Chez Meme Baguette Bistro: Le Sigh

June 29, 2013, 9:40 AM HST · Updated June 29, 8:13 PM
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Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef. She offers her frank assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.

By Vanessa Wolf

The Ratatouille Baguette. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Ratatouille Baguette. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

If you’ve ever looked out the window while getting  your tires rotated in Kihei, you may have noticed a cute little house across the street.

That’s Chez Meme Baguette Bistro, a delightfully renovated space with a dynamite view of the Goodyear Tire store.

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What was once a modest little cottage is now an inviting open floor space with vaulted ceilings, wood floors, and trade winds breezing past.

Ooh la la!

Stop for a moment to bask in the undeniable adorableness of the converted house, because you’ve just reached the summit of this mountain.

The Ratatouille Baguette ($10.95) contains a thyme-infused mix of peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions ensconced in a fresh, light baguette.

At first glance, the sandwich is small. At perhaps six inches en toto and a la carte, $11 feels excessive.

Still, topped with fresh goat cheese, the flavors mingle well. All in all it’s a commendable effort, minus the oil factor. What oil factor? Well, oil dribbling down your chin.  Oil slipping between your fingers. Oil splattering onto your shirt. Ooh la oily!

The accompanying Caesar salad ($4.50 or $2.95 with a sandwich) was a little light on dressing, but otherwise provided plenty of fresh romaine, parmesan cheese and croutons. This is a safe bet while you’re waiting to get your flat tire fixed.

The Bourguignon Baguette ($12.95) sounded magnifique: red-wine braised short ribs, caramelized onions, and horseradish.

Mais non.

Quel désastre!

The Bourguignon baguette. Caveat emptor. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Bourguignon baguette. Caveat emptor. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The short rib meat arrives shredded yet – mon dieu! – the two inch-long rubber band-esque pieces of tendon have not been trimmed off. This results in one piece of so-tough-it-can’t-be-chewed-up ick in every bite of sandwich.

In the words of the incomparable Jem and the Holograms: truly, truly, truly outrageous.

We ended up requesting a stack of paper napkins in order to have somewhere to spit everything out, but ultimately couldn’t face encountering any more rubbery tendons and abandoned ship just a few bites in.

Hoping for redemption, we returned for breakfast.

10:30 a.m.

Fifteen tables.

36 diners.

One waitress.

C’est impossible!

It’s the time travel of customer service and simply cannot be done. Take it from a former food service employee: there’s a limit to efficient table waiting physics and 36:1 exceeds it.

The Chevre omelet. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Chevre omelet. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Although she didn’t address us for a while, we did overhear her apologizing to all the tables around us: a domino effect with no end in sight.

In her defense, she was pleasant – and understandably frazzled – when she did interact with us, we just hope they get her some help beyond the friendly-but-unable­-to-take-your-order bus boy.

The Chevre Omelet ($10.95) had good flavor. With fresh tomatoes, goat cheese, and pesto enclosed in three organic eggs, the offering held a lot of promise. However, what arrived was entirely too thick and overcooked to the point of brownness.

S’il vous plaît Meme, consider grabbing a bigger (omelet) pan and turning down the heat.

The Montagnarde Omelet ($11.95) was described as containing Black Forest ham, potatoes, Gruyere and onions.

The Black Forest ham manifests as a tablespoon of ham chunks scattered about – mostly on the plate. Not what we envisioned.

The potatoes mentioned in the description didn’t make it to the party. Happily, the cheese and onion were present and accounted for, but couldn’t really compensate for the overcooked eggs and hard bits of pig.

The accompanying potatoes were greasy and cold, giving the impression that they’d been cooked earlier or even the day before.

All told, if we were to attempt to reverse engineer the Chez Meme manifesto, we imagine it might read as follows.

When the restaurant is packed, be certain to keep your back to new arrivals for a minimum of ten minutes. If you must to walk backwards to do this, then by all means walk backwards.

The Ham and Cheese Omelet. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Ham and Cheese (Montagnarde) Omelet. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

This allows guests to feel abandoned and shaky, yet titillated by the possibility that they might be part of an unfolding practical joke.

When the restaurant is empty, leave your guests to sit for an extended period in quiet contemplation and prayer. It is more important to feed their souls than their bellies.

Adjectives are vulgar. Potatoes are therefore potentially the most noble of dishes. In taste, texture, temperature, and presentation, potatoes should be purified of any discernible features.

Guests will show their appreciation for your culinary artistry by sending the food back mostly untouched.

You wouldn’t eat a Monet, would you?

If he is summoned, be certain the manager appears and jovially confirms the presence of the rubber band-like tendons in the meat.

Offer no explanations beyond these words “it’s back strap.”

Indeed, they are uneducated fools for even questioning. Make sure they realize it.

Under no circumstances should you suggest another selection, nor should you remove the item from their bill.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, when hiring wait staff, consider the rules of Highlander: there can be only one.

A beautiful remodel job with énorme room for improvement.

Le sigh.

Chez Meme Baguette Bistro is open Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Sundays until 2:00 p.m.

We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line – Vanessa(@mauinow.com)

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