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Viva la Pizza!

I’m a big fan of pizza in Paris. In fact, I keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger… if you know what I mean.

Viva la Pizza
It’s not that I enjoy eating pizza, which I do, but you can count of finding a vegetarian meal at any pizza place. Even vegans can request a pizza sans fromage. This is especially true when I’m outside Paris and looking for a bite to eat.

Yesterday I was shopping at a vide grenier with my friend Victoria and her son Tristan. We started looking for some shelter and lunch when the rain changed from an annoying drizzle to an official parade of rain drops. The first bistro we popped into specialized in fish. As we all know, fish restaurants typically have the worst vegetarian options. So we left and voila, Viva La Pizza was next door and calling our names.

Viva La Pizza

First off, the ambiance. This is a simple restaurant, comfortable, no music, no frills, and friendly service. More importantly, their menu is filled with inventive pizza choices. They have 8 vegetarian pizza options! There’s another 5 or 6 that could become vegetarian by requesting no bacon (lardons).

Victoria had the vegetarian pizza, Tristan had one with ham, and I had the white pizza with créme fraîche, chevre, mozzarella, and HONEY! Yes, honey! They also have a great sounding Greek pizza.

The honey pizza was an unusual flavor combo. I think it would have been better with some walnuts, but I did enjoy it. It was actually fairly light tasting and not too sweet.

Viva La Pizza was also affordable, most of their pizzas are less than 10euros. So to recap, you’ve got a simple, comfortable pizzeria with loads of vegetarian options for a reasonable cost. I call that a winner. Viva La Pizza!

Viva la Pizza
52 Boulevard Arago (13°)
Metro: Denfert-Rochereau
01 43 36 95 62
  • Overall: 4/5
  • Vegetarian Options: 5/5
  • Vegan Options: 3/5
  • Value: 4/5
  • Location: 3.5/5
  • Service: 4/5

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Le Café du Métro – Historical and overpriced

Paris is filled with history. While that is plainly obvious for the average person; as a Californian I am still impressed by a store, restaurant, or cultural venue that has been open for a century. Heck, San Diego was barely more than a mission and a few ranches 150 years ago. Meanwhile, Paris was undergoing a rebirth under Napoleon III and Hausmann.

In the mid-1850’s, Napoleon commissioned a major reconstruction of Paris, changing the city for centuries to come. Prefect Baron Haussmann led the project that modernized the health systems, architecture, and design of the city. (Bowditch 314) A loyal Bonapartist, Napoleon could trust Hausmann to carry out the emperor’s plans.

Napoleon III’s rebuild of Paris reflected his goals as Emperor of France. His reconstruction represented the power of France and the efficiency of his administration. It represented his desire for stability, partially helping him achieve that goal. The rebuild represented his desire of being “Emperor of the French,” in which his authoritarian state benefited the people. Finally, the actual construction created jobs which created unemployment, strengthening his government.
Napoleon III and the Rebuild of Paris

So you can imagine why I chose to eat at Le Café du Métro one night after reading about its age. This cafe has been open for business in the St Germain des Prés area since the 1920′s. I was hungry; for food and history, and their menu seemed promising.

However, what this cafe has in history it lacks in value and taste.

I ordered the french onion soup after the waiter promised it was vegetarian. The other options were a warm cheese salad and a basic pasta. The price for the soup seemed pretty high, 13 euros, but I figured it would include bread, salad, etc.

The soup arrived in the standard French Onion Soup bowl with a few large croutons and melted cheese. The flavor was dull and needed salt and pepper to wake it up. I thought maybe I had ordered the entree soup and not the dinner serving, certainly this was not 13 euros! Afterward I got a cafe au lait that was equally bland and expensive at 4.50 euros.

The total bill came to almost 18 euros for a small bowl of soup and a cup of coffee. Most restaurants would charge about 10 euros for the same meal. Granted I was in the touristy Left Bank and should have accepted paying more. But if I wanted to pay a lot for a name I would have walked a block further to Les Deux Maggots.

