Five fat foodie days in Paris (as a vegetarian)

May 6, 2010 at 9:25 am (Restaurant review, Trip report)


In May, Derek and I spent a long weekend in Paris.  A friend of ours who is doing a sabbatical in Paris invited us to come for a visit.  In planning the visit, I hit upon the brilliant idea of spending Derek’s 30th birthday in Paris.  It turned out that our friend was going to be out of town that weekend, but she graciously arranged for us to stay at her place even in her absence.

I’ve been to Paris three times before, and I’ve seen many of the tourist sites.  So on this visit we decided to skip the tourist attractions, and just enjoy exploring the city.  Luckily, our first few days in Paris were sunny and warm and gorgeous, and we walked around for hours each day.  The last few days were colder and rainier, and all the shops were closed (first for May Day and then because it was Sunday).  We went to the movies and sat in cafes and talked and read.  Overall we had a very low-key, pleasant little holiday.

Even though I’ve been to Paris four times now, I still don’t feel like I have a really good mental map of the city.  I know that people say that Paris within the walls is pretty small, but to me it feels endless.  I think it would take me years to really get a feel for all the different neighborhoods.  Since we’re only 2 hours away by train now, hopefully I’ll get many more chances to work on that mental map.

Most people go to Paris to eat French food.  As a vegetarian, that’s challenging, and often pretty boring.  We could have eaten in vegetarian restaurants, but last time we tried that strategy, and Derek wasn’t too thrilled with the food.  It was more co-op food than foodie, gourmet food.  So on this trip, instead of sticking to French food, or vegetarian food, we decided to branch out.  (Derek’s only criteria was that we not eat German food.)  We went out to two classic (but vegetarian-friendly) French places for dinner and ate buckwheat crepes for lunch one day, but that was the extent of the French food.  After the second day we veered toward the more exotic: Chinese, Italian, Mexican, British/organic, and French/Asian fusion.

What most surprised me on this trip to Paris is that everything seems to have gotten bigger.  My first trip to Paris was only 13 years ago, but I remember being struck by how tiny everything was, especially sweets and pastries.    Macarons were just over an inch in diameter.  On this trip the default size seemed to be 1.5 inches, and I saw many macarons that were 3 inches in diameter!  Cookies used to be little bite-sized affairs, but now 4-inch Starbucks-style monstrosities seem to be everywhere.  Croissants seem to have gotten bigger, and even sandwiches seemed larger.  Maybe my memory is faulty, but I really feel like there’s been portion size bloat–in restaurants the portions (although not yet to the level of American or German portions) are no longer the dainty servings I recall from my first visit.

My Vegetarian Experience in Non-Vegetarian Paris Restaurants

Unfortunately it’s taken me a very long time to get to this post, so some of the details are a bit fuzzy.  Still, I put together a laundry list of the many places we ate over our short trip.  I’ve since updated this list with a few more places from a subsequent trip to Paris in summer 2011.

