Dining Out: Demarchelier




Photo courtesy of Canton Winer/ The Ram Demarchelier backs up the notion that the Upper East Side is a wasteland of pricey but tasteless restaurants.
Photo courtesy of Canton Winer/ The Ram Demarchelier backs up the notion that the Upper East Side is a wasteland of pricey but tasteless restaurants.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of my favorite places in New York. I simply love sharing a room with the likes of Picasso, Rembrandt and van Gogh. But wandering the seemingly endless grand halls of the largest art museum in the United States requires serious fuel. Unfortunately, the Upper East Side neighborhood surrounding the Met is somewhat of a food desert — especially for the cash-strapped college student.

Nestled into a comfy niche on East 86thStreet is Demarchelier, a cozy French bistro. Whenever my friend and I go to the Met, we are tempted by the chalkboard of delicious-sounding specials sitting outside the canopied little restaurant. Every week, it seems that the bistro has new specials scrawled on the chalkboard, each sounding more delectable than the last. While not an exception to the Upper East Side price range — the least expensive entrée is $20 — Demarchelier seemed worth the splurge.

After agonizing over the mouth-watering menu, my friend and I finally decided on our orders: I tried the rainbow trout, and my friend ordered the grilled salmon.

The trout looked far better than it tasted. Cooked à la meunière (a light sauce made with brown butter, chopped parsley and lemon), the dish embraced simplicity a bit too fondly. I found myself desperately dousing the fish with lemon juice in an attempt to give it some semblance of flavor. The only actively delicious part of the meal was the sautéed green beans that came as a side.

My friend was equally disappointed. Though the salmon looked beautifully pink against its bone-white plate, it was nothing special. My friend described the dish in one word: “boring.” She did, however, love her side of fresh-cut pommes frites (french fries). Unfortunately, a good side of fries does not make up for a so-so main dish.

Bland seems to be the common theme of the food at Demarchelier. Nothing tasted bad, but nothing we ate excited our taste buds. My friend and I give the food a resounding “meh.”

Then there was the service. Everyone was friendly enough, when you had their attention. Plus, to the satisfaction of the inner Francophile, the staff had delightfully French accents (and attitudes).

First, my friend and I awkwardly waited by the door for about 10 minutes before anyone approached us to take us to table. After finally being seated and deciding on what to order, my friend and I waited another half an hour for our waiter to reappear. Fortunately, neither of us was very hungry, but the wait was slightly frustrating nonetheless.

Despite an otherwise lackluster experience, we had a good time at Demarchelier. The restaurant was warm, colorful and comfortable. At no point did we feel rushed, and sitting in the restaurant was downright enjoyable. While the food was not outstanding, Demarchelier has a wonderful ambience for a nice conversation. But are you really willing to pay over $50 for a space to talk?

Demarchelier is an unexceptional restaurant at an all-too exceptional price. If you are hungry on the Upper East Side and you pass by Demarchelier, keep walking.