Wednesday 30 July 2008

At Bento Cafe, You Can Watch TV and Crap at the Same Time, Sort Of

Bento Cafe
121 S Orange Ave
Ste 130N
Orlando, FL USA

Where is it?

This restaurant is shaped much like a fat "L," in that the entrance and order line form the thin top to the letter and the dining area forms the fat bottom or base.

To find the bathrooms from the entrance, head right, into the dining area, and then turn left down the center of the dining room, heading towards the back wall. Once there, look for a small opening to an enclave containing a wall with several ornate cutouts in it -- the cutouts are all illuminated with blue light, making a decorative design. The toilets are to each side of that light pattern wall -- men's to the left, ladies' to the right.

What's it like?

This hip Japanese-inspired hot spot boasts a slick interior filled with glowing blue lights, pumping house music, ornate wall hangings and lamps -- in many ways it feels like a dance club crossed with a Vegas eatery.

And that's certainly the vibe: While there is a full menu and the place draws thick crowds at lunch, the emphasis here seems to be more on socializing than dining -- think of it like an ultralounge take on the sushi restaurant. Visitors line up at a counter to order, find a table and then get their food delivered to them. The line-up is reminiscent of the line you enter to enter a dance club, if you think about it.

The food here offers both unique and traditional Asian fare, with an emphasis on noodle bowls and -- as the name suggests -- bento boxes. Dishes range from Thai-inspired curries to sushi to udon to bulgogi to boba tea and then some. The food itself is decent and well-priced, considering the portion size, though I must admit it's not outstanding -- certainly not in the league of, say, Nona Sushi, Shiki on the Beach or the wonderful Rangetsu -- and in a way the place feels more like a spot to hang out than eat. Still, for a moderately priced lunch with fresh ingredients, I was satisfied by the offerings.

The toilets are indeed some of the most stylish I've seen outside of Vegas. While they do not rival the design, artfulness and luxury of Sensi or Okada, they do provide a unique, almost nightclub-inspired atmosphere filled with hi-tech touches. This is the sort of bathroom I expected Shari Sushi to have, really. However, like Shari Sushi, it also has a few misgivings -- resulting mostly from trying to hard to make it stylish and not hard enough to make functionality its core.

The facilities are roomy one-baggers. The sink is to the far right of the room, the toilet in the back left corner, a trash can in the front right corner and a red door separating you from the dining room (a la Anmol, only not quite as stately).

It's a dimly lit (though not as dim as Shari Sushi) and clean environment, though I did find some mis-thrown paper towels here and there, including one on top of the trash can lid. Clearly the person who tossed it didn't want to bother himself with picking it up and actually opening the trashcan to dispose of it properly (clearly, the beautiful people can't be bothered with beautifying anything but themselves), and as a result I got to perform that wonderful duty. Thanks, man. I hope one day I can return the favor.

The walls and floor here are covered in black tile, the toilet, sink and urinal are white porcelain and seem to work a similar decorative angle as what you'll find at Sensi or Okada, only the set up is much homier here and not nearly as Zen-like. There is an automatic paper towel dispenser set above and to the right of the sink and a soap dispenser nearby.

The walls are bare, save for one important item, which is the bathroom's highlight: There is a small flat panel TV set into the wall near the toilet.

I like the inclusion here as it offers you something to look at while you're doing your business. Sadly, because the TV is in the front left corner of the bathroom, it makes watching it difficult since, for example, if you're on the pot you don't have a direct line to the TV, since it's to your right and up some. Thus, to watch it, you would have to actually lift yourself up from the pot, which of course makes for an unpleasant experience.....

Marks out of 10:

8. Very stylish, clean environment marred only by a few design flaws in its attempt to reach the next level.

Comments to the Management:

Consider moving that TV to the same wall as the door. This would align it perfectly for the visitor using the toilet. Whether or not that's possible, I can't say. But it's certainly something to think about and isn't too hard to do, given a little tile work and some wiring.