  • Les Allobroges.   We tried this out-of-they-way restaurant because it was supposed to be veggie-friendly–according to several blogs it has a vegetarian set meal as part of the menu.  Internet wisdom was out of date though.  The chef had to make something up for me.  My appetizer was a long log of some kind of mild French cheese, wrapped in filo dough, with a green salad on the side.  I think there were some soaked dried cranberries in the salad too, but they weren’t very sour or sweet and didn’t add much flavor.  The cheese was tasty, although the filo was a bit greasy.  The salad was fine, but I would have loved something with more acidic spunk to go along with the cheese.  My main course was a vegetable medley with asparagus, green beans, etc.  The veggies were tasty (lots of butter was involved), but the plate ultimately wasn’t that interesting.  For dessert I ordered a “chocolate pave”.  It turned out to be a mousse rather than the dense, nutty paving stone I expected.  I didn’t care for it.  I really liked Derek’s “chocolate cigarette”, however.  It was filled with a delicious, rich chocolate ganache.  It’s hard to go wrong with ganache.  The ambience was pleasant enough, and Derek thought all his traditional French food was well done, but we didn’t like it enough to go back.  B-.
  • Ze Kitchen Gallerie.  4 rue des Grands Augustins.  Derek ate here when we came to Paris together years ago, and quite enjoyed it, so he chose it for our one upscale dinner on this trip.  Derek started with a vegetarian appetizer that involved eggplant and asparagus.  There were tasty bits to it but it didn’t quite come together and Derek thought it wasn’t worth the money.  For my main dish they served me a plate of Asian vegetables.  All the vegetables were salty and rich, and perfectly crisp.  They were tasty, especially the broccoli.  But the plate was surprisingly one-note for a Michelin-starred restaurant.  There were a few slivers of various herbs scattered across the plate, but they didn’t really change the flavor that much.  There was also a teeny pile of exteremely rich polenta–I think there was less polenta than cream.  Given the salty richness of all the veggies there was no need for the polenta to be so rich, or salty.  I also thought that the dish really needed something more substantial than just a few pieces of veggies and a dab of cream/polenta.  Some protein maybe?  Veggies can be filling when you have a huge pile of them but this dish couldn’t have had more than one cup of veggies total.  It definitely wasn’t worth 28 euros.  The desserts, on the other, were both great.  I ordered the coco-passion-fraise which was a complex, fruity, soupy concoction that hit all the right notes.  Even Derek liked it!  Derek ordered the  “chocolate gianduja”, which was also excellent.    Two slightly strange observations about the restaurant:  after our main dishes our waiter asked us to switch tables so they could fit in a group of 4 by merging our table with the empty one next to us.  We didn’t really mind, and they gave us free dessert wine to compensate, but Derek thought it was odd behavior for a Michelin-starred restaurant.  The second strange observation:  I think the door to the kitchen must have been extremely narrow because the (male) waiters in this restaurant had (collectively) the tiniest hips/butts I have ever seen on any group of men over 13.   Although all the waiters were men, I did spy a few women in the glass-enclosed kitchen.  Overall the ambience and service were fine but nothing to go back for.  Main B-.  Desserts B+.
  • Breizh Café.  109 Rue Vielle du Temple.  There are many, many Paris blogs that rave about the buckwheat crepes at this small, country-style cafe.  They say not to come without reservations but we decided to try our luck for a late lunch.  We arrived at 2:30 and were told the wait would be about 10 minutes.  We waited next to the tiny kitchen (It’s smaller than my kitchen!), watching the chefs fix crepes and salads.  After ten minutes we were seated.  Derek ordered the printaniere crepe and enjoyed it.  I got the champignons complet crepe without the meat (7.80).   When I took my first bite I was bowled over by how strongly it tasted of kasha.  Buckwheat certainly doesn’t pull any punches.  It was actually just a tad strong for me, at least given the mildness of the filling.  Supposedly my crepe had shiitake mushrooms in it but I couldn’t detect any.  And the gruyere cheese was surprisingly generic tasting.  I wasn’t that impressed by my crepe.  We also ordered a green salad with wasabi (3.80) which didn’t tasted much like wasabi to me (if it was there it was extremely mild), but it added a freshness and acidity to my crepe that was definitely appreciated.  We were full after our gallettes but couldn’t resist trying a (non-buckwheat) dessert crepe.  We shared the carrement gingembre crepe (7.50), which was really excellent.  The caramel had an intense ginger flavor that we loved.  Derek ordered a cup of Bolee cider (3), which we both enjoyed.  After lunch we walked around the Marais for a while, then headed to the Opera.  On the way we passed by the Red Wheelbarrow English bookstore, and ducked in to check it out.  Derek enjoyed browsing around, but for some reason I couldn’t find anything that interested me.  Everything was so new and out-in-the-open.  I wanted a bookstore with more character–more nooks and crannies, more used books.  Main: C+.  Dessert: A-.
  • Brasserie Balzar.  On the way to check out the elevated promenade plantee garden/walkway we passed by the opera house.  Derek noticed that Billy Budd was playing.  As a Britten lover who has never seen Billy Budd performed, he couldn’t resist.  He purchased tickets for that nights performance.  By the time the opera was over it was pretty late and everything seemed to be closed.  We wandered around looking for somewhere decent to eat and ended up at this Paris classic.  Derek had been there before and wasn’t too impressed by the food but we had little choice.  I ordered the beet and mache salad, which was fine but the dressing was typically French–a bit oily and not acidic enough for my taste.  I ate a little bread with the very spicy mustard at the table, and shared Derek’s mediocre french fries with him.
  • Rose Bakery.  On the way to Breizh Cafe we had passed by the Marais branch of Rose Bakery.  The salads looked wonderful, and Derek said “we’ve got to go there for lunch.”   But I had already explored the Marais quite a bit, so we decided try the original shop instead.   It wasn’t quite as cute inside, but the salads still looked good.  I ordered the salad plate which came with I think four different salads.  I no longer remember what they were, but I really liked two of them, and Derek loved a third.  Derek ordered a non-veg pasta dish, and thought it was mediocre.  For dessert we shared a piece of their famous carrot cake.  We were highly disappointed.  The cake was dry and simply not that tasty.   To get to the Rose Bakery I took the subway to the Abbesses metro.  It wasn’t the closest metro, but I wanted to explore the area a bit.  Little did I know that Abbesses is one of the deepest metro stops in Paris, at 118 feet below ground.  And there were no escalators!  I was huffing and puffing by the time I saw daylight.  Right outside the metro stop is the Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre church, an art nouveau church.  It looks totally different than any of the churches I’ve seen in Paris.  I just happened upon it but I quite recommend dropping by and checking out the mosaics.  Main: B.  Dessert: C.
  • Anahuacalli.  (Metro Maubert) 30, rue des Bernardins 75005.   They started us out with chips and two of the tiniest bowls of salsa I have ever seen.  They were about the size of my little toe.  Both the green and red salsas were tasty,  while they lasted.  We started with the cuitlachoche quesadilla, which wasn’t burnt to a crisp in parts.  It was so burnt that I was actually surprised they served it.  I ate around the burnt parts, and it was very, very good.  I’ve had huitlachoche quesadillas before that are mostly full of cheese and you can barely taste the fungus.  Not so this time.  The fungus was front and center, and lent the quesadillas a deep, earthy flavor.  For my main I ordered some sort of veggie burrito with a side of beans.   The beans came in their juice and were plump and flavorful.  The burrito was simple but tasty until I got to a huge mass of congealed stringy cheese.   The burrito could have used more veggies/beans inside.  For dessert Derek and I shared a peanut flan.  It was great.  Now I really want to learn how to make it.  I’ve searched online but can’t really find any recipe that looks similar.  One of the most memorable parts of the meal was the girl sitting at the table next to us.  Apparently she was Mexican but had been living in Paris and hadn’t eaten Mexican food in 3 years.  As every dish arrived she exclaimed excitedly at how similar it looked to her mom’s cooking.   Then after each taste there was a sigh of ecstasy.  When everything was finished she had tears in her eyes.  We only paid for dinner, but we got dinner and a show!  Apps and main:  B:.  Dessert: A-.
  • Le Bistro de Pékin.  I read several very good reviews of this Chinese restaurant (1 2), and decided to give it a try.  We went with a Korean couple, who were not very impressed.  The four of us were also (almost) the only ones in the entire (quite large) restaurant.  The vegetarian dishes we got were acceptable, but I wouldn’t order them again.  Apps and main:  B.
  • Maria Luisa. (Rue Marie et Louise) I am a pizza fanatic.  Whenever we go to a new city I have to find at least one pizzeria to try.  I’m invariably disappointed, but I continue the tradition nonetheless.  I read up on all the pizza places in Paris and picked Maria Luisa, mostly because the crust looked the best–thick and chewy with big air bubbles, not that crackery neapolitan excuse for a proper pizza crust.  The shop was small, airy, very cute, and full of families with toddlers.  The patrons seemed for the most part to be locals from the neighborhood.   Derek and I couldn’t agree on a pizza so we each got our own one (for about 13-14 euros each).  Derek got the pizza scamorza, and I got the pizza caprese.  The smoked mozzarella was delicious, but my pizza was a little disappointing.  I no longer remember what was disappointing, but I think the sauce did not have enough flavor.   The pizzas were quite large–we definitely could have shared just one.  We also ordered an insalata caprese, which was a mistake given all the cheese on our pizza.  They also served it with our pizza rather than as an appetizer, even though it took quite a long time for our pizzas to emerge from the kitchen.  For dessert we tried the panna cotta caramel.  It was tasty.  Main and app: B.
  • Les Pâtes Vivantes.  Rue du Faubourg Montmartre.  I read several great reviews of this budget noodle shop, and the pictures of the hand-pulled noodles all looked gorgeous.  We ended up at the second location.  Perhaps that was a mistake, as neither Derek nor I was very happy with what we ordered.  I really wanted a soupy noodle ball, but none were vegetarian.  So I ordered more of a stir-fried noodle dish (for 10 euros) that was just salty and oily and overpowering, without a lot of flavor.  I had to ask for some raw veggies to cut through the grease.  I wasn’t that excited about the noodles either.  Derek got the pretty round noodles that are in all the pictures, but the noodles in my dish were kind of smushed and torn looking. The portion sizes were also huge.  Derek said his (non-veg) dish was tasty but very salty.  Main: C+.
  • Paul.  On the way back to Paris, we grabbed lunch at the train station branch of this chain bakery.  The pesto tomato mozzarella sandwich (4.20) was fine, but nothing special.  The tarte au citron (2.75) was quite excellent–it tasted very similar to the lemon bars from Fine Cooking.  The moulleaux chocolate cake wasn’t that special.  Not moist or chocolatey enough for my taste.  Main: B-.  Lemon tart:  B+.

General grocery stores:

  • La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marche.  This store was kind of like the Whole Foods flagship store wannabe.  There were lots of lovely things to buy but the selection wasn’t nearly as extensive as at a large whole foods.  I did buy a lovely goat cheese though, and some very fresh shiitake mushrooms.  I also bought some Bordier butter.  The blogosphere raves about this stuff.  Even the demi-sel tasted extremely salty to me.  And the taste was quite strong–took a little getting used to.  But once I was used to it, I enjoyed it thoroughly. On my next trip to Paris I went back to La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marche, but couldn’t find much to buy.  The prices are pretty outrageous.  I did buy shiitake mushrooms again and some Nestle baking chocolate and some cheeses to take home.  I skipped the Bordier butter this time.  In July 2014 I looked for a bottle of sherry vinegar, but they only had very small bottles that didn’t look so high quality, and weren’t cheap.
  • Galeries Lafayette‘s food department.  This store wasn’t nearly as extensive as La Grand Epicerie. Like Bon Marche’s food floor, there were a number of central “stalls” of a sort where you could get a meal. But the grocery store itself was pretty disappointing.
Bakeries and sweets:

Macarons: 

For his birthday Derek’s postdoc-to-be gave him a lovely (and extensive) box of macarons from Laduree.  We brought them back to Germany with us and thus extended our Paris culinary explorations by a few more days.  We weren’t always sure which flavor was which, but we enjoyed trying them.  My favorite flavors were the bitter chocolate, the pistachio, the lemon (or citron? both were listed but what’s the difference?), and something dark and fruity (I think it was the blackcurrant/cassis flavor but it could have been the seasonal morello cherry flavor).  I also liked the raspberry, coffee, and chestnut macarons.  Derek’s favorite were the vanilla and the caramel with salted butter.  He also liked most of the ones I liked.  In addition to the fruity and chocolate/caramel/vanilla/nut flavors, there were a number of macarons in the collection that tasted to us like soap.  I couldn’t usually pick out the individual flavor over and above the intense soap taste, but I’m pretty sure that the rose and orange blossom flavors were some of the soapy ones, and maybe also the bergamot or lemongrass or mint.  Other flavors that were good but not our favorites were the coconut, the (regular) chocolate, and some other kind of red fruit macaron.  Other seasonal flavors that I did not detect: praline, gingerbread, and fig.  They were listed on the label but I’m not sure if they were included in our set.

Other than the Laduree macarons the only ones we tried were from the Dominique Saibron bakery around the corner from our apartment (which happens to have placed 3rd in the 2010 best baguette in paris contest).  It was interesting to compare the D.S. macarons with the famous Laduree version.  The pistachio was not nearly as good as the Laduree pistachio macaron—it tasted much more artificial and overly sweet, whereas the Laduree version tasted just like a nutty pistachio.  (Derek actually liked the D.S. pistachio macaron better though, probably because it was substantially sweeter.)  On the other hand, the D.S. dark chocolate macaron was as good as, if not better than, the L. macaron.  D.S. also offered a tiramisu macaron that Derek loved, and I thought was just okay.  I also tried some unknown tropical fruit flavor from D.S. that was sickeningly sweet with way too much filling.

In July 2014 we tried the macarons from Gregory Renard, a place around the corner from our hotel that got good reviews and offers cheaper than normal macarons (1.20 euros per piece). I liked the chocolate fleur de sel and the coffee flvaors, but the texture was a little bit sticky for my taste. Could it have something to do with the fact that they were gluten free, or are all macaron’s gluten free? Derek liked the caramel flavor, and the lemon macaron was a tad artificial tasting and too sweet, but not too bad. We also tried two different mixed fruit flavors (mango/ginger and ??) and both Derek and I found them totally inedible. They both tasted like soap—overly sweet soap. The one Derek absolutely adored, saying it was the best macaron he’s ever had, was the foie gras fig macaron, which was hidden away, with only a small sign on the glass to reveal that it even existed.

Ice cream

Berthillon: There are a ton of places that sell Berthillon ice cream on the island, but we always make sure to go to the original shop, not one of the re-sellers.

  • May 2010: I have a really distinct memory of the amazing peach sorbet at Berthillon, but this time around it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered.  Still very flavorful but not awe-inspiring. On a later visit I tried the cassis (black currant) and the salted caramel.  The cassis was surprisingly tart.  At first I thought it was too tart, but it kind of grew on me.  I’m not sure I’d get it again but I enjoyed it.  I especially liked the combination of the tart cassis with the sweet and salty caramel!  The caramel by itself was good, but needed to be eaten in combination with another flavor to balance out the saltiness. The line on this last visit was quite long (at 3:30pm on a very hot, very sunny Sunday). Still, it was worth it.  Walking over the hot, shadeless bridge is so much more pleasant with a cold ice cream in your hand!
  • Summer 2012: We tried the Peche de Vigne, which was excellent this itme, and the pistachio, which was fine but not that exciting.  Ori’s mango tasted like mango but was dull. Derek got the salty caramel and speculos.  He thought the salty caramel was superb and the speculos was okay–not the same flavor as the Hagen Dazs speculos, but with big pieces of cookies.  Katrina’s hazelnut was nice.
  • December 2012:  We shared several flavors.  The gingerbread was strangely spiced and too sweet.  The prune with armagnac was very good, but Derek thought it was a little icy.  I tried their mini Chocolate Fondant, and found it too sweet and not chocolatey or moist enough.  Benard tried their coffee macaron, and liked it.  But I thought it was way too sweet and the texture wasn’t right.
  • July 2014: At 11:30am on a not-too-hot Saturday there was no line at all. Derek got the salty caramel again and loved it. He wanted to get white chocolate but I suggested the gianduja instead. Neither of us cared for it. It was very rich and not so interesting. I ordered the yuzu yogurt which was not very yogurt-y but was very yuzu-y. The texture was icy but I loved the yuzu flavor.

In Summer of 2012 we stopped at Le Bac à Glaces in the 6th, near Bon Marche. Katrina got the special of the day–Rhubarb.  It was excellent.  Nice and tart with pieces of rhubarb.

Fauchon.  August 2012:  I had a scoop of the chocolate with orange peel at Fauchon (at the Madeleine Metro).  Wow!  Intensely chocolately.  I’d definitely go back.  Their macarons, on the other hand, weren’t very good.  At least the ones I tried.  The chocolate was too sweet, the pistachio wasn’t pistachio enough. I went back in July 2014 and they didn’t have any ice cream, and claimed that they had never had ice cream. I did buy a nice big bottle of sherry vinegar though, at a good price.

Other sweets and bread:

L’Étoile d’or.  Lebowitz says to go to this small candy shop to get the caramels by Denise Acabo.  He claims that they are the best caramels in Paris.  I tried a few and they were very tasty–definitely better than any of the complimentary caramels we had received while in the city.    Still, they’re caramels–sticky and extremely sweet.  I don’t think I would go out of my way to get them again.

Poilâne.  Many blogs say that this bakery makes the best bread in Paris.  I got a small loaf, and was surprised to discover that it tastes similar to German bread.  It was good bread, but nothing all that novel.

Other food related places I visited

  • Pousse-Pousse.  I bought some broccoli sprout seeds but haven’t tried sprouting them yet.
  • Lion Père et Fils. Clotilde says this little shop has great prunes.  I couldn’t find any.  The shop seemed to have more gardening stuff than foodstuffs.
  • E.Dehillerin.  This kitchen supply store was insanely crowded on a Saturday afternoon.  Mostly it was full of tourists, but there seemed to be a few locals there as well.  Upstairs the aisles were so full you could hardly move.  Downstairs was more navigable.  I didn’t go with the intention to buy anything, but I ended up buying a french rolling pin (the kind without handles), strangely labeled rouleau hetre “americain” on the bill.  It cost 6.50 euros.  The salesman picked it up and mimed hitting a ball with it.  “Good for baseball” he said in English.
  • O Chateau wine tasting.  For Derek’s birthday I bought him a wine tasting class at O Chateau.  It was held in a somewhat dank cellar, which made me sneeze.  Derek enjoyed all the wines, and felt like he learned something about the different wine regions of France.   One interesting thing that the instructor said was that French women have mostly stopped drinking wine.  He says that it’s causing big problems for the French wine industry, since most French wine is still sold within the country.
  • Maisons de Thé Mariage Frères.  30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg, open every day from 10 to 8pm.  We bought five loose teas at this old-fashioned tea shop, where the tea sellers where long aprons:  casablanca, smoky earl grey, sur le nil, orange valley darjeeling, jasmin mandarin).  All were about 5.5-7 euros per 100 grams (the minimum order), except for the darjeeling (which was 13 euros, but almost half the price of the first darjeeling he showed us).  If you want your tea in tins rather than bags, the selection is more limited and the price is higher.  Or you can just buy empty tins.  Strangely, they don’t sell cup style tea filters.

Info on tipping in France:  If you have a meal in a café it’s customary to round up the bill to the nearest Euro or two. In most other nicer restaurants, unless the service was outstanding, or they were incredibly helpful, one or two Euros per person is fine. At an expensive restaurant, like those with Michelin stars, 3-5 Euros per person is about right. More if you really felt the service was exceptional.

One last note for those of us who prefer coffee with our milk, rather than the other way around.  Apparently there is no such thing as cafe au lait in France.  The Paris Wise Blog says that “the closest thing is a Café Crème which comes in two sizes, one called a Café Crème and the larger a Grand Crème.  This is a steamy combination of espresso coffee and steamed milk topped with foam – much like a Cappuccino.”   Another option is a Noisette, “an espresso, with a dollop of foamed milk and a tiny bit of milk.  Just like a Macchiato in Italy.”

And a list for myself of possible places to try next time:

  • Spoon
  • Bob’s Kitchen. Vegetarian, hippy-style joint popular with many foodies.
  • Bistrot Napolitain.  Another pizza place to try.
  • Produce markets.
  • Thai-vien or Krung Thep: Thai.
  • More kitchen supply and food stores, like La Tienda Nueva and DOT
  • Maceo and Mon Vieil Ami are more upscale French places that have vegetarian tasting menus.  I think I went to Maceo once before, and didn’t care for it, so I wasn’t enthusiastic about trying it again.

Update June and August 2012:

  • Bistrot Paul Bert.  Derek picked this not-very-veggie-friendly bistro.  When I asked if they had any vegetarian dishes, the waiter said (in a surprisingly friendly manner), “You know, we specialize in meat here.”  I ended up ordering an excellent tomato salad, but there weren’t any vegetarian main dishes on the menu, so I ordered the cheese plate as my main.  They let you take as much as you want, which is nice.  But the cheeses themselves weren’t that interesting.  The Mimolette was good, and (surprisingly) one of my favorites was the St. Nectaire.  The atmosphere was pleasant.  Crowded but not too crowded.  Brightly lit and noisy but still easy to hear each other over the hubbub.  The service was good.  The waiters were extremely busy so they forgot a few things, but they were very friendly and they spoke excellent English.  Derek’s non-vegetarian dishes were good, he said, but unexceptional.  He ordered a Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert, which was “exemplary” he said.  I tried a lemon tart, which was pretty good but I’ve had better. Derek said he probably wouldn’t go back, especially since it was a bit out of the way.
  • Krishna Bhavan.  Several people recommended this South Indian restaurant near the Gare du Nord.  We showed up around 1:30pm and it was packed.  We couldn’t interpret the menu all that well, so decided to go with the classics.  We ordered a masala dosa and the south Indian thali.  The dosa wasn’t crisp enough for Derek, and I thought the potato filling was pretty awful.  The coconut chutney it was served with was fine, but nothing special.  The sambar was reasonably tasty but didn’t quite tasted like sambar to me.  The thali wasn’t much better.  Most of the curries were pretty plain and quite oily.  The spinach tasted mostly like spinach, and the carrots like carrots and oil.  The food tasted a lot like home-cooked South Indian food.  It was certainly edible, but not at all what I expected.  We won’t go back.
  • Hacienda del Sol.  The Mexican restaurant has the same owner as Anahuacalli, which we liked last time were in Paris, but now has nothing vegetarian on the menu.  This restaurant had two vegetarian appetizers:  a salad and a quesadilla plate with one huitlacoche quesadilla and one made from zucchini flowers.  The quesadillas were made from corn tortillas, which was a nice change.  The huitlacoche quesadilla was again excellent, but we couldn’t taste the zucchini flowers at all.  Next time I’d see if I could get them to make both huitlacoche.  There were no obviously vegetarian mains on the menu, but they said they could make me vegetarian enchiladas or a vegetarian stuffed pepper.  I chose the enchiladas.  The salsa verde was very good, but unfortunately the enchiladas were filled with only cheese, no vegetables.  They came with a side of rice or creamed zucchini (the beans aren’t vegetarian). I chose the zucchini, but it was bland.  Tasted like a little zucchini in a lot of cream.  Derek said the beans weren’t anything special, despite the bacon.  Derek ordered chicken enchiladas in a mole sauce. I tasted his mole sauce, and it was a really nice mix of sweet and spicy and nutty and chocolate and chilies.  It’s one of the best I’ve had.  Overall the restaurant was pleasant, but seemed quite overpriced. If they add some vegetarian dishes to their menu I’d probably go back, despite the high prices. Especially if it turns out that the mole is vegetarian.  They also have a green chili tamale, which I forgot to ask about, but might be vegetarian.
  • Rose Bakery.  We went for Sunday brunch at noon, and got a table pretty quickly.  I ordered the vegetable plate, despite the outrageous price.  (Was it so expensive last time?)  Some of the salads were quite nice (the one with quinoa and wheat berries), and others were a little boring.  The complimentary bread and butter was excellent, as was the coffee.  Derek ordered the eggs benedict with smoked salmon instead of bacon.  He said it was excellent—best he’s had.  It was unusually light and fresh tasting, and the (bio farmed) salmon was excellent.  For dessert we decided we had to try the carrot cake again, and Katrina and Derek thought the pistachio cake looked great, even though I told them we hadn’t liked it that much last time.  I didn’t like the carrot cake but Derek said the flavor was good, it was just kind of dry.  But we agreed that the cream cheese icing was great.  Nobody liked the pistachio cake, despite its über-green and über-moist appearance. The lemon tart was excellent Derek said.  Better than Paul Bert’s.
  • Josselin crepes.  Derek and I ate at this creperie on a street near Montparnasse that’s oozing with creperies.  I ordered the vegetarian galette, and enjoyed it a lot.  I could taste the buckwheat but it wasn’t overpowering, and the crepe was extremely crisp.  I think they use a LOT of butter.  Derek got a goat cheese and honey galette, and loved it.   Katrina and Derek and I shared a dessert crepe with caramel, almonds, and vanilla ice cream.  It was fine but not nearly as good as the dessert crepe we had at Breizh Cafe last time.  On another trip we tried the flambeed dessert crepe with apple compote and calvados, and it was not as good.  The compote was basically apple sauce and the calvados didn’t add all that much flavor.
  • Falafel.  We wanted to eat at L’as du Falafel, but it was closed for Shabbat, so we went to the place with the shortest line.  It was across the street / around the corner from Marianne.  The falafel was surprisingly good.  I gave away the big pieces of eggplant but enjoyed the tomato chutney.  The falafels were tasty and all the fresh veggies were nice as well.  I didn’t care for the hummus all that much, and I wouldn’t have minded some spicy harissa.  I haven’t been to any other falafel place in Paris, so I can’t compare, but I would definitely go back.  More places to get falafel in Paris.  Update August 2012:  I finally went to L’as du Falafel and I wasn’t as excited about it as I expected.  I did enjoy the chili sauce they put on top, but there wasn’t much of it and once you got through the very top there was no more chili sauce.  My dad said that overall the balance was off.  The sauces needed more acid.  I think I agree with him.  I’d have to try them side-by-side, but I think I liked the falafel from Marianne more.
  • Le Ribouldingue. Derek ate at this not-at-all-vegetarian restaurant for lunch, and he said the food was straightforward but well-prepared.  He’d go back.  And he said they served the best rice pudding (riz au lait in French) he’s ever had.  Definitely better than at Chez L’ami Jean, which is supposed to have the best rice pudding in Paris.
  • Candelaria:  I ate at this tiny taqueria when I was on my own for lunch in August 2012.  I ordered two mushroom (Hongo) tacos and a side order of black beans.  The beans were fine, but the chips they came with were too thick, too greasy, and the salt was extremely unevenly distributed, with huge clumps in places.  The tacos were very pretty, but didn’t taste like anything.  They came with some kind of green salsa that was tart and tasty, but the tacos themselves seemed to have no flavor at all.
  • Le Pain Quotidien:  I felt silly going to this chain cafe in Paris, since there’s one right down the street from Derek’s parents in New York, but we were hungry and everything nearby with vegan options was closed in mid-August.  I had a Tartin with camembert and walnuts, which turned out to be just a rather plain and dry sandwich.  The bread was good, but it really needed something moist.  The one slice of cucumber and one slice of radish didn’t cut it. My mom got the gazpacho, which was actually pretty good (and I’m not usually a gazpacho fan).  It certainly was nice to have a cold soup given the hot weather we were having.  Plus it was vegan.  At the end of lunch, however, my mom got a splinter from the lovely, unpolished wooden tables.  Very eco!

One tip:  If you don’t have a reservation then you should definitely show up for dinner before 8:30pm, and even better would be between 7:30 and 8pm.  Some popular places like the Breizh Cafe still won’t seat you, but at most places you can usually get a table before 8:00pm.

I went to the Batignolles organic market with my mom.  Wow, were the prices high!  Everything was beautiful, but very, very expensive.

Cheese shopping:

August 2012: I got great cheeses at the Quatrehomme cheese shop (9 Rue du Poteau, near the Jules Joffin metro).  The guy there spoke great English and was really helpful and friendly.  They had about 6 different comtes of different ages, and the salesman let me try a bunch until I found the age I liked the best (not too young, not too old). I got an amazing goat cheese that I don’t remember the name of, but it was made from the milk of a breed of goat that is normally bred for meat, not milk. They live on the border between France and Spain and eat wild thyme and other herbs, and the cheese is very herb-y and wonderful. It’s a seasonal special, only available for a few months of the year.

December 2012: Derek and I went to the Quatrehomme near Montparnasse, and it wasn’t as pleasant an experience.  We went late on a Saturday, and the place was packed.  Most of the cheeses are behind deli cases, and there were a bunch of different people helping different customers at the same time.  It was just more crowded and rushed feeling.  But the woman who helped us was very friendly and let us taste whatever we wanted.  She seemed new, and not that knowledgeable, and she didn’t speak much English, but it worked out.  We bought a bunch of cheeses and were surprised at how low the final bill was.

In July 2014 on a Sunday around noon we went to Androuet at the very end of Rue Mouffetard. The saleswoman spoke good English, and she gave us some suggestions and let us taste quite a few cheeses, most of which we bought a piece of, until she got frustrated and told us she couldn’t let us taste every cheese in the store. I think there was a line forming behind us. So we had them vacuum pack the cheeses we’d already picked and settled the bill. We tried a young comte, but it wasn’t very interesting, then we tried an older (18 month?) comte, which both of us really liked. It didn’t have the sour swiss-cheese taste of the comte here in Saarbruecken. We got a firm goat cheese that I loved, as well as some other firm cheeses. Derek got a firm sheep milk’s cheese that was way too strong for me.

Non-food notes:

  • The Musée de l’Orangerie (one of the only art museums open on a Monday) is famous for its several paintings of Monet’s water lilies.   They seem like nice background paintings, but not Monet’s most interesting work.  The museum had a mildly interesting temporary exhibit about the art that influenced Debussy’s music, and one room with paintings by Chaim Soutine, who neither Derek or I had ever heard of but both of us really liked.
  • Le Puces de St.-Ouen.  We checked out this flea market, which is supposed to be the largest in Paris.  But it doesn’t feel much like a flea market—mostly it’s made up professional sellers with ugly gilt things behind glass. We didn’t find all that much of interest, and it’s way on the outskirts. Not recommended unless you’re a serious collector.
  • Galerie Vivienne:  I really liked this old covered mall.  It’s not in great shape but the design is beautiful.  Galerie Colbert is next door, but I didn’t care for it as much.
  • Kitchenware shopping: There were several nice kitchenware stores on Rue Montmartre, north of Les Halles.  Plus it’s a pedestrian-only street.

Update from a trip in December 2012:

Note to self.  Bring warmer shoes and long johns!

Shopping:  I got a really interesting winter hat at Le Grain de Sable, a shop on the  Île St. Louis.  Derek and I also quite enjoyed the art in the Gabriel Eid gallery, which was just down the street.  We were particularly fascinated by the paintings of the Belarusian artist Roman Zaslonov, but a lot of the work in the gallery was interesting.

Touristy stuff:  We thought that on a cold winter day in December there wouldn’t be long lines at the tourist sites.  But we tried to go to a special Hopper retrospective and when we got there around 10 or 11 in the morning the wait was already several hours long.  We came back the next morning about 30 minutes before the museum opened, and then only had to wait for about 40 minutes.  But lesson learned.  Buy tickets in advance, even in the winter!

The first night we ate at La Fontaine de Mars, a very traditional French restaurant near the Eiffel tower.   There were three vegetarian starters, of which I chose the steamed leeks in an herbed dressing.  The leeks were served cold in a vinaigrette.  It was reasonably tasty, and interesting.  I’ve never had leeks cold before.  I’m glad I tried it, but I probably wouldn’t order it again.  For my main dish I ordered one of the house specialities—a warm porcini mushroom paté, which actually ended up being more like almost like a little cupcake or tart of mushrooms, held together by eggs.  The mushrooms were quite flavorful, and I enjoyed the dish, but again I probably wouldn’t order it again.    If I go back I will try the goat cheese tart as my main dish.  In addition to the two starters I shared a bowl of green salad.  The salad greens weren’t all as fresh as I would have liked, and there was something gritty in the dressing.  Hopefully it was just coarsely ground salt or pepper, but it sure seemed like dirt or sand.  The four of us shared two desserts.  Derek chose the chocolate mousse, which I didn’t care for.  But I loved the other dessert:  the “Tourtière Landaise” with Armagnac ice cream.  It was very plum-y and a little bit boozy and everyone thought it was excellent.

The second night we at dinner at Fish (La Boissonnerie), which was recommended as a vegetarian friendly restaurant in Paris.   According to Paris by Mouth, the food is much more modern and Asian-inspired.  They started us off with some foccacia which was very rich and salty and melt-in-your-mouth soft.  Excellent, but I think I would have preferred some more standard French sourdough.  The menu had several vegetarian starters.  I ordered the sweet potato soup with harissa sauce.  It was fine.  It was a creamy, slightly sweet soup.  I couldn’t really taste the harissa though.  Overall I thought it was a bit dull.  Constance ordered a salad and said she wasn’t too impressed by it.  Benard got a dish with a soft-boiled egg over boiled salsify.  On top were very thin strips of crispy salsify (dried? fried?).  I tried the boiled salsify and liked it (it was simple but I like salsify). But I didn’t try the other components of the dish.   Derek ordered some kind of fish broth with parmesan cheese, oysters, and bits of crunchy buckwheat.  He said he never would have thought to put those flavors together, and it was one of the best dishes he’s had in a restaurant in a long time.  For my main dish I got the one vegetarian main on the menu.  It was kind of a mishmash of several things.  On the bottom was a salty, buttery tart crust (maybe with parmesan too?).  On top of the tart crust was lots of sauteed cabbage. The dish also had several sauteed, very tender and buttery carrots, and perhaps some other garnishes that I’m forgetting.  I thought the dish was fine.  Derek, as expected, absolutely adored the dish, primarily because he’s a sucker for salty, rich pie crusts.  I wasn’t as won over.  The way the prices are set up it encourages you to order dessert.  So we shared four different desserts.  There was a caramelized banana with chocolate pralines.  It was my least favorite.  Constance ordered the brownie, which was fine, but what I loved about the dish was that the brownie was served on some sort of a yellow pepper sauce.  The combination of the chocolate and the slightly vegetal, bell peppery sauce was genius.   Derek ordered a lemon orange tart, which I thought was fine but he thought was excellent.  Benard ordered some sort of parfait with stewed plums and armagnac I think.  And something creamy.  Maybe chestnuts?  It was my favorite dessert of the four, although that yellow pepper sauce was a close second.  Overall the meal wasn’t stellar, but certainly if you’re looking for a place with vegetarian options in Paris, where the waitstaff speaks excellent English, Fish is a good choice.

Update from a trip in July 2014:

Overall I wasn’t too excited about the places we tried on this trip, although to be fair, many of them we chose not because they were so highly reviewed for vegetarians, but because they were places Derek wanted to try that seemed to be reasonably vegetarian friendly. I was happy to go where he wanted, as long as there was something for me to eat. We did end up going to one place I really loved though. I saved it until the end 🙂

Our first night in Paris we went back to Fish (La Boissonnerie), which had been flawed by interesting last time. But on this visit I thought the vegetarian dishes were pretty bad. The single highlight to the meal was the amuse bouche, which was a watermelon gazpacho flavored with an anise liqueur. Both Derek and I loved it. I could have eaten a whole bowl of it. There were not many veggie appetizers to choose from, and it was cold outside so I decided to start with a cauliflower curry soup. Unfortunately, however, there was absolutely no curry flavor. There wasn’t much flavor at all. It didn’t taste bad, exactly, it was just really boring. It was large though. For the main dish there was only a single vegetarian option—heirloom tomatoes with feta and smoked eggplant puree. It didn’t really appeal to me, and I considered asking for just some sides of veggies instead, but in the end I decided to take a chance. The dish was not great. It was pretty huge, maybe two large heirloom tomatoes cut up and tons of feta, all over a little bit of (not very smoky) eggplant puree. Everything tasted fine, but it was cold (on a cold rainy day), and kind of one note. I got very tired of it before I was even halfway through. The tomatoes were tasty, but it would have worked better as an appetizer than as a main dish. I was pretty full at this point, but the way the pricing is set up they encourage you to order dessert, and Derek really wanted to try two, so he chose a nectarine crumble and an orange tart. The nectarines were raw slices topped with some not-great crumble topping. The worst thing was that the nectarines weren’t ripe. It was pretty bad. The orange tart was much better, tasted like a nice orange tart, but nothing too special. Overall my experience at Fish this time was pretty bad. Derek said his non-veggie meal was not bad, but not too exciting. He said he might be tempted to go back just because all the wines were so good, but probably only on a longer trip to Paris, not a quick one.

