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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Lunch-eon Paris - Hits and Misses

You may not know this, and why would you, but I am a night person.  Not quite a vampire, but I'm
working on it.  Although I love the night, the dark, the quiet, I admit, there are some drawbacks to sleeping from 5 am to 1 pm.  One is that if you get a craving for, oh, I don't know, let's say cookies, at 3 am and your cupboard is bare, it is not like you can hotfoot it to the all-night supermarket.  No, we are not in Kansas anymore.  Another problem with waking up so late is that by the time I pull myself together, do my 250 'morning' pushups and try to become conscious again, most of the restaurants in Paris have stopped serving lunch.  On the other hand, pull yourself out of bed by, let's say, noon at the latest, and you are in business.  Because one of the things I love about France is its lunch culture.  You no doubt know what I'm talking about, but if you don't, just walk into a busy bistro or cafe in Paris during lunchtime and you will see and feel what I'm talking about.  Of course, this isn't particular to Paris, or to France in general, but is an aspect of most European countries.  Only in Spain, you can stay in bed a lot, lot later.

The upshot of this post is that I had managed to get out of the house in time for lunch a number of times in 2017, so I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my good (hits) and bad (misses) experiences, without getting too verbose.  That is what you will find below, starting with the hits.

45 rue Boulard, Paris 14
tel. 01 53 90 76 22

Towards the end of my review of a dinner at Aux Plumes last May, I mentioned that the restaurant appears to have one of the best lunch deals in Paris.  I can now confirm that, based on a couple of visits last Fall.  An 18€ lunch menu nets an entree of 3 small, original dishes followed by a high-quality main dish.  The only drawback is that if you are opting for wine by the glass, that will set you back another 7 euros or so; sans wine carte, the server will make a suggestion and let you taste a couple before deciding.  This is such a great deal, I hesitate to say any more in fear that it will become too popular and impossible to snag a table at lunchtime (not that I egomaniacally assume to have such an impact on Parisian dining habits).  Just to add, Co. and I returned for another dinner last October and it rivaled our first experience.  P.S.  that is chef Kazuhiro Fujieda at the top of this post.

3 dishes in a box to start off lunch

The main dish, la volaille (I believe that would be pintade)

4 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Paris 11
tel. 09 81 41 97 30

If you regularly visit this site, you know I left my heart in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. where there are so many outstanding restaurants that it is ludicrous to say this is the one you should lunch at.  There also are many excellent Thai restaurants in Paris.  But if you want to make your choice easier, you have Ya Lamai for a terrific authentic Thai lunch deal.  A menu can be had for 14€50, which includes a choice from several dishes for entree and plat.  A variety of beverage options as well, and  the one I opted for was a 'Whiskey' Thai, a Mekong spirit that has the distinct taste of rum.  At 7€, it did the job, even if I am not a rum drinker.  One of Ya Lamai's walls in the two modest dining room areas displays some basic Asian food items that can purchased.  I picked up a bottle of the spicy sriracha sauce (4€50)- the same sauce that was brought to my table when I asked for something to help me sweat.  A more complete review of Ya Lamai, with photos, can be found at the So Many Paris website.

12 rue des Petites Ecuries, Paris 10
tel. 01 42 46 57 74

51 Rue de Paradis, Paris 10
tel. 06 26 03 05 43
W for Wok is one of a few places I passed along rue des Petites Ecuries with Co. as we went along our way to the hot new spot in town, Eels. As we did, I  ungrammatically proclaimed, 'I definitely got to try these places for lunch.'  By the way, Eels was for dinner, so I'm afraid I can't dig deep into that one here, except to say that it was very good, but from my perspective, a bit overrated.  Maybe it was a bad idea to pick a table next to a party of 10 celebrating someone's 80th birthday.  As usual, I digress.  One of the other places I passed on the way to Eels was Jah Jah by Le Tricycle, another vegan venture by the brainchild (or is it brainchildren?) behind Le Tricycle Store, the Rastafarian top spot in Paris to purchase vegan hotdogs.  Well, while I'm here, you can add Le Tricycle Store to your growing list of interesting and inexpensive lunch venues because I had a cheap, pretty satisfying and enjoyable meal there a few months ago and apparently forgot to tell you.

Tricycle's vegan hotdog and accompaniments

Upstairs from the carryout/kitchen of Tricycle

Long story shorter, I was all set to check out Jah Jah one Tuesday last month only to find out that the venue was closed on Tuesdays.  Hey, this is Paris - you want to close on Tuesday, you close on Tuesday.  So I crossed the street and popped into W for Wok. For want of a better description, W for Wok can best be described as an Asian street food cantine, pardon the oxymoron.  W offers up some intriguing options, including their famous Ramen burger, wok dishes (hence the name), nems, wings, and brochettes.  But for my money, the best deal is to choose one of 90 possible 'Mega' combination meals, composed of three steps:  (1) choice of a rice or noodle base, (2) choice of accompaniment (tofu, chicken, shrimp, calamari, etc.), and (3) choice of sauce (satay, curry coco, satay, oyster, etc.).  Served in one of those nondescript plain Chinese carryout boxes, the food arrives steaming hot and tasty.  For my visit, I chose red rice, shrimp, and hot spicy sauce, a filling meal that set me back a mere 13€ and which I washed down with a Singha beer (1€50).  With 89 combinations left to go, I think I'll be making W for Wok a regular haunt for future lunches.

