“You two really love to eat!” exclaimed Sissi, at last. The road to this epiphany is littered with a long list of Parisian spectacles bookended by meals and snacks. We would eat then shop then eat some more. Or, we would eat, walk, eat, see a museum, and, of course, eat again. Eating shares the same billing as the Louvre and les Grands Magasins, and in the short period of time Sissi visited this city, the three of us excelled at it deliciously. Of Sissi’s observation: Guilty as charged.
We certainly shared this love affair with our special guest. Below are the meals we had, along with the reviews of the establishments, on each and every day of Sissi’s visit.
Au P’tit Snack
23, rue Saint-André des Arts
Anchoring the more touristy end of a nearly-pedestrian street, this little kebab place might seem like just another one of a hundred of its kind. It is not. At least not to us.
Our first encounter was on a hot June day when we went in search of food after helping les Verts move into their rental apartment. We had no inkling of what we wanted when we ran into a man with a platter of steaming meat in the middle of the crowded street. We could not and did not pass up taking a sample. One bite into the moist and flavorful morsels and we were sold. While the rest of les Verts patronized the nearby Subway (it was only their first day), we and the Language Chameleon picked up delectable sandwiches and pitas of chocked full of different kinds of meat and accompanied by golden crispy fries: döner kebab (€4.50) and adana kebab (€5.00). While the others in our party munched on good old American-style sandwiches by the Saint-Michel fountain, we stood by their side feasting on a fantastic meal that was itself an import. The Language Chameleon was so impressed that he declared to the grateful owner on a later occasion: “C’est le meilleur de Paris.”
Maybe not the healthiest but definitely the tastiest just-off-the-plane meal: The döner kebab (€4.50) with its faithful companions, les frites.
Ever since that day, to its mirrored interior we still return whenever a kebab craving takes hold of us or whenever we have a guest from out of town who wants more than just the same old same old. The routine has become döner kebab for each of us (the adana kebab and a later-tried köfte kebab (€4.50) can be a bit dry at times), sauce blanche (yoghurt sauce with garlic and herbs) for Nez and harissa (a North African hot sauce) for Riot. This is also just about the only place where we are actually recognized by the staff and are greeted like closed friends. Sometimes, when we would just be passing by we would still elicit a little wave or a smile. It makes us feel that we are not just another couple in a crowd of hundreds more such couples.
Sometimes a sandwich and fries just aren't enough: The menu assiette (€10) comes with extras like greens and rice.
Variation on the theme: Merguez sausages (€4.50) in the place of the usual meat off the spit.
What came first? The colors of our favorite macarons at Ladurée or the colors we chose for our upcoming wedding? From this venerable pastry shop, the closest location to us is the one on rue Bonaparte near the Church of Saint-Germain, we always get citron (light yellow), mangue jasmin (dark orange yellow), pistache (light green), and noix de coco (off white). For our wedding, we have decided on the color theme of light yellow, dark orange yellow, light green, and off white. Perhaps it is a mere coincidence or maybe it’s divine intervention from the pastry gods. Whatever it is, it is surely convenient when it comes time to get the macaroon tower for the wedding. (Cakes are so last year.)
A random selection of five colors: (Clockwise from upper left) pistache, fruits rouges, citron, framboise, caramel au beurre salé, and pistache.
In the dim interior of the shop, whose décor evokes the warmth of the old world, we would queue up with fellow faithfuls before a long display case of all kinds of desserts, the most alluring of them all are the mini macarons sitting in trays of like flavors. We tell the gloved attendants our selections and they gather up their offering with utmost care. The most economical approach is to get a bag of 100g of macaroons, which translates to six, for €7.20. (Individually, the mini macaroons cost €1.50 each but you cannot just have one. You will want more.) They cost more in the beautiful little boxes but they make great gifts to those who appreciate them.
The promotional materials declare that this “little round cake, which is both soft and crunchy at the same time,” is “le produit emblématique de la maison Ladurée.” We absolutely agree. We only found out recently that there are permanent flavors (e.g., pistache), season-specific flavors (e.g., citron for winter, noix de coco for summer), and novelty flavors (e.g., mangue jasmin). And, in the vein of Le Petit Prince, the novelty flavors are éphémère.
Yet another permutation of the colors of Ladurée: (Clockwise from upper left) noix de coco, pistache, citron, mangue jasmin, noix de coco again, and fleur d’oranger.
These little wonders taste as good as they look. The almond-based “sandwich” is more moist than the airy look it gives and blends effortless with its varied fillings, feeling like one indivisible unit. The mangue jasmin has a certain heft that you feel when you hold on in your hand. Its filling is of a thicker variety and the taste of mango is clearly present. We aren’t sure what jasmine tastes like but we surely could taste the flavor. Similarly, the filling of pistache has the same consistency with small chunks of pistachio present. Give Ladurée credit for not making the filling too sweet and overwhelming like so many other pretenders. In contrast, flavors like citron and rose have a soft, lighter cream filling. The former that gives off a slightly tangy hint of lemon, the latter betrays a taste of rose petals. All in all, they taste best in tiny bites.
Nez sums it up nicely: “This is seven euros of heaven. The best seven euros you’ll ever spend in Paris.”