Monday 28 July 2008

Yawn! World Market Orlando Toilets Offer Warehouse Feel, Little Else

World Market
1744 Sand Lake Road
Orlando, FL USA

Where is it?

From the front entrance: Head to the back left corner of the place, which is the store's wine department. Once there. look for a small hallway (very back corner, against the back wall), which will be filled with various wine, beer and soft drink boxes.

Go down that hallway to find the toilets, which will be on your left. (Do not confuse them with the employee break room, which will be on your right. This will only make the employees look at you funny before they point you in the right direction.)

What's it like?

Another home furnishings and housewares store, another bland bathroom. Just like Bed Bath and Beyond and its cousin red-headed step-cousin Linens-N-Things.

This chain spices up the usual home furnishings and housewares approach by adding a touch of Pier 1 to the mix. So guests here can scour shelf after shelf of dinnerware, glassware, home furnishings and such, but those items have a touch of the exotic to them. Lots of Polynesian-themed wicker baskets and chairs, for example, or wine glasses that exemplify the craftsmanship and style of the pieces over their functionality. It's a lot like heading down the anything-goes merchandising aisle in a T.J. Maxx or Marshalls, only expanded to an entire store.

The highlight here, of course, is the food and wine section, which features everything from unique specialty items (including gourmet spices, coffees, dry goods, canned goods and more), many of them from Europe or from small independent businesses in the U.S. (very little mainstream here) to a decent wine selection that offers a good array of mid-ranged bottles from around the world, with an emphasis on California and Australian wineries.

Like all home furnishings and housewares stores, the interior here is stylish and slick and seems to emphasize the act of impulse buying. Heck, flatly put there's nothing here that's really a necessity, so if you're not here to buy on impulse, I can't see why you'd come here in the first place.

Given that, you'd expect the bathrooms to have some style -- and going in I thought they would easily best the flatly designed toilets found at Bed Bath and Beyond and Linens-N-Things.

That's not the case. Rather than offer up a cool environment (for some reason, I keep picturing these massive housewares stores to house bathrooms like the ones I found at Shiki on the Beach), these toilets were surprisingly warehouse-like in feel and reminded me a lot of the facilities found at Total Wine Orlando or Total Wine in Raleigh, just without the sharp stinks of poo and pee present there. What gives?

Of course, unlike those places, there was some decor here, namely in the appearance of two lonely glass vases filled with various wicker balls positioned on a lowly stainless steel shelves below the mirror and above the sink. Also, there were two framed posters displaying monthly sale offers (10% off of this, etc.), but that was about it.

On a housewares store scale, it fell below the familiar but trusty tile work of Linens-N-Things but it was step above from the poorly installed product placement at Bed Bath and Beyond.

The walls are white drywall, the floor covered in white linoleum, with gray rubber trim along the sides. The place is small, with one large handicapped accessible stall for doing number two, one urinal and one sink -- the latter two items placed a little to close together to offer much privacy, especially when compared to the stall.

The toilet and sinks are white porcelain and clean though a touch weathered. The sink has one of those push-down faucets to limit water control. A plunger stood idly by the toilet, making me think clogs were common. Black soap dispensers hung near the sinks (there are two here, if you count the one in the handicap stall), and it has a couple of those hand-crank paper towel dispensers (instead of automatic).

Not exactly the most modern of places, but it's clean and odor free, which makes it perfectly serviceable.

As for oddities, I found two: First, there was a roll of paper towels sitting on that stainless shelf beside the glass vase. Why it was there, since the crank towel dispenser was just a few inches away, was beyond me. Still, I thought it was worth pointing out.

Also, there was a torn-away strip of paper towel in the main sink, and it was stuck next to the drain. What was unique about it was that it was dry in the sink -- or at least it appeared dry (no way in hell would I touch it), because even after I used the sink it and knowingly spilled water on it, it didn't look wet at all.

Of course, I thought it might be the quality of towel offered there, that perhaps they repelled water. But I used the ones from the dispenser to dry my hands and they did an okay job. Perhaps it's a piece of paper fashioned from the same magic as the floating toilet seat seen at Thai Singha?

