Archive for the '10th Arrindissement' Category

Petite Mumbai de Paris – Indian food and culture

Little India, Paris FranceI’ve been looking for good Indian restaurants since arriving in Paris. I’ve found some decent ones, but none has triggered a desire to return. I’ve been looking for the spirit and joviality I’ve experienced in Bangalore as well as the Indian neighborhoods of San Diego and the Bay Area.

I had heard about some good restaurants north of Gare du Nord but never found this mysterious Hindu Eden. While flying from San Francisco to Paris on Air France I came across an article that described this small neighborhood of saris, sweets, and restaurants. I took the magazine home with me and read the article several times. Finally I had a weekend to do some Paris exploring and jumped on the metro a couple weeks ago to La Chapelle (metro 6).

Rue Cail

Rue Cail seems to be the heart of the community. You’ll find a great assortment of vegetarian restaurants, sweet shops, grocery stores, jewelry shops, and places to find Saris, shirts, and more. My first visit was also punctuated by an impromptu protest rally for an event in India.

Krishna BhavanThere are two restaurants that get the most attention. Krishna Bhavan and Dishny. Both straddle the street with dual identities, formal and casual restaurants. Krishna Bhavan is 100% vegetarian and this makes me very happy. I love being able to order anything off the menu.

Krishna Bhavan

I visited the casual version of Krishna Bhavan. It reminded me of the neighborhood taco shops of San Diego or similar simple restaurants of any city and culture. They serve dosas, rice dishes, samosas, as well as a hearty fixed price menu.

I ordered the basic menu at 13 euros. This includes a drink, entree, dinner, and dessert. For the drink you get your choice of a lassi (mango, salt, sweet, or banana). Entrees include vegetable, tomato, or broccoli soup, potato, onion, eggplant, or banana dumpling, or a green salad. The dinner is either vegetable curry with your choice of rice (coconut, lemon, or yogurt), Biryani, Capatti, Barotha, or Poori. Finally for dessert you have the house cake, gulab jamoun (soft ball in a honey liquid), or laddu (a sweet ball with cardamom). It’s a big meal for a small price.
Krishna Bhavan in Paris
The vegetable soup (dal) is very nice. It’s a light flavored lentil soup. The vegetable curry w/rice was more like rice with curried vegetables. The rice is the star of the plate with the eggplant and potatoes as supporting actors. As with other authentic dishes, you need to be a bit careful eating the rice. It had some hard seeds that could cause pain if bit into them unexpectedly. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying it. The rice is very light; almost floating on the fork. Mine was mixed with coconut, onions, and spices. Finally, when you think you couldn’t eat another bite it is time for dessert.

Chai

Krishna Bhavan in ParisOne of my fondest memories of visiting Bangalore was this small opening into the kitchen of the Yahoo! offices. From this little passage came cups of the strongest, sweetest chai tea you can imagine. Forget what you now of chai from Starbucks. Chai should fill you body with warmth.

Need I bother mentioning my excitement when I looked into the small hole of the kitchen and saw the cooks making what looked like chai. It’s awesome! This is worth the visit alone.
Little India, Paris France

Shops

This is an area to enjoy during the day. There are several grocery stores to purchase indian spices, teas, and ingredients. I also found my beloved instant meals that you can find at any Indian grocery store. These packets are filled with good, spicy curries that you simply heat and eat.

You’ll also find a variety of Hindu god and goddess sculptures, henna tattoos, jewelry, music, videos, saris, and other clothing. I found one shop that specialized in arts and crafts from around the world. The back of the store has a huge selection of jackets, pants, and shirts from Tibet and South Asia. The styles are fairly western but with the strong colors and unique lines of the region.

Indian Sweets

Little India, Paris FranceIndian sweets are hard to describe to someone that hasn’t experienced them before. They are brightly colored, geometric, soft, sweet, and full of spices. They are very different from the sweets you’d find elsewhere in Paris. They are typically softer and less sweet than you’d expect. Frankly most Americans that I know are not big fans of the Indian sweets. That said, they are better than any I’ve tried in California.

A little bit of nostalgia, comfort, and spice in Paris

I can’t believe it took me so long to discover this corner of Paris. Rue Cail brings back my fondest memories of eating with colleagues in Bangalore, shopping for spices with Jim, teaching my mother about curry and naan, and the joy of food cooked without a fear of spice. If you like Indian food you’ll love the rue Cail area. If you love Indian food and culture you will have found one of the finest places to visit in Paris.

Krishna Bhavan
24 Rue Cail (10°)
01 42 05 78 43
Metro: La Chapelle
Indian Restaurant
Wheelchair Access: bathrooms are in basement. Entrance is accessible.
  • Overall: 5/5
  • Location: 4/5
  • Taste: 5/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Vegetarian Friendly: 5/5
  • Vegan Friendly: 5/5
  • M.E.F. Friendly: 3/5

Dishny Restaurant
25 Rue Cail (10°)
Metro: La Chapelle
Indian Restaurant

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Le Bec Fin – Couscous and Tangines

Behind the former city wall arches at Strausbourg and St-Denis sits a vibrant Arab and Indian community. You’ll find a wide assortment of places to eat from the simple street vendors to elegant restaurants. Le Bec Fin is a traditional couscous restaurant with a beautiful interior, fresh food and reasonable prices.

The first thing you’ll notice at Le Bec Fin is the tile work. It’s fantastic and you’ll think you’ve been transported to Algiers. The restaurant is a beautiful place to visit. The service is friendly and the waiter spoke perfect English.

