busy. Just crazy. But they never get flustered, they get everything right, they help each other out, and they still manage to be totally fun. They work hard.
Lucas sets me up at a little table outside. (Everyone sits outside here in the summer, pretty much, despite the many smokers). He gives me a menu. A short while later, he plops down in the chair next to me, and says, “Dites-moi.” (Tell me.) In other words, he’s ready for my order. Cute. For a moment, I find myself wishing I were a 25-year-old girl again. I have no trouble ordering the tartine, but I struggle a little with the wine because I don’t know how to say “dry” in French, and I don’t have my translation dictionary with me tonight. So I try “pas trop de dulce.” Unfortunately, dulce is not sweet, it’s sucre. He looks confused, rightfully, and realizes I’m not French. (Okay, he probably realized it sooner but was too polite to say so.) He says something to the effect of, “you might as well tell me in English.” Then he says, “I have two wines that go very well with the marlin, and neither of them are sweet,” and proceeds to name them for me. Both waiters speak very good English. After he leaves the table, I remember that I know the word for dry. Sec. Arrggh. Dulce is “sweet” in Spanish.
My wine is out shortly and the tartine is probably on the table in about 10 minutes. It’s as good as I remembered. And the wine is not sweet. I sit there and enjoy the meal, relaxing on a lovely night, thinking about the Picassos and Matissses and Giacomettis I had just seen. Both waiters know the exact art of when to approach and, just as importantly, not to be there so much as to be a pain. They never hurry anyone, and everyone seems to be a friend. The 50 tables must be hard, since most Parisians do separate checks. No worries, these two have got it.
You’ll find that dinner service is generally slower here, by design. I love that. In America, we are in too much of a hurry. Rushing spoils everything. What have you ever enjoyed that you were stressed out and rushing through? Nothing. This is especially true of a meal. Sit down. Relax. Savor the food. Chew. Have an actual conversation with someone. The French get this concept. They nail it.
To give you an idea of the atmosphere at Dame Tartine, tonight there was a guy who broke a wine glass. The seating is very tight, so it was loud and everybody in the whole place heard it. For a moment, there was an awkward silence. But both waiters came out from their break and laughed, then boisterously applauded the guy. One of them even started happily singing. Then a few of the other customers joined in. It was absolutely delightful. What a great idea, instead of embarrassing him and making him feel guilty like back home. This congenial atmosphere is the work of these two guys. No other reason; they just set the tone.
I decide to go for dessert, and without my asking, Lucas brings me an English menu. He just noticed and thought it would be easier. I usually try to struggle through the French menu as a learning tool, but I appreciate the gesture. Good service. My dessert is also out quickly.
I decide I’m going to attempt a compliment to the waiters in French. When I ask for the check, I ask how to say “only” in French. Lucas tells me. Then I proceed to tell him I’d been in Paris for a month, and this was the only restaurant I had been to twice. He gently corrects a mistake on my part, but he gets the gist. I then continue and say in French, “that is because the tartines are delicious, but also because you and your friend have given me very good service.” He smiles and looks pleased. He says thank-you, and calls the other waiter over, tells him what I’ve said, and the other waiter thanks me, too. Then he says, “How much longer are you here?” I say another month. Then he says, “30 more reasons to come back to see us.” Aww. Tres adorbs.
Even though the tip is included in the bill, I throw a couple of extra Euros on the table before I leave. If you go there, do the same. The whole reason you go to Paris is for the experience, and these guys are definitely creating an experience for you. Not to mention they work hard. I don’t know if there really is a Dame who owns Dame Tartine, but if so, Madame, you ought to give these two guys a raise. They are definitely adding to your profit. Best waiters in all of Paris.
Dame Tartine: Highly recommended. Metro: Hotel DeVille (1)