One of 90 W for Wok combination meals

A happy W for Wok diner at the next table

It's street food, so carryout is clearly an option at W for Wok

Marché Saint-Quentin
85 bis Bouldevard Magenta, Paris 10
tel. 06 58 63 75 27

 Serendipity strikes again.  One Tuesday in December, I wanted to find a casual lunch spot close to the Gare du Nord and came upon some good reviews for Chez Silvana, the Portuguese addition to the covered Marché Saint-Quentin.  Co. and I usually explore this market at year's end when we make our annual visit for oysters at Pleine Mer, and just a few doors up from the market is Mamagoto, another promising lunch destination, despite my tepid response to a dinner there last year.  At any rate, psyched for a nice Portuguese lunch, when I arrived, I found Chez Silvana all boarded up and was informed that it was closed on Tuesdays because, hey, this is France and if you want to close your restaurant on Tuesday, you close your restaurant.  Fortunately, this is a large enough market to offer a few alternatives.  A tiny Brazilian spot was empty and uninviting, so I turned my attention to the snug little afro-antillaise venue, Oh Africa! sitting not far from one of the market's entrances.  When I entered, a three-person film crew was busily interviewing a couple as they ate, the only other customers in the joint at a relatively late lunch hour (re: tough to get out bed, etc.).

Spatially challenged and not the most comfortable seating possibilities, Oh Africa! nonetheless earns its exclamation point by offering a incredible lunch deal:  for 10€, a choice of one of three daily platters, with a homemade juice of your choice running to another 2€.  (I lost my receipt and vaguely remember the juice offered free of charge.)  I opted for the coconut chicken platter, which arrived with a heaping mound of rice, plantains, a bowl of curry, and a substantial piece of chicken.  I splurged and also ordered a spicy ginger potable.  While I waited for my meal to arrive, I agreed to be interviewed by the team, students at a journalism school who were interested in why I chose the restaurant, how I feel about African food, etc.  It was an enjoyable interaction, and the server behind the counter joined in the camaraderie. When asked whether eating African food is a way of 'visting Africa' I had to say, 'no, it is not,' but that it is a way of tasting exotic cuisine that I don't regularly eat.  If you want to know what it is like to visit Africa, you have to go to Africa.

Oh Africa! was a nice little find, but I'm still eagerly awaiting my next trip to Chez Silvana.

Inside the market

Inside Oh Africa! (two photos courtesy of Les Petites Tables)

The lunch deal

Where better to interview people about Afro cuisine than in an African restaurant?


24 rue Henry Monnier, Paris 9
tel. 01 70 23 69 60

See my previous post for details.  Just to remind you: best guacamole in Paris.

39 Rue Mazarine, Paris 6
tel. 01 46 34 54 71

Sense.eat, a vegetarian Italian restaurant, may have a lousy name, but it offers another great lunch deal: 19€ for two courses (entree/plat or plat/dessert).  Recommended if vegetarian Italian is your cup of risotta.

Sense.eat's betterave/radis entree

An excellent risotta

Marché Des Enfants Rouges
39 rue de Bretagne, Paris 3
tel. 01 42 72 28 12

Although there is indoor seating, the great appeal of L'Estaminet is to have a satisfying and inexpensive lunch inside the Marché Des Enfants Rouges's courtyard on a nice sunny day.  It is hard to think about this at the present time, given we haven't seen the sun in over a month in Paris, but it is a good one to bookmark.
4 Rue Saint-Gilles,Paris 3
tel. 01 48 87 22 62

 I remember an enjoyable, copious lunch at this Spanish tapas venue.

Not all was fun and roses on the lunch front for me in 2017.  A few ventures left me wondering why I ever got out of bed so early.

L'INEDIT CAFE (4 rue Taine, Paris 12) - it had a nice ambience and a friendly staff; the food was inexpensive, but not very good.

PANAME BREWING COMPANY (41 bis Quai de la Loire, Paris 19) - a rarity in Paris, an actual brew pub.  I imagine if you are schmoozing with your friends for a quick burger and beer, a table on the terrace would fill the bill, but I couldn't find a spot on the terrace and ended up eating inside, where a waitress was busy chasing a pigeon and not doing much else, ultimately grabbing the pigeon and tossing it out the window.  I had to order my meal from the bar, although it was brought to my table - an uninspiring pulled chicken sandwich with fries.  The beer was good, but the experience was a bust.

LES BANCS PUBLICS (2 Rue de Nantes, Paris 19) - what this place has going for it is its proximity to the canal Saint Martin and La Villette.  It offers a nice view, which you will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy as you endlessly wait for your meal to arrive.  A popular venue, the food is decent enough, but the chaos inside will create a strong desire to flee. 

PO BOY CAFE (72, quai de Jemmapes, Paris 10) - I know you may find it shocking that I add a hot spot of the moment, Po Boy, to this list, although to be fair, 'disappointing' would be more accurate than 'miss.'  My pulled chicken plate wasn't bad, but it certainly didn't live up to the 'authentic New Orleans' hype.  Po Boy is the ground floor of Two Stories, with the more expensive and formal Nola upstairs.  Co. and I tried Nola for a dinner last year and found that, too, somewhat disappointing.  I may give Po Boy another shot, opting for the jambalaya next time, but it's not high on my list.


1 comment:

Waldo Brown said...

It is essential to check out the crowd who visit that eatery. You should eat out in places where you are comfortable to be around these people. Loud noises may overwhelm you and can drain all your energy. Last time I went to Restaurant Godjo to take dinner which was really very awesome.

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