Le Bec Fin specializes in couscous and tangines. I chose the vegetarian tangine. I’ve always wanted to see what this form of cooking produced. At first, I thought the plate served was a bit small, but it was a perfect amount when the fluffy couscous arrived at the table. The food is very fresh and carefully prepared.

My friend had the Algerian wine, but thought a traditional french wine would have been sufficient (and cheaper).

Le Bec Fin is very close to the Strausborg arch. Just look for the restaurant with the gleaming tile interior. It’s a nice place for dinner.

Le Bec Fin
15, rue de Faubourg (10°)
01 42 06 62 82
Metro: Strasbourg-St. Denis
Algerian restaurant
  • Overall: 4/5
  • Location: 4/5
  • Taste: 4/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Vegetarian Friendly: 4/5
  • Vegan Friendly: 3/5
  • M.E.F. Friendly: 5/5

Reine Du Kashmir – Indian restaurant for the adventurous

Ask me for a good taco shop in California and I’ll point to the one that has 15 layers of glossy orange and yellow paint encrusted on the walls. Within those coats of paint could be remnants of tacos, cockroaches, and who knows what else. In short, I’m not afraid of a restaurant with questionable hygiene. “It adds protein” is my standard reply to the occasional hair or fly.

Reine du KashmirDirty restaurants do not make the food better, it’s just part of the taco shop environment in Southern California. Clean taco shops usually sell “healthy” burritos and who wants that?

Passage Brady in Paris

I discovered Passage Brady in Paris recently. It’s not far from Strasbourg St. Denis, tucked between streets filled with Turkish kabob stands. This covered, narrow alley is the closest I’ve seen to “Little India” in Paris. I’m a huge Indian food fan and was looking forward to eating an authentic dish. This has been hard to find in Paris; could England actually make something tastier than the French?

Let me set the scene for Passage Brady. At night, the majority of the shop fronts are closed and small restaurants light up the street. It’s narrow, with a fairly high glass ceiling. It’s dirty but not stinky. In some ways, it reminds me of Tijuana, Mexico; when you move off of Avenida Revolucion. The Indian restaurants all look pretty similar. Some are larger and have more clients, others resemble street-side joints.

I finally decided on Reine du Kashmir for two reasons:

  1. It had a prominent sign advertising vegetarian Thali.
  2. It had a sign saying it won some kind of Indian cuisine award.

I didn’t need to see a menu, as I knew that I wanted the Thali (a selection of curry, vegetables, rice, and naan). These usually give the restaurant the opportunity to specialize in regional dishes, they are inexpensive, and tasty (emphasis on “usually”).

The food at Reine du Kashmir

Thali meal at Reine du KashmirThe thali had the standard ingredients. The naan was ok, the rice was good, the vegetable korma was forgettable, the samosa and fried dumpling were good, and the curry was mediocre. I asked for a carafe of water and was nicely surprised to see a sprig of mint in the glass.

Overall, the food was average. It wasn’t bad, but not worth the 12 euros. I could get a better meal for that price at many other places.

The thrill of eating in Passage Brady

So, why does this restaurant stand out and deserve mentioning on this site? I’ve eaten at many mediocre places and haven’t bothered to highlight them. The memorable part of the meal was not the restaurant, but the passage.

A pigeon began flying over my head about five minutes after I sat down. Pigeon poop, feathers, and dust is part of nature, but what would it do for the water and food about to arrive. I watched one feather slowly float from the glass ceiling towards my table. A breeze luckily pushed it away when it began hovering 5 feet above the water glass. Yummy…fun to watch…I’m game so far.

RAT-a-tweeee tweeee tweeee

Little India in ParisI survived the pigeon unscathed and began relaxing. The food arrived a few minutes later and I began sizing up the dish and taking the requisite photographs. Just then, an enormous rat ran from one side of the passage to a pile of garbage on the other side.

This rat was huge and was on a mission. His path was about 5 meters from my table. Far enough to not have to lift my legs and scream like a child, but close enough to get a really good view. Pigeons flying and rats running; Passage Brady is going to be an adventure alright.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. I don’t know what the rat was doing, but the garbage heap became a cacophony of rat squealing for the next 30 minutes or until I finished the meal and left. I’d like to think the rat found a friend and enjoyed the romantic atmosphere of Paris. I couldn’t help worrying that my little buddy had ended up on the wrong side of a trap and was not screaming out of pleasure.

Either way, my little Indian Thali was more of an Indian Therror! Naturally, I photographed everything and sent emails to friends describing the scene and wondered if I’d meet the Paris/Indian equivalent of Montezuma’s Revenge.

I declined the waiter’s invitation for coffee or dessert. No thank you, I think I’m ready for the road.

Summary

Passage Brady looks like it has some nicer restaurants. Reine du Kashmir was a mediocre place and wasn’t particularly affordable. Every restaurant area in Paris has rat problems, so I don’t hold that against the place. However, it would be nice if the shop owners didn’t leave stacks of garbage in this tiny passage. I won’t be returning to this restaurant, but I might try another venue in the future.

One of these days I’ll find a really good, authentic Indian restaurant in Paris. It will feature a wide selection of vegetarian cuisine, no beef, and lots of flavor. Do you know of a place? If so, leave a comment.

Restaurant Reine du Kashmir
82-84 Passage Brady (10°)
01 45 23 39 35
Metro: Chateau d’eau or Strasbourg St. Denis
Indian Restaurant
  • Overall: 3/5
  • Location: 3/5
  • Value: 3/5
  • Taste: 3/5
  • Service: 3/5
  • Vegetarian Friendly: 4/5
  • Vegan Friendly: 4/5
  • M.E.F. Friendly: 4/5

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