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Cafe de Paris

2801 Seventh Ave. South (Lakeview area, Southside)
Lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch. Bistro feel, with white tablecloths but casual feel. Owned by French cousins Serge Pambo and Jean Evens Estinfort, who frequently come out to chat with diners. Susan Swagler with City Scene gave high marks to beef carpaccio, baked goat cheese salad, grilled pork chops with zesty cornichon sauce, French onion soup, grilled beef tenderloin, fresh fish, apple tart, dessert crepes, savory stuffed crepes. However, she said there are things that could take the restaurant from good to great, including softer lighting, better bread, and pairing sides with entrees instead of leaving it up to the diner to choose. Read a lengthy thread of pros and cons at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/586355.

Posted on Monday, February 23, 2009 at 10:03PM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge | Comments15 Comments

Reader Comments (15)

After dining here I felt compelled to write a quick tag here. Cafe de Paris was probably the worst meal I've ever had in Birmingham. I'm not a negative guy and I'm not a food critic, but I've eaten and cooked a lot over the years. I will warn you this is no Chez Fonfon or Chez Lulu or any quality Birmingham restaurant (Highlands, Ocean, Hot and Hot, etc...). The drinks were not very good. It took hours to get food. My fish was quite overcooked (like chewing on rubber) and my guest's food was not edible. The tables around us also had long waits for food, and I noticed a lot of uneaten portions on their plates. In the restaurant's defense, they had an overwhelming crowd the night we went. Hopefully, the restaurant will hit its stride and the food will improve, but for now I warn you to stay away. (Originally posted 2/14/2009)

March 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterewpeter

I could not disagree more with the above reader's comments. A single bad experience is not enough to keep me from visiting a restaurant again and encouraging diners to stay away from a particular restaurant does not help to improve the place, nor does it help it to survive. It is regrettable that Café de Paris stumbled the first few months after its opening; it has since regrouped and is a welcome new addition to the Birmingham scene.

This past Saturday evening two friends and I visited Café de Paris for a birthday dinner and had a perfectly delightful evening. We were seated quite quickly and our waiter appeared promptly.

We started our evening with an order of carpaccio which was the best I've had anywhere. Served spicy arugula, a dressing of pesto vinaigrette, and topped with shaved Parmesan, the paper-thin sliced raw beef had the consistency of butter.

We were all in a seafood mood this evening; we ordered the salmon and grouper--both pan seared with a white wine cilantro sauce--as well as the mahi-mahi--breaded with cornflake flour and pan seared. All three dishes were quite excellent; the salmon was quite flavorful and melted in our mouths, the grouper was crisp and tender, and the mahi-mahi was the best dish by far with the cornflake crust giving it a unique texture. The mahi-mahi was also served with a dusting of Spanish paprika (pimetón, which differs from its Hungarian cousin in that it has a distinctly smoky flavor) on the edge of the plate which--when paired with the fish--gave it a barbecue flavor.

For sides we all ordered the cabbage which was simmered in beef broth and seasoned with cumin--which made us think it a more North African dish than French but was our favorite by far--a steamed vegetable medley, and a rice Pilaf--which, regrettably, was quite forgetful.

For desert we shared the Fondant au Chocolat--truffle chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream--and the crème brulee au romarin--rosemary custard topped with browned sugar. Both were excellent and the crème brulee was especially delightful with the rosemary giving it a slight but distinct resinous flavor which was quite divine.

While the wine selection is still a bit limited there are a few--and quite affordable--gems to be found. We shared a bottle of Chateau Fleur de Rigaud Bordeaux with our appetizer and the Pierre Sparr Pinot Blanc--which was a crisp light white with a grassy bouquet; a perfect accompaniment for fish--with our entrées.

Throughout the evening our courses appeared promptly, our waiter was attentive, knowledgeable, and helpful, and the experience pure delight. We found the space warm and cozy and the environment conducive to conversation and good times.

Café de Paris is a new favorite and we are sure to return many times.

March 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarrie Limerick

I just came from Cafe de Paris for lunch. I wish that I had read ewpeter's comments before I went. I disagree with Barrie comments. As far as French restaurants go, it is definitely not in the league with Chez Fonfon or Cafe Dupont. Then again, that probably should be expected because Café de Paris is at a different price point.

The interior was nice, but it was a little hot during lunch time and it was not even crowded. I had a Seafood Crepe and Braised Cabbage. It was not even hot. I thought that I will try to eat it anyway because it is a new relatively new restaurant. The flavors were not good and I ended up seasoning my food at the table. The dessert was the worst. The Rosemary Creme Brulee did not sit well with anyone at my table. Some flavors just do not work together. Although I did not send my food back, I wish I had. I was trying to be polite and wait to speak with the Chef Jean privately. My mistake.

I spoke with the Chef /Owner to express my opinion after lunch; he did not even try to act like he cared. He said that he could not please everyone. He should not have asked me what was wrong if he did not want to hear it. I think the Chef should go back to school and learn a little hospitality and restaurant etiquette. I might have considered going back to try something different if the Chef/Owner had be a little nicer. Chef Jean should consider letting his cousin run the front of house. My co-worker even commented that she was disappointed in the way the Chef handled the situation. On a positive note, my waitress was really nice. However, I definitely will not be back and I will be sure to share my experience with my friends and acquaintances at work.

April 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgia Peach

I feel compelled to defend Café de Paris against Georgia Peach's comments on 4/23/09.

First all, no, Café de Paris is nothing like Chez Fonfon or Café Dupont and thankfully so. It is nice to have a little variety in the types dining experiences available in Birmingham. Café de Paris is just as unique as Chez Fonfon or Café Dupont and I love the bistro feel as well as the combination of Parisian entrees with Southern vegetables that are prepared with unique twists.

Additionally, I am a bit confused as to why this reader is comparing Café de Paris to Café Dupont. Though the chef of Café Dupont uses French, Creole, and Southern techniques, as far as I know, Café Dupont has never held any pretention of being a French restaurant.

As to the seafood crepe, I am unfamiliar with the reader's experience but it has been my experience that crepes are typically served at room temperature if not chilled.

Additionally, I am truly sorry that the rosemary crème brûlée did not sit well with the reader or their tablemates. I find the desert to be fabulous and a simple Google search on "rosemary crème brûlée" will yield one with a little more than 300 variations on the rosemary crème brûlée recipe, leading one to think that more than a few people think so as well.

As an aside, rosemary is distinctly well suited for baking. It is easily integrated into recipes for cookies, cakes, crisps, cobblers, pies, and creamy custards such as crème brûlée and flan. Like lemon zest or ginger, rosemary focuses the elements in fruit that are not sweet while tempering the sugars and lends a depth of flavor to the dish.

Therefore, might I humbly suggest that the reader's unsatisfactory dining experience was due to an inexperience palate and no fault of the restaurant? I can only assume that the chef's lack of patience with the reader was due to the same.

On a recent Friday evening, two friends of mine and I dined at Café de Paris and had, yet again, a wonderful and delightful evening.

We ordered the pan seared salmon (again) and found that it (yet again) simply melted in our mouths like butter. We also ordered the duck confit--which was absolutely succulent--and the flattened chicken breast--which was simply bursting with flavors. Our vegetables--steamed cabbage, green beans, and baked sliced sweet potatoes--where perfection.

For desert we (again) shared the rosemary crème brûlée and (yet again) found it simply divine.

The only criticism I could offer is that the bar service was slow but in the restaurant's defense, the place was quite hopping for an early Friday evening--we dined at 6 in order to make an 8 o'clock theater date--so I cannot quite fault them.

Café de Paris remains a personal favorite and I am sure it will for many years to come.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarrie Limerick

I ate at the café recently and see potential, but was somewhat underwhelmed by what was presented. First off, there were two menus, one for dinner and another with small plates in the $5 range. I wonder the wisdom of a bistro having $25 entrees and also much cheaper fare. It seems to me that a more French approach would be a range of plates for $5 to $25, depending on the food cost, and all on one menu. This should be organized in a way that makes sense to those who want several courses, those who want to munch on several appetizers, or those who want a snack like a sandwich, soup, or salad. There also seemed to be a dearth of salads to choose from, two if memory serves. The food was both good and disappointing. I started with a salad topped with goat cheese wrapper in puff pastry. The cheese was good but did not benefit from the raspberry stuff drizzled on the top, rather it just made the pastry soggy. If they had wanted the contrast of sweet with the savory cheese I would have incorporated it into the dressing. It was also disappointing that the bulk of the salad was mostly comprised of standard chopped green leaf mix - a bit pedestrian. The house vinaigrette was quite good, I thought, but it was only applied to the top and thus I had to eat most of the salad as raw greens. Not a $14 salad in my opinion. I then tried an item from the happy hour menu, a $5 beef sandwich. The sliced sandwich bread was huge, much larger than the slice of beef. The meat was tough, but very well seasoned and cooked as ordered. The accompanying fries, however, were a bit soggy. I was given the option for “crispy” fries and neglected to indicate a preference, so perhaps those are better. Regarding the sandwich, I think they would do much better with a traditionally French thin “minute” steak served on a small thin loaf. The creme brulee perfumed with rosemary I had for dessert was excellent in taste, but the custard was watery. One of the people I dined with really like the fresh tomato soup and the other spoke fondly of the dessert crepe. The wait staff was attentive, and the two wines we ordered were good and affordable, although I would have liked to see more variety, especially in the French offerings. One of the chef owners came to our table not just to greet us but also to say goodbye. Very nice, all in all, but one visit would have sufficed. To conclude, I thing the place has potential, but they need to find their identity, their niche, and do this very well.

July 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMcKnight

My husband and I ate lunch at Cafe de Paris. We had the Croque Monsieur at the Crepes. Our food was tasty and the staff could not have been more congenial...but the service was a bit slow. The cafe is in an excellent location yet the aesthetics and organization seems disjointed. This place has great potential, it just needs to "get it together."

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSmith

I have been going there for Happy Hour and have been enjoying it. You go in and meet the owners at the door and they also cook your food. Serge and Evens are so nice. Decided to take my mother for lunch and let her meet everyone and she enjoyed it. So i decided to book a table and have a family birthday party and they put out a 3 course meal for us what more can you ask for it was all my mother wanted. Serge even song for her in French that was right up her alley.

October 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterswetelixir

Have you ever tasted a dream? Well, I have! Have you ever indulged in Paris, France while sitting in Birmingham, AL? Well, I have! I have tasted the essence of Paris; savored the sheer heavenly pastries of Authentic French Cuisine while sitting in Birmingham, AL. You, too, can achieve the same sheer pleasure, absolute joy and delight...by visiting & dining at the Cafe de Paris Restaurant in the Lakeview area of Birmingham. My family and I were royally treated and delighted by the superb service; freshly and divinely prepared meals; and the "to die for" decadent desserts at the Cafe de Paris. You owe it to yourself, family, and friends to take a walk on the Champions Elysse and stop by to let Evens and Serge spoil you with their French culture, charm and customer-delightful service.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

I recently attended Cafe de Paris for dinner with my husband and my sister, who was visiting from out of state. I wish I would have read both ewpeter's and Georgia Peach's comments beforehand. It would have saved us from absolutely the worst dining experience any of us have ever had!

The food was okay, but I've definitely had better. We ordered the pyramid de crab as an appetizer. It was cold, flavorless and was barely enough to feed one person. As entrees, we chose the mahi-mahi, sole, and beef tenderloin. Both fishes were tough and the vegetables were soaked in a puddle of oil. The beef tenerloin, ordered medium rare, was overcooked.

They were obviously understaffed, with only 3 servers, waiting on 2 large parties, in addition to the regular guests. Our waitress was pleasant, but non-existant and clueless about the menu items. We finished an entire bottle of wine before we ever received our salads or a bread basket (at least an hour, if not longer).

They tried to win us over by offering free desserts. Hesitant, we accepted and ordered coffee to compliment. The desserts weren't anything worth mentioning and the coffee was cold and stale. We had nearly finished our dessert before receiving fresh, hot coffee.

Very unhappy and dissatisfied by our experience, we chose not to prolong the situation by complaining. Five days later and still fuming over a nearly $200 dinner bill, I mailed a letter of complaint to the owners, requesting a refund. Although I knew it was unlikely I would receive one, I at least hoped for a sincere apology.

Serge called me after receiving the letter and was nothing short of insulting. He patronized me for having never been to France and therefore, not knowing what it was like to dine in an authentic, french restaurant. He stated that if I wanted fast food, we should have gone to McDonald's.