Marks out of 10:

6. Serviceable and clean but nothing special.

Comments to the Management:

It's a perfectly functional toilet. I would just like to see one of these housewares stores actually live up to the promise they are exhibiting on the sales floor. Is it that difficult? Or are the toilets just not a priority? If American Signature Furniture South Orlando can do it, why can't you?

On a different note, I would like to market some of the magic used to keep that bit of paper towel dry.

Friday 25 July 2008

Environmental Add-Ons, Minimalistic Design Highlight Nona Sushi Toilet

Nona Sushi
10743 Narcoossee Rd.
Orlando, FL USA

Where is it?

This is a simple rectangular storefront, so finding the bathrooms is easy. From the front entrance, wrap around the privacy wall separating the entrance from the dining room (it's a sort of water wall -- kind of neat, I thought). Turn into the dining room, which will sprawl out to your right. A sushi bar will be on your left.

Head to the back of the place, towards a hallway there which leads to the kitchen. At the mouth of the hallway, turn right and you'll see the toilets.

What's it like?

This upscale neighborhood sushi house surprises on several levels. For one, the place's sophisticated design, filled with woods and dark colors, makes it feel exclusive, but the friendly, attentive service and warm vibe break down that sense of exclusivity and make it very approachable, even homey. Much of that effect is due to the the people working here, who are some of the friendliest you'll find in any sushi restaurant in town.

The food is good too. It's not my pick for best sushi in Orlando (that honor goes to Rangetsu, I'm afraid), but it's definitely better than a majority of the neighborhood sushi spots that have popped up around town over the last few years and it's definitely worth a stop if you're in the neighborhood. It's just fun hanging out here. The rolls are imaginatively prepared and fresh tasting, and the rest of the menu offers a slew of other dishes, including traditional Korean and Japanese dishes. The bulgogi dinner is a standout, as is the pork and ginger stir fry.

The toilets extend the stylish decor of the dining room, albeit with a slightly more homespun bent to them. The walls here are lime green with a blue and rust highlight along the center. The floors are covered in rust-colored linoleum. A light brown door closes you off from the restaurant and proved reminiscent of the door used at Anmol, in how it serves as an effective, even iconic, separator from the restaurant and offer top-notched privacy.

It's a spacious area, long and narrow, but not too narrow. A very room one-bagger, really -- even bigger than the larger facilities at Phil's Cheesesteaks, Strollo's Cucina Due, and Pizoodles in Vero Beach, though it's also considerably more sparse in decor than those places.

Of course, sparseness is nothing new in terms of sushi restaurant toilets -- Sensi and Okada in Las Vegas have elevated the design of such places to an art form, i think. (Though it should be said that a few sushi places we've visited have gone the opposite route, making their toilets lively and decorative, like Mr. K's Chinese Cuisine, Shiki on the Beach, and Oishi.) However, there is a certain elemental set up to this place that makes it fall short of those Vegas locales. And clearly those places have a greater budget, which is evident as well.

As a result, the place feels a bit too roomy and sparse at times, and perhaps a little dim as well, especially if you're sitting alone atop that white porcelain throne, which sits alone in the very back of the place. But it could be worse -- that's for sure.

On the plus side, the designers have aimed for something better than the sum of the parts here. These toilets aim for high billing and that' s evident here. The vanity -- a single sink set into a short marble counter and placed before an elegant wood-framed mirror -- is a nice touch. As is the toilet paper stand, which adds a lot of class that a built in holder wouldn't do -- a similar effect to what's achieved at American Signature Furniture South Orlando. Simple add-ons, yes, but their elegance is definitely noticed in a place that's as sparsely decorated as this, and thus they make the minimalistic approach work for them instead of having it run their design.

Even more impressive are the environmental touches embedded here. The showstopper is the waterless toilet, which is the first of these I've seen (though a few more have popped up in other places of late). How it works, I'm not sure, but it certainly captivated my attention for a spell and had me reading the certification plaque above it, which explained what it was.