Le Café du Métro may have better choices for meat eaters. But I wouldn’t bet on it if they can’t make a decent bowl of onion soup.

Le Café du Métro
67, rue de Rennes (6°)
01 45 48 58 56
Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Cafe
  • Overall: 2/5/5
  • Location: 5/5
  • Taste: 3/5
  • Service: 3/5
  • Value: 1.5/5
  • Vegetarian Friendly: 3/5
  • Vegan Friendly: 2/5

Rani Mahal and Indian Restaurants in Paris

I’ve been on a search for a really good Indian restaurant in Paris. I’m hoping to find something that is affordable, properly spicy, unique flavors, and great renditions of the standard Indian meals. I’m comparing these restaurants to my experiences in India, London, San Francisco, and San Diego. Each of these cities have restaurants that inspire the diner.

I’ve had a hard time finding this in Paris. I spoke to a former restaurant owner the other day. He said the Parisians, as a whole, do not appreciate spicy food and are not adventurous enough to try odd Indian combinations. This forces the Indian restaurant owner to mellow the palette and focus on food for the Parisian clientele. Unfortunately, this sacrifice also means the dishes are on the bland side and lack the pizazz you’d find in other cities.
Rani Mahal Indian restaurant in Paris
Rani Mahal was listed in Happy Cow and features some nice reviews. I was looking forward to visiting this restaurant and headed out on a Sunday evening. I passed several interesting restaurants (Old Jawad) in the vicinity before finally coming to the exotic exterior of this restaurant. Red textured wood slats adorn the facade with trinket filled windows. Unfortunately, they were not open until 8 p.m., so I visited with some nearby friends to kill time.

We came back to the restaurant, anxious to try some new dishes. The place was fairly empty, giving the owner plenty of time to make sure we were comfortable and had the table of our choice.

The menu is pretty basic for Paris. You have a selection of entrees, dinners, and desserts. Probably 3/4 of the choices are lamb, chicken, or fish. The selections were also fairly standard and did not reflect a regional choice, that my inexpert eyes could tell.

For an entree, we split three choices. We ordered Samosas, fried onions, and a fried object that I believe was zucchini or potato. Sadly I couldn’t tell the difference. The samosa was good, I would recommend getting that and skipping the other choices.

Vegetarians will want to try their Vegetarian Thali. Thali’s feature a selection of small dishes. You can expect some Raita, lentils, curry, and rice. Thalis are typically a good value and give the restaurant the opportunity to try seasonal dishes.

Value, taste, and creativity

Rani Mahal is a higher priced, elegant restaurant. I’ve eaten at less expensive places and this raises my expectations. What should I expect from a fancy Indian restaurant in Paris? I would assume the chutneys are home made, the flavors are distinct, the presentation imaginative, and a feeling of satisfaction.

This is a samosa from one of my favorite Indian restaurants: Samosa at Turmeric in SunnyvaleTurmeric in Sunnyvale, California. The samosa is artful, tastes great, and makes an impression. This is what I’m longing for in Paris.

I don’t want to say Rani Majal was bad. Other than the disappointing appetizers, the food was good. It just wasn’t spectacular. It wasn’t better than restaurants that charge half the price. It is, however, in a posh neighborhood and it is understandable the value is not as good.

Rani Majal has two other Indian restaurants in the general vicinity. It may be worth trying out Old Jawad or Restaurant Indien Gandhi Opera

The Spicy Vegetarian Social Club are vegetarians in Paris that meet for spicy food. They had a meeting at Ganesha Restaurant near Gare du Nord last year. That may be my next trip.

Rani Mahal
9 Rue Saint-Augustin (2°)
01 42 97 53 24
Metro: Quatre Septembre, Opera, Pyramides
Indian Restaurant
  • Overall: 4/5
  • Location: 4/5
  • Taste: 4/5
  • Service: 4/5
  • Value: 3/5
  • Vegetarian Friendly: 4/5
  • Vegan Friendly: 4/5
  • M.E.F. Friendly: 4/5

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