18.10.12

Eating Non-French Food in Paris

Vegetarian tacos at Candelaria

North African and Middle Eastern cuisine notwithstanding, Paris isn't exactly known for its ethnic fare. The prevalence of tacos, burgers, sushi and dim-sum is a relatively recent phenomenon but one which has completely reinvigorated an erstwhile lagging food scene. Slowly (and this is key because the French are historically resistant to change), Parisians are beginning to appreciate the variety and influence of foreign styles and tastes and expats are, well, ecstatic.

I frequently field questions from readers about dining out in Paris, specifically for non-French fare. In addition to listing a few of my own favorites, I've enlisted the help of a few of my hedonist writer friends - Ann Mah, David Lebovitz, Amy Thomas, Erica Berman, Barbra Austin and Bryan Pirolli - for a varied list you can consult on your next trip should the idea of steak frites and French onion soup seem underwhelming.

{MY PICKS}

Candelaria
A boon to taco-starved expats when it opened over a year ago, this taqueria-meets-cocktail lounge has been consistently good since day one.  Tuck into tacos, tostadas, and deliciously chunky guacamole in the narrow taqueria then head past the unmarked door at the back of the kitchen for prohibition-style cocktails and great music.

El Guacamole
Keeping with the Mexican theme, I'd be remiss not to include this no-frills Mexican canteen which excels in nachos, quesadillas, tacos and Mexican beer. Snag a spot on the terrace on warm night or take out and head to the canal for a Mexican picnic.

Yoom
Much like the purveyors at Candelaria or even Le Camion Qui Fume, the owners of this intimate South Pigalle dim-sum spot were inspired by their experiences in Asia and motivated namely by nostalgia. Chinese chefs cook up a wide variety of dim-sum - meat/seafood-filled or veggie-stuffed- in a chic canteen. A mix of New York style and Hong Kong spirit; universally delicious.

Pizza Chic

{ANN MAH'S PICKS}


I love the toothsome housemade Japanese udon noodles paired with tempura. A long counter that winds itself around the restaurant, so I never feel shy about dining alone. 



When it first opened, I swore I would  never make reservations to eat pizza. Now, I'm addicted to the artichoke pizza (though the pizza Caprese runs a close second). I call them and beg: "Do you have a table? Do you have a table?" Nine times out of ten they say no. The atmosphere is casual and, well, chic; the kitchen is seriously consistent.

{Also where Ann and I shared our first meal! More on that here.}


You can have your Candalaria, your El Guacamole. For me the best tacos in town are at this no-frills spot near the Louvre. The pork carnitas feature luscious meat spritzed with lime juice and a dash of salsa, wrapped in a warm blanket of corn tortilla. Close your eyes and you're in Mexico City.

Cantine California Tacos

During the past few years, the pizza situation has really improved in Paris for wonderful thin-crusted pizzas. I always order the pizza with spicy sausage, which reminds me of pepperoni. I also like being able to sit outside when the weather is nice and drink rosé.
This quick-stop joint is right off the busy rue Saint Anne and has a variety of Korean bento boxes, and you can choose from a variety of banchan (sides). I always have to plead for extra kimchi, since I can never get enough of it. And they usually oblige.

Matsuri
Most of the sushi is Paris is of the fast-food variety, and sadly, non-sustainable. Matsuri carefully sources where they get their fish from and you won't find bluefin tuna on offer, but in its place - bonito, which is equally satisfying. And I like the descriptions on the tables and counters that note where the ingredients come from, and why they use them.


Pizza Chic insalata

The irony is that we all know Cosi as the sandwich and salad chain in NYC. But the original (and delicious) Cosi is on rue de Seine. I used to go for lunch all the time. Their house baked bread - always warm - was amazing whether used for a sandwich or served with one of their salads. Giant miam!

This little restaurant would be a gem in any city but that it's so atypical for Paris makes it even more special. It's essentially a prix-fixe, six-course Japanese meal. Every little detail, item and flavor is so refined and carefully thought out and the orchestration and presentation of the meal is like theater—an unforgettable experience.

Squirreled away down a cobblestone alley in the 11th arrondissement, this is a humble but refined, all around classic Italian restaurant. Beautiful burrata, fresh salads, homemade pasta, rich risotto—everything is fantastic, and the small, open-kitchen environment is fresh and vibrant. Definitely feels like a trip beyond the French table.

Yoom Dim-sum

{ERICA BERMAN'S PICKS}

An authentic Indian dive in the heart of the La Chapelle neighborhood. Lovely service with delicious, simple and cheap food. 



Real thai food as is, for some reason, so hard to find in Paris.  Located in Belleville, one of Paris's two Asian neighborhoods, this spot is spicy, fresh and delicious and definitely worth the detour.

{BRYAN PIROLLI'S PