Wednesday, April 30, 2008

REVIEW: Le Crêperie- *** / $

Sacray Bluh! Eet eez juss lyke gaa Pairee! Perhaps not, but if all that concerns you about France is their food, La Crêperie is a great place to get some at some good prices. Quaint, cozy, full of character, and having a wide selection of crêpes, smoothies, and wraps, the charming hole-in-the-wall provides Thayer walkers with something to think about in place of the countless sandwich shops.

The inside is cozy... very cozy. Actually, you better hope the person next to you doesn't smell too bad, because you're going to get very intimate with them during your stay. I've never been here during a busy time, so I have no idea when the busy times are. I assume the lunch rush during the school year would be brutal, and perhaps an after-work crowd, but any other time is a steady flow. During these times, the space inside is more than enough to manage those who wish to sit and eat, and there are usually empty tables if you're one of them, but anything approaching busy could send the line clear out the door.

I liked the bohemian atmosphere. Quirky, friendly people work the register and prepare the food, and the music selection is firmly in the eclectic category. some French touches to the decor make you feel like you're there, such as a photo-realistic drawing of some gates (pictured), some French words, and very small tables. All in all, a pleasing interior that has both hole-in-the-wall charm and a nice layout.

The menu is anchored by, shocker, crêpes. They have a decently wide selection and you can easily request your own fillings. Both the sweet section and savory section have ten crêpes up for eating, and nine wraps bring up the rear. The wraps are all quality, but I have no idea why you'd be coming to a place called the Crêperie for wraps. They have a display of eight teas, which is more than many places (lazy bastards), and a small selection of sodas. It's here where I wish the smoothies were better, or they had coffee, because both would go wonderfully with the finished crêpes.

So yes, about those smoothies. They're not very good. The ones I've gotten are icy, sour, and watery in flavor. I don't know whether they're using too much ice, not enough yogurt, or just crap fruit, but the end result is sub-standard smoothies. You'd be much better served to head just down Thayer to Juniper and get one of their higher-quality concoctions. This leaves you with their selection of Soda and tea. And, wait, you still drink soda? You philistine. All judgment aside, the carbonation doesn't go very well with the sweet crêpes, so if you want a drink, go for the tea.

On to important bits. For all intents and purposes, the crêpes are a home run, or at least a double. Most of the recipes are pretty bulletproof (like Nutella and bananas could ever fail), and the crêpes themselves are of good quality and preparation. They're cooked rather thick, which may offend purists, but I enjoy my crêpes a bit thick. What I don't enjoy are the undercooked insides. Since the crêpes can't be burned, they can only be cooked for so long. As such, some of their more inventive fillings never have enough time to cook. Either pre-cooking, or a quick bake after folding would be enough, but as it stands, many of the vegetables hit the table undercooked and cool. A prime offender in this area was the Rita, with spinach, tomato, onion, mushroom, and feta. My favorite is the Lisa, with turkey, tomato, swiss, and a good béchamel sauce. My least was the Nina, a mixture of apples and brie that fell totally flat. Bland, bland, bland. The apples were overly tart and weak, and the brie wasn't very creamy or sweet.

The sweet crêpes are generally more pleasing, with sure-fire hits like the aforementioned Nutella-Banana combo, the Connie. Not healthy enough for you? The Creperie, with its mixed seasonal fruits is good, but at the mercy of the fruit quality, which the Nina proved can get dodgy. The Nori, with apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar would have been better if the apples had been softened, but they were hard and cool. If they had been softer, it would have been divine apple pie in a crêpe.

And finally, it must be mentioned for those who know crêpes, this place is actually a bit on the expensive side of the crêpe world. While the Betty, with butter and sugar, rings in at a pretty cheap $2.75, that's still nearly three dollars for twenty-five cents of batter, butter, and sugar. And from that point up, the prices rise quickly, with any fruit sending the price up to $4.55-$5.50. Roving crêpe stands in other major cities, like London, will throw two, maybe even three, of these bad boys at you for similar prices. Still, the prices are not nearly expensive enough to cry foul. They're tasty and worth the cash.

So does the Crêperie succeed? Certainly yes. Not like you have any choice, they're the only game in town. And that's about the only reason they can get away with that name. That would be like a cafe calling itself 'The Cafe.' Regardless, the crêpes are well-made and backed by simple, but good, recipes. Combined with the quirky atmosphere, they overcome crap smoothies and, at times, undercooked fillings. All things considered, you would do yourself a disservice by not stopping by, if for no other reason than this selection of crêpes is to be found nowhere else in Rhode Island.

La Crêperie: ***
Price range for two: $10-$18

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82 Fones Aly
Providence, RI 02906

Monday through Thursday 10:00am to 12:00am
Friday 10:00am to 2:00am
Saturday 9:00am to 2:00am
Sunday 9:00am to 12:00am

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