Also, the lighting system (albeit a bit dim) is turned on by sensor, not a switch, which ensures lights are on only when someone is inside. And the paper towel dispenser is automatic. Top that off with the fact that this is one clean place, and you've got a top-notch toilet that aims for greatness, even though it doesn't quite achieve it.

Marks out of 10:

8. I admire the work put into the place, and its excellent maintenance, even if it doesn't quite reach the upper echelons of the sushi restaurant bathroom, like Sensi or Okada.

Comments to the Management:

It's a very idiosyncratic place, and I admire that. Some wall decor might flesh it out a little more, though of course nothing drastic is needed. Also, some brighter lights would be welcome to eliminate some of the shadows. If you had the budget, some marble tiles would definitely be welcome. (Then again, that may make it look too much like Sensi or Okada, and I don't want to compromise the place's identity.... then again, Sensi or Okada were pretty impressive.)

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Strollo's Upscale Toilet Mixes Traditional Design with Appealling Modern Flourishes

Strollo's Cucina Due
200 W Fairbanks Ave
Winter Park, FL USA

Where is it?

This is a wide, thin place. So in finding the bathroom, it's best to situate yourself here in that regard: There's a large kitchen in the back, with a sprawling deli case filled with various meats, cheeses and prepared dishes separating the dining room/shopping area (which takes up the back half of the place) from the kitchen. A deli/cafe area sits to the far right, when facing the deli case, and a small teaching kitchen (where the place's cooking classes are held) to the left. There's also an upper level dining room, though that was closed on my visit.

To find the bathrooms, head towards the teaching kitchen. Just before reaching it, and just past the cashier at the far end of the deli case, you'll see a small hallway open up on your right (while facing the teaching kitchen). Go down that hallway to find the toilets.

What's it like?

This mammoth storefront may be the closest thing the greater Orlando area has at the moment to a traditional Italian meat store and deli. The design here is decidedly modern, featuring plenty of woods and brick work, along with wood tables for diners to sit at (not many though, making it a bit difficult to find a seat during peak periods) and metal racks and various shelves spread out over the dining area, holding a smattering specialty foods, most of them imported from Italy or France. Not exactly a great gourmet market -- it's more of an eatery with some specialty foods spread out -- but you can see the place evolving and I imagine in the coming year or two it will offer a great deal more than what is there now, and I can't wait for that.

The kitchen and deli produce some delicious breads as well as several enticing prepared dishes, most of them upscale spins on Italian classics. It also peddles a modest array of Italian-based meats and cheeses. The far right end of the counter (when facing it) serves as an upscale deli, churning out fanciful soup and sandwich creations, as well as a la carte servings of the foods found in the deli case. The P.L.T. (prosciutto, lettuce and tomato, with fresh mozz as a binder) was a favorite of mine, as was the ricotta pie. Also, the in-house coffees prepared here are wonderful, featuring a very robust Italian roast as its espresso base.

The toilets are one-baggers and like the dining room they feature a modern spin on traditional design. They are roomy and clean and offer much privacy, thanks to being located away from the main action of the place.

You'll find an off-white toilet here set atop gray brick floor tiles that are reminiscent of stones found on brick roads. The walls are deep beige and clean-looking but without any decoration on it -- which in turn makes the place feel more modern and minimalistic.

The vanity houses a single sink that looks European-inspired. Upon seeing it, immediately thought of the sinks I saw at Club Quarters Philadelphia or at Petro Palace lobby or the SkyBar in St. Petersburg, in that they are small, yet stylish, and with a single old-fashioned spigot controlling water temperature and such. Only, unlike those, the small sink here isn't placed to conserve space -- here it's done for style, and it works.

An elegant mirror that looks like something taken from a diva's dressing room hangs above the sink, adding some elegance to the proceedings, and a small counter jets out to its right, holding a tall but thin vase with fake flowers in it.

The soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser and toilet paper dispenser are all boxed in matted stainless steel, which looks very slick -- and really is the second straight bathroom visited where traditional stainless fixtures like these are presented in a slightly different manner (I'm referring to McCormick & Schmick's Orlando, of course). Only, I found a little flaw in the design with these: The area where you grab the paper goods or receive the soap is covered by a lip, and as a result you can't see where the item you're getting (soap, paper, etc.) is and as a result it makes getting that stuff cleanly a bit of a chore.

On a different note: This is also the second Italian market bathroom to post very specific instructions on how to wash one's hands -- the other being Laurenzo's in North Miami Beach. Is this a trend or something?

Marks out of 10:

8. Very nice, private and clean, and the design touches certainly make it more interesting than a standard one-bagger. I rank this experience up there with other one-bagger wonders, like La Brazas Chicken and Shiki at the Beach.

Comments to the Management:

It's a great experience. And although I like the look of those fixtures holding the soap, paper towels and toilet paper, their functionality is a bit questionable. Is it possible to modify them some so you can get what you're looking for? If not, you may want to consider alternative fixtures.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Gleaming White Toilets at McCormick & Schmick's Orlando Exude Familiar Turn-of-the-Century Feel

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant
Mall at Millenia
4200 Conroy Road
Orlando, FL USA

Where is it?

A bit tricky to find, but not impossible. From the front door, head inside. As you do, you'll see a bar on your left and a dining room on your right, and a white-tiled hallway leading down the center of the place, separating the two halves.

Go down that hallway. It will take you past the oyster bar, the prep kitchen and a small enclave where the bathrooms are located. (That's not the end of the hallway, mind you -- the toilets are only halfway down. At the end is the main kitchen and storage areas.)

What's it like?

This upscale seafood chain boasts an elegant, almost turn-of-the-century interior design, with plenty of stained glass, dark wood and old-fashioned tavern-inspired lighting. In many ways, it's like the Americanized version of Montparnasse 1900's dining room.

And the dining room is roomy, with plenty of well-spaced tables and wide walkways, allowing people to get a sense of the bustling nature of the place while being able to enjoy their privacy as well. Service is very professional and polite, and the food is very good, particularly the seafood (as you can expect), which (so states the menu) comes in fresh daily.

The toilets extend that turn-of-the-century feel, coming across like a cross between a much more sophisticated take on the bathrooms of Bennigan's or Macaroni Grill, albeit with fewer in-jokes and more class. Picture a mixture of Angelo's on Mulberry with Philadelphia's Davio's, with a dash of JFK's Delta Crown Room, just smaller, and touches of Big Boy Diner and Sleuth's Mystery Theater's lobby toilets.

The walls and floor here are covered in white tile (similar to Montparnasse 1900), only that the walls have a five-by-five-inch (give or take) tile set and the floor is covered in small inch-by-inch tile. The tile all around is spotless and gleaming.

There are two stalls here, a standard and a handicapped. Both are roomy and well-stocked and clean, like the rest of the place, with white porcelain thrones sitting center stage. The urinals stand proudly in the bathroom's middle section, one lowered for children and one at regular adult height. Though there are no dividers, they are spaced well enough to allow for a good deal of privacy.

The vanity is made of a black granite top, which offers nice contrast to the white tile around it. A lot of what's around the vanity is matted chrome -- and the the paper towel dispenser, thanks to this design -- offers a unique spin on a commonly found item. Just enough to keep it interesting and make you think, "Hmm... haven't seen one like that before, have I?'

With all the automatic stuff found on the vanity, I found it a bit surprising to see a manual soap pump set to the side of each sink. Not a bad addition -- and a bit reminiscent of Johnson Lexus in Raleigh, NC -- but I wouldn't have minded something a bit innovative there, like I saw with the paper towel dispensers. Nothing mind-blowing, that is, but certainly something that freshened a familiar item some.

