The Fifth, that arrondissement that encompasses all of those colleges and their young minds and what remnants of the bohemian vibes left of the Latin Quarter of yore, has its own share of dining choices that range from everything touristy and high-end pricy to hipster cuisine and reasonable bargain.  Whenever we feel like something new but do not want to venture too far, we simply hop across the forgettable boulevard Saint-Michel into our neighboring borough for our next meal.
 
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Four Baguettes
   
El Sol y La Luna
31, rue Saint-Jacques
01.43.54.41.56
M° Cluny - La Sorbonne

 
Euro - 9 to 16
Riot had read somewhere that this was one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city.  But in Paris, one man’s concept of “Mexican food” is another’s “what-the-hell-did-I-just-eat.”  So, with all of that in mind, we headed out to this cozy location on a busy street in a vibrant part of the 5th, armed with a big appetite and hopes of fulfilling for the time being the ever-present craving for our very own preconception of Mexican food.  Needless to say, what we got was not our typical San Francisco Mission Mexican food, nor – dare we say – was it even straight up Mexican food at all.  Yes, the bare-bone website promises “la saveur d’un repas mexicain” but what you really get here falls more appropriately under the vague, shapeless, and shifting umbrella of latino cooking.  All the same, after all the meals we have had here, on this and subsequent occasions, a variation of the Bard’s ol’ tired and much abused line comes to mind:  “Good food by any name.”
 
 
 
 
 
  A sampler to start:  The arepitas llaneras (6.50€), patties of corn bread with three choices of accompaniment.
 
 

 
 
 
Good food is indeed served here but a dinner reservation would be wise.  The dining room is small, and feels even smaller with all of the tables and people they manage to squeeze into such a tight space, but the ambiance is warm and inviting.  Study the various hanging decorative elements hovering overhead (reminiscent of the same at Mexi&Co, which we think is under the same ownership) and then study the interestingly sparse menu.  On our first visit, we dutifully plopped ourselves into an assigned spot next to our fellow diners – thankful for getting a table at all without phoning in advance – and ordered from the night’s special menu entitled, “Noche de estrellas Venezolana.”  (Does that render moot the whole name-this-cuisine debate of the previous paragraph?)
 
 
 
 
 
 
  Don’t let all those beans distract you:  The pabellon criollo (10.50€), which served up tender and delicious strips of beef.
 
 
 
 
 
  Not your typical deep-fried fish:  The pescado frito (10.50€) that was amazingly non-oily along with tasty onion strings.
 
 
 
 
For starters, we shared a plate of arepitas llaneras (6.50€), patties of corn bread served with feta cheese, guacamole, and mashed beans.  While its look did not promise much, the concoction was pleasingly satisfying.  For the main acts, Nez got the pabellon criollo (10.50€) and Riot, the pescado frito (10.50€).  The former dish served up very tender strips of beef along with fried plantain, rice, and, of course, more beans (this time, baked).  Riot could not keep his hands off of Nez’s plate as he devoured his own fried fish, which although deep-fried, was not a bit oily.  The mob of playful string onions on top added to the varied texture of the dish and the accompanying salad even gave the impression of a healthy meal.  For whatever reason, probably an avoidance of gluttony, we did not get any dessert that first night.  But it was nevertheless a supremely interesting and agreeable meal and we will definitely keep returning here for its inventive Latin cooking, or whatever it’s called.
 
 
 
 
  Paris needs chips that don’t break when scooping dips:  The queso fundido au chorizo (5.50€) with melted cheese, salsa, and chunks of pork sausage.
 
 
 
  Simply amazing spare ribs:  The tender travers de porc Costillita (10.50€) seasoned in chimichurri sauce, with a little extra on the side.
 
 
 
  Maybe the best chili in town:  The chili con carne (9.50€) with small and healthy servings of cheese and sour cream.
 
 
 
  What to do with that whole stick of cinnamon?:  The subtle flavor of the house riz au lait de coco (5€) went nicely with the strikingly soft taste of the ground cinnamon dusting.
 
 
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