Riot calls this location of Café Malongo his “office.” This is where he could nurse a café glacé (pas sucre, of course) (€2.80) for a few hours in front of his laptop without feeling the compunction to move on as he would at one of the “regular” Parisian cafes. It is also a nice alternative to the many Starbucks where one can also linger for as long as one desires in an environment that is not much different than Main Street U.S.A.
On a nice day, often after a long walk, we like to reward ourselves with hot chocolate here. We prefer the chocolat viennois version (€3.50) for the mount of whipped cream on top. There is a certain joy and a complementary sense of urgency in scooping off this top layer before getting to the scalding hot pool of dark chocolate underneath. We suppose one could mix the whole thing together to form a sort of creamy chocolate drink but what a waste of the experience that would be. The subtle sweetness of the cool chantilly is exactly the right transition to the hot and sugary sweet chocolat.
On a cold day, a chocolat viennois is godsend.
An early fall treat in a city that’s already turning cold: A chocolat viennois (€3.50) as a pre-dinner, post-stroll treat.
15, rue des Canettes
The parents of one of Nez’s students, upon discovering that we live on rue des Canettes, recommended a place that was supposedly the best Italian in Paris. There are quite a few Italian restaurants on this short and lively stretch and Nez does not quite remember the name. For a long time, we suspected that it was Pizza Positano but could not be certain.
There is always a line outside the door (at least during the witching dining hours) and more than once we had heard one of the waiters apologetically turned away groups larger than two as the night approached closing time. Figuring that we stood no chance of scoring a table, we turned to ordering pizza pies emporter. It makes us feel, strangely, superior to the throngs of would-be diners to declare to the same waiter, when asked about our party size, that we were taking our food home. He, with a full head of wavy hair like one of the Italian soccer players, would waive us into the cramped dining room – unlike most other restaurants in this neighborhood, there is no upstair or underground spillover space for diners – and allow us to order directly from the pizza chef himself. That was followed by a nice wait outside where we got to tell people that “No, we’re not waiting,” not for a table anyhow. Finally, our steamy hot pizza would be brought out to us with a hearty thank you and good night. It is also cheaper to take away; you save a few euros off the menu price. We feel a connection of sorts with him; he speaks to us only in French.
Heaven for Riot is this plate of linguine: Linguine con gamberi (€18), the secret – and real delight – is in the sauce and generous serving of garlic.
The pizza, which Nez proclaimed to be “the best” she has had in Paris, is amazing. Though freshly baked right before your eyes in a brick oven, the hot pizza comes out with a delectable crust that is surprisingly not cooked to a crunch. Named for famed soccer stars of both the Italian and French varieties, we like both the ones we took home. The Platini (€12; €10 to go) (of the Michel Platini fame) is a hit especially with meat-loving Riot who revels in the sprinkling of ground beef and merguez on top of tomato sauce and mozzarella. The Stefano (€13; €11 to go) (just an Italian name and not named after any player, we know of, in particular) is a collage of ham, gorgonzola, and mozzarella over a bed of tomato sauce and topped with a dash of fine basil. Nez raves about this combination; she is also a lover of cheese. One time, catching a whiff of a plate of calamari being delivered to a table, we even came home with a small tray of delicious calamari fritti (€14; €11 to go), whose taste was greatly enhanced by a squeeze of lemon and a splash of Riot’s hot sauce.
Sissi’s small, simple main course that capped a day full of eating: Ravioli (ricotta, crème, parmesan, basilic) (€12.50).
We finally did make it to Positano for a sit-down meal one night when we had a pasta craving and could not trust simply walking into any of the many other nearby Italian joints. Our waiter spotted us and promptly showed us to our table. Space is of such a premium here that there is a well-choreographed sliding of the table for the person sitting on the inside to squeeze in. We were somewhat crushed when our waiter took our order in English; he must have overheard our conversation. Bummer. But when he came back to apologize that the lasagna we ordered was not available, he caught himself after saying, “I’m sorry …,” and quickly switched back to French. The magic remained in tact; we were back in the “in” group again, whatever that may be.
All that walking turned Nez into an omnivore: Pizza Platini, with ground beef and merguez toppings (€12).
We shared the carpaccio (€11) over our small square table, its small size made the experience logistically possible and, more importantly, very cozy and special. It was one of the best we have had, anywhere. Unfortunately, Nez was getting full before she moved onto here penne quatre fromages avec Parme (€15). She liked it but had trouble finishing. Riot did not have any trouble clearing his excellent linguine fruits de mer (€21). The star of the plate was actually not the shrimp nor calamari, good as they were, but the cloves of garlic that really drove the taste home when combined with the tomato-based sauce. Nez pronounced this to be the best pasta in Paris and Riot heartily agreed. To have a go at it, they also agreed, one has to pay a pretty penny too.
We don’t think we’re the only one raving about Pizza Positano. While waiting for our takeaway pizza one night our ears caught the sound of the familiar English. “There! That’s the place,” said a passing American woman to her party that had come to a halt right in front of the restaurant, “it has the best pizza.”
Le shopping was but the half of it. What comes first? Dining or shopping in Paris?
Like that other age-old circular conundrum there is no answer
to this question eithr. The two go hand in hand, and one
naturally leads to the other and then back again. |go!|