Decor is minimal here -- the only decor I found, actually, was on the vanity and below it. There's a stack of paper towels there (in case you don't want to use the dispenser?) and a group of faux greenery behind it. Can't say I liked it much -- more than anything, it got in the way of the towels. Might want to consider relocating it.

Also, beneath the vanity, is a wicker basket that's there -- I presume -- solely to handle the paper towels used from the vanity. This was a pretty tacky addition and while I assume it was included to add some sophistication to the idea of throwing towels away (the rule is, apparently, that good towels deserve a good waste basket, even though a crappy one does just the same). I didn't buy it, and it just seemed like a foolish add-on. It works for the J.W. Marriott Grand Lakes, because the rest of the bathroom has that same unified vision, but not here, I'm afraid.

Marks out of 10:

8. A nice face lift to some themes we've seen before. Not perfect, but pretty close.

Comments to the Management:

Nicely maintained. I would just change out those soap dispensers and get rid of the fake plant and wicker waste basket, since all of it feels out of place here.

Friday 18 July 2008

Upscale Outhouse -- That's Essentially the Vibe of the Toilets at the Abbey

Abbey Wine & Beer Bar
117 1/2 N Woodland Blvd
Deland, FL USA

Where is it?

This is a somewhat modes storefront set off the main road in downtown Deland. But it turns out to be a spacious spot and it's got a somewhat straight forward layout to it, making finding the toilets easy.

From the front entrance, head to the back of the place. Once there, look for a hallway opening in the back wall. Head down that hallway, and you'll see the toilets on your right, men's room first, then the women's further back, towards the end of the hallway.

What's it like?

This is a dark, somewhat sophisticated upscale beer and wine bar. While you can get your standard mass markets here, the beer- and wine-savvy staff and vast collection of hard-to-find titles make it a great place for the more adventurous drinker -- especially one with a love for Belgian ales, in which the place specializes. (Hence the name.)

A large, heavy wood bar sits in the front left corner of the place. A roomy dining room spreads out behind it. At the bar, you'll find plenty of coolers holding various bottles of beer and wine, as well a tap with about 20 beer selections ranging from hard-to-find imports to several unique American micro-brew selections. If you're unsure of what to have, work with the bartender -- he/she will let you sample a number of items until you find the perfect match.

The place also offers a handful of sandwiches and other various munchies, which are good filler for the beer, though if you're looking for a substantial meal, you may want to visit somewhere else before or after, since the portions here tend to be a bit on the small side.

The beer and wine are the focus here, after all, and if you enjoy good beer and good company (such as my friend Ayal Wolf, pictured above), then this is the place for you.

Given the dark, sophisticated nature of the interior, you'd think the bathrooms would be similar in design -- like the elegant Davio's in Philadelphia, or, on a smaller scale, the homey Las Brazas Chicken. Ironically, they are not like that at all.

More than anything, they look the the sort of bathroom you'd find at a BBQ joint (like Cecil's, for example).The walls are covered in unfinished wood planks, and the floor is covered in that standard rust-colored tile you see at many other places.

All the fixtures kind of serve as piece-meal extensions of that wood paneling. The urinals and vanity just look like add-ons that were included after the fact, like matted chrome faucets, decorative iron wall hangings, cheesy framed mirrors and more.

And then there's the toilet, which comes set behind a saloon door and is set into a wooden shelf, making the stall itself look very much like an old-country outhouse. (It should be noted that the stall is somewhat small and that saloon door that doesn't quite open all the way -- making it hard for people who are larger than 5 feet in height to get in or sit comfortably while they are inside.)

In fact, the overall vibe of the place is that of an outhouse -- a complete 180 from the interior, if you think about it. It's very rustic and Southern and backwoods in inspiration, and clearly the design is purposeful, funny and kitschy. So much so that I wondered if the toilet serves as a statement, saying that while we aim for sophistication on the outside, inside we're all the same and we all have to use the toilet and that's that.