He literally laughed at me over the discussion of a refund and said waiting 5 days to complain was too long to make such a request. Not once did he ever apologize for the poor experience we had. Finally he said, if we didn't like it, we didn't have to return. Needless to say, we won't be, and I highly caution anyone else to do so!

October 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin

It’s not great but not nearly as bad as "Erin" makes it out to be, and they have been nothing but nice to me the 6-10 times I have eaten there for lunch or dinner.

October 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDax

Needed-grills/ovens that cook rare and medium. I only got well over cooked entrees. Needed servers with experience. cooking does'nt make one a good restaurant manager with medium pr skills. I'll try again after they close 7th Avenue betwee 27th and 29th streets for Southside Stages.

June 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbee gee

My husband and I stopped in for a late dinner 6/10/10. The place was deserted and the food was bad. I had eaten there about a year ago and enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. Not this time. My husband's veal scallopine was very overcooked. I asked for a chicken crepe (which is only on their brunch menu). The waiter told about the upcharge as a dinner item but didn't say they couldn't prepare it. The crepe arrived covered in melted cheese rather than a sauce (yuck!), the french fries were limp and oversalted, and the carrot souffle tasted off. A really unenjoyable meal. We won't be going back!

July 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

I have had all of the following bad cafe'de Paris experiances rolled in to one tonight.I have wanted to dine there for quite sometime.... very disappointing
The only thing French here is the name of the resturant and the language being spoken in the kitchen.
The service while engratiating and apologetic to everyone in the resurant tonight (all of 4 tables one of wich came in and walked out unserved before we were even served). I felt sorry for the waitstaff but they clearly had no idea what they were doing.
One of the diners went to talk to the chef and was as nice as he possibly could be, but was promptly yelled at, and told never to return!
The food was an Hour and 20 minute to get to the table.and it was not good. The bread was horrible and YES I HAVE INDEED BEEN TO PARIS. This was not even close. They could get Real french baggets at V Richards and do better!
My Beef Tenderloin was raw. My dates dover sole was soggy and tastless. The salad was from a bag from "the pig" with a little sald dressing sprayed on top,I think? There is no excuse for this resuraunt! It should close now!
For the price I could have had a fabulose meal at any of the above metioned resturaunts Highlands, FonFon, Dupont, Hot & Hot, and left with change in my pocket!!! This was the worst dining experiance I have had in Birminhgham in 10 years and to top it all off the chef talking to a diner like he did is simply unbelievable.the yelling continued from the kitchen and was directed at the waitress, I think, but they need to look at themselves. All we wanted, was to get out of there and I assure you we will not be back! EVER! Gag!!!
The arrogance of the cooks (because they are NOT chefs) will certainly lead to the demise of this fraud.

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjeanclaude

WORST meal/experience ever!

I don't know how this place stays in business. The empty dining room on a Friday night should have been our first clue.

The second should have been the menu that was full of misspellings - both in English and in French. (e.g. glasse for ice cream? nuh uh). They would have done better to use Babelfish to translate.

Then we were given dirty wine glasses, but the kicker was that the waitress had NO CLUE how to open a wine bottle. We finally had to take it from her, as she was shredding the cork to pieces.

The carpaccio was just okay. That probably wasn't ruined since it wasn't cooked.

The bread was terrible. As a previous poster noted, a baguette from just about any grocery store in town would have been better than the stale bread brought to our table.

The entrees were disgusting. Not even so-so. The steak au poivre (also misspelled on the menu), was not a decent cut of meat - it looked to be stew meat or a sirloin (at best), that was sliced thin and cooked well-done when ordered medium rare. The fries were raw and dripping with oil.

The Chicken Milanese looked to be breaded with cereal flakes, and was also greasy - it seemed as if it was deep fried, rather than pan fried.

Even the bread pudding was bad. And the profiteroles seemed to be frozen puff pastry with hershey's syrup on top, and some store bought ice cream with rosemary mashed in.

We're not food snobs, but we have dined in France, and this was worse than the cheapest cafe we've ever been to. I can't think of ANY restaurant anywhere where I've had a worse meal. Not worthy of a $20+entree for sure.

Such a shame, because we love Lakeview, and wanted to like this restaurant. Birmingham has some gems, but this is not one of them.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterwjw

huazi Look before you leap. First think, then act.-Bebe Pumps icon

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBebe Pumps icon

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