On my second night Derek had reservations at some upscale non-veggie-friendly restaurant, so I chose a vegetarian restaurant—Saveurs Végét’Halles—very close to Les Halles, and to Derek’s restaurant. That way he could join me for a bit before heading off for his (late) dinner reservation. He was hungry as well so we shared a hummus appetizer. The hummus didn’t really taste like hummus (there was no detectable tahini or garlic), but it was fresh tasting and hit the spot. I really liked the texture and the fresh chickpea taste. And the baguette they served it with was amazing, as was the single slice of tomato on the plate. Wow. That was the best tomato I’ve had in a long time. For my main course I ordered the vegetable lasagna, which was mostly vegan except for a single layer of melted cheese over the top. The lasagna had lots of veggies, but I didn’t love it. It was a bit oily and had a strong taste of dried herbs (herbes de provence maybe?). But I did enjoy getting some veggies in, and the price was reasonable and the ambience pleasant enough. I’d like to try this restaurant again next time, and order a different main.

Our third night we didn’t have any plans, and one of Derek’s colleagues recommended the restaurant Le Cosi, which was near his hotel, and specializes in the cuisine of Corsica and Provence. We had a tiny corner table, and indeed, it was very cozy.  For an appetizer I chose the tomato tart, which I thought was going to be a small, flat crust with some tomatoes on top, but turned out to be a large, vertically-constructed tart shell full of roasted tomatoes and some other veggie which I now forget. Derek thought it was really delicious, and I thought it was pleasant. They didn’t have any vegetarian main dishes on the menu, and the waitress said I could choose another appetizer or the chef could fix me a vegetable plate. I chose the vegetable plate, and got a plate with carrots, large pieces of celery, and fresh peas over a bed of braised fennel and tomatoes. The fennel and tomato base was delicious, but rich. The veggies on top were fine, although I didn’t care for the celery too much. In retrospect, I think I might have been happier with a salad off the appetizer menu, because after the quite large tart it was simply too much food. Derek helped me finish it off, and I was pleased to see that the charge for my vegetable plate was closer to the cost of an appetizer than one of the meaty main dishes. I was too full for dessert but Derek ordered an apricot short bread for dessert. I tried one of the apricots and the whipped cream on the side, and both were very well seasoned and delicious. Derek said there wasn’t enough shortbread but what was there was great—made with buckwheat flour maybe? Overall Derek quite liked Le Cosi, and would go back again. For a vegetarian, it wasn’t as exciting, but it was certainly workable, and much better than Fish.

Our last night we ate at Semilla, a sister restaurant to Fish. I wasn’t so hungry, due to our hot chocolate excursion (described below), so I decided to start with the lighter of the two vegetarian appetizers—a salad of mixed wild greens. It was nice to have a salad, but I wouldn’t have minded some other, more moist veggies, especially since the greens were almost totally undressed. I asked for them to bring me some vinegar and they brought me a sweet vinaigrette instead. Semilla didn’t have any vegetarian main dish on the menu. The waitress told us that was very unusual, but that the chef could make me a vegetable plate with lentils. The plate came with a pile of red lentils in the center. The lentils were slightly al dente and quite salty, but reasonably tasty. It was nice to have some “beans.” On one side of the plate was a roasted half of a japanese eggplant and the other side had some other smaller pieces of roasted veggies. I quite enjoyed the eggplant, surprisingly, and the other veggies were also fine. Overall the dish wasn’t exciting, but it was better than my cold tomato/feta dish as Fish. It wasn’t cheap though. When we got the bill it turned out that my vegetable plate was twice as much as the one last night at Le Cosi! The best part of the meal at Semilla was the sourdough bread with butter, which they kept us supplied with throughout the meal. It was so good I ate it for dessert! I was the only one of the six of us that didn’t order dessert. Derek got a pistachio tartlet with cherries. I tried a few of the cherries and they were wonderful. Overall Derek really liked his meal. He said it was much better than Fish, and he’d definitely go back.

We didn’t have time to stop for dinner before our train left on Sunday night, but I didn’t think I could wait until we got home at 9:30 pm to eat, so I left Derek in the train station with our suitcases and walked a few blocks to Saravana Bhavan, part of an international chain of Indian restaurants, which several people had recommended to me. We tried to go here last time a few years ago, but I got confused and we ended up at Krishna Bhavan instead, which we didn’t care for. I didn’t have much time before our train left so I quickly ordered a masala dosa and alu gobi to go. (In my rush I overlooked the chana masala dish, which is what I really wanted.) The food was ready in about 10 minutes, and as they wrapped everything up for me I noticed that the cauliflower dish was quite soupy, and didn’t come with rice. So I asked them to add some rice to the order. They gave me a small container full and charged me 3.50 euros. For less than 2 cups of white rice! I took the food back to Gare de L’est, getting totally soaked in a sudden rainstorm. I thought we’d have to eat on the train, but I had gotten the food so quickly that we actually had enough time to eat before our train left. Derek and I quickly inhaled the food. The dosa came with two chutneys and a small container of sambar. The sambar was good, but not as good as mine. I liked both chutneys and the dosa, although the potato filling wasn’t quite seasoned properly. Derek liked the cauliflower dish more than the dosa, but I thought it was pretty bad. The seasoning was fine, but there seemed to be almost no cauliflower in it, and no detectable potatoes, and a ton of oil. I had to dilute it with lots and lots of rice before I could even eat it.

I had read good things about Pizza al Taglio, a roman-style pizza places that sells pizza by weight, so when we passed by it I had to stop and try it. Derek and I shared a small piece of truffle potato pizza, but neither of us was too excited by it. The crust was very rich and thick and tasted more like foccacia than pizza crust. And it wasn’t particularly cheap either. The atmosphere was pleasant though, with pretty comfortable stool seating. Oddly, the shop was almost totally empty around 1pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Le Pot o’Lait: I went to this crepe place near my hotel for lunch, thinking it would be full, since it’s on lots of lists of the best crepe places in Paris. But at noon on a Friday in July there were lots of empty tables. I ordered the galette of the day—tomatoes, onions, an egg, and emmental. The galette tasted fine. It was nice and crisp around the edges and buckwheat-y but not too buckwheat-y. But I just didn’t enjoy it for some reason. It needed some acid to cut through all the fat and the sweetness of the sautéed onions. Afterwards I felt kind of ill. It didn’t seem that big, but I was so very full. Yet the French woman next to me ate the same galette and then ordered a crepe and coffee for dessert!