I like the message, to be honest, and I like the kitsch of the design. But I'm just not sold 100% on the execution. Like I said, the aforementioned stall was a bit too tight of a fit -- it should be a bit more comfortable to use and enter and exit. And the toilet water in the commode was alarmingly blue in color -- almost like well-chlorinated pool water instead of water colored by a Tidy Bowl insert. What's with that?

Also, one of the urinals was not working and the lighting was a bit dimmer than it needed to be. A place this kitschy requires bright lights, so people can marvel at the effort taken by the designers to put it together and laugh with it. It's not a place for subtlety, such as the bar and dining room areas.

Another note: It's also a very clean bathroom and practically odor-free, which is an accomplishment worth mentioning since it's a beer bar at heart and it's located in a college town.

Marks out of 10:

7. As mentioned earlier, I like the attempt, but I'm not sold on the execution. Sorry.

Comments to the Management:

Make the lighting a little brighter. Fix the broken urinal (maybe already a moot point). Make that stall a little larger and easier to get into. And what's with that blue water?

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Toilets at Montparnasse 1900 Evoke Classic Spirit of Art Nouveau Era

Montparnasse 1900
59 Boulevard du Montparnasse
Paris, France

Where is it?

This is a long, slightly slender place, with the kitchen in the very back, a bar and greeting area/coat-check area up front and a dining room in the center. (Supposedly, there's also a banquet hall and cigar bar, though I didn't see them.)

To get to the toilets, head through the bar and dining room, towards the back of the place. In between the kitchen and dining room is a small enclave containing a sitting area, some displayed art (both paintings and a few items held in a glass case) and the toilets, which are behind some darkly stained wooden doors. The men's room has a little bronze boy hanging on the door; the women's has a little bronze girl on it.

What's it like?

This unassuming eatery is located just a block or so away from Tour Montparnasse, Paris' tallest skyscraper building. While walking the streets here, you may have trouble locating the place because its facade and awning are very modest and from the outside it looks very similar to the other eateries around it. (To find, just look for the awning with "Montparnasse 1900" written on it.")

Still, this is definitely a place to seek out, as it provided me with the best dining experience I've ever had in Paris, at least for a bistro-type experience. The affordable menu comes filled with classic French dishes, like steake frites, endive and Roquefort salad, freshly shucked Normandy-caught oysters and much more, and each dish I had was expertly prepared and outrageously delicious. (The price fixed menu offered three courses, plus dessert and cheese and white for about 35 euro, which isn't that bad, really.) The big surprise here was the use of rump steak for the steak frites -- I thought it would be chewy, considering the cut, but it ended up being moist, tender and very flavorful -- one of the best I've ever had, to be honest.

The decor here is decidedly art nouveau in spirit. The place is covered in stain glass and metalworks, along with fanciful sculptures and paintings. The high point is the ceiling, which is a sprawling single glass mural portraying a view of autumn trees and leaves.

The toilets appropriately extend the art nouveau feel of the dining room. The room has two sections. The main area contains the urinals and sinks, both white porcelain. The walls here are dark mahogany wood, the mirrors and fixtures made of bronze, the lighting dim but not too dim. It's a lot like stepping into a turn-of-the-century boudoir, only without the seedy undertones. Similar in look and feel to La Cave, but without the modernist touches.

The back half of the bathroom has two toilet stalls, each one a single chamber that -- thanks to a full-sized door -- is separated completely from the rest of the place, which in turn means lots of privacy to the user. Those stalls are covered floor to ceiling with shiny white tiles and feature a classy white porcelain toilet in them with a dark wooden seat. The only ornamentation found inside is the stainless steel toilet paper roll holder hanging (albeit a bit too high) on the wall.

Marks out of 10:

8. Very classy art nouveau setting in a fantastic art-nouveau-inspired restaurant.

Comments to the Management:

Not much to suggest here. It's a great place, from the dining room on back. If anything, I would suggest adding a little more light in the bathroom stalls, which weren't dim but weren't that bright either. Also, if possible, lower the toilet paper holders a little to accommodate us shorter people some.