Derek and I got lunch at Nanashi in the northern Marais. The place reminded me a bit of a more japanese Rose Cafe, maybe because they also keep all their produce in crates in the front entrance. I had seen a picture on parisbymouth of their bento box with brown rice, tofu, and a salad, and couldn’t wait to eat there. But it turned out that there was only a single vegetarian bento box on offer each day, and on that day it was a tofu burger with eggplant puree, but no brown rice. I was sad, but ordered it anyway. The tofu burger turned out to be totally tasteless almost unseasoned mashed tofu, with a few pieces of corn inside. I had to add lots of soy sauce and gomasio to get it to have any flavor. The bun was quite rich (brioche?) white fluffy bread. I ate the top bun, and it was tasty, but what I really wanted was whole grains. The bento box came with leafy greens and grated carrot salad and some broccoli and other veggies. The vegetables were pleasant, but I was overall disappointed. Derek ordered the non-veg bento and was surprised to get a little hamburger, which he wasn’t excited about. His dish at least came with mixed grains — brown rice, red rice, and millet (or was it couscous?) I stole half of his grains, since he liked them less than I did. Overall we were not very impressed, especially given the not-at-all-cheap prices.

It was so cold and rainy on this trip that I was craving hot chocolate. I had read up on the best places to get hot chocolate in Paris and picked out Pâtisserie Viennoise, which supposedly “serves an intense, bittersweet chocolat chaud, emphasis on the bitter.” But we forgot to check the hours and it turned out that they were closed on a Saturday, so Derek looked up other options and we ended up at another top-5 hot chocolate place nearby: Un Dimanche à Paris. The hot chocolate was very expensive, and when they served it, we figured out why. It was huge! The pitcher contained two quite large cups of very rich, very sweet hot chocolate. It was too sweet for me, and I had to mix some of Derek’s coffee into it to balance out all the sugar, but Derek thought it was perfect. After drinking one of the two cups I felt like I had just ingested about a mountain of sugar. It was clearly made from very high quality chocolate and cream, but it was simply too sweet for me.

After lots of French food I was craving something Asian, so decided to go to the little Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall Cocottes et Donabes for lunch. I had read a review which praised the freshness of the (supposedly organic) produce and ended by saying “I really enjoy her vegetarian fare, and the dish that stands out is la pagode, which is inspired by the days when Loan’s parents helped feed Buddhist monks hiding in their home in Saigon.” I showed up at noon, and was the only one in the small restaurant. The owner/chef started me off with a cup of complimentary tea (green? mint? whatever it was it was good). The younger waitress didn’t speak much English but she confirmed my guess that everything written in green on the menu was vegetarian. I tried to ask what was in la pagode, but she just said it was a mix of different things.  I asked if the food was deep fried, and she said yes, but I didn’t think she had understood me. After some pantomining and more discussion I finally I got her to understand what deep frying is and she assured me that nothing was deep fried. So I ordered the vegetarian lunch special which consisted of a mango salad and La Pagode. The mango salad was actually a small green mango salad with fresh greens and other veggies and a delicious sweet and sour and spicy dressing. Yum. I was very much looking forward to the main course, but when it finally came it was just a plate of steamed white rice and raw-looking vegetables. It turned out that the veggies were not raw but very, very lightly steamed, and the waitress brought me a soy-based sauce with very fresh silken tofu in it. The sauce was tasty and the vegetables tasted fine, but the dish as a whole was quite plain, especially given the very high price of the lunch special. But at least it was relatively light and healthy. It was the only lunch I ate in Paris where I was actually very hungry by 7pm.

Last, but not least (yes, I saved the best for last) I want to tell you about Pizza Chic. I love pizza, in theory, but in practice I’m usually disappointed. But I keep trying different places in the hopes of finding that perfect pizza. I had looked up lists of the best pizzas in Paris, and was slowly trying all of them. We went to Maria Luisa a few years ago, and weren’t that excited, and we had tried Al Taglio on this trip and not liked it that much. So I wasn’t getting my hopes up, but surprisingly, Pizza Chic delivered. I went there by myself for lunch and wasn’t sure which pizza to order, until I saw my neighbor’s vegetariana pizza, which had lots of grilled veggies and fresh mozzarella. I’m not usually a fan of grilled veggies on pizza, but this pizza looked delicious, and I ordered it. When it came and I tasted it, I discovered it was as good as it looked. The thin crust was extremely flavorful, with great depth of flavor and a nice char, the tomato sauce offered the perfect balance of sweet and salty and acid, the mozzarella was super high quality, and the veggies were delicious. I also appreciated that the pizza wasn’t that cheesy. There were just a few islands of very wet mozzarella, which really let the sauce and crust and veggies shine, and somehow didn’t make the pizza soggy. Despite the thin crust, a whole pizza was really too much food for me for lunch, but it was so good that I finished the whole thing. Oh, wow, was I full. But happy. The pizza was expensive. (Parisbymouth puts it more delicately, saying the restaurant “features a wood-burning oven, and contentious pricing.”) But it was worth it. The pizza was so good I made Derek go back with me for lunch on Sunday, right before we left Paris. I suggested we just share one pizza, but he really wanted to try two, and he graciously offered to share two vegetarian pizzas, so we ordered the aurora (with tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil) and the carciofi (a white artichoke pizza often praised in reviews). The aurora was wonderful, tasting a lot like my vegetariana pizza just without the veggies. I actually couldn’t distinguish the buffalo mozzarella from the regular mozzarella, but it was very tasty nonetheless. I wasn’t as big a fan of the artichoke pizza, which came topped with artichoke cream, pieces of artichokes, arugula, and very aged parmesan. I felt like the toppings didn’t allow the flavor of the crust to shine through, and the pizza seemed a bit dry to me. Derek liked it more than me, but agreed that the aurora was way, way better—totally worth a visit and the high prices. We will be back.

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Arpan said,

    I don’t think Saravana Bhavan is the place to order a cauliflower dish. It offers a South-Indian cuisine, so dosas, idlis vadas, south-indian parothas and chutneys are the attractions. Personally for me, I love the range of chutneys that they offer (at least in the India branch they have 5-6 different types).

    • captious said,

      I figured I would try one south Indian and one north Indian dish. Notice that I did skip the Chinese portion of the menu!

      But your comment seems to imply that people don’t eat cauliflower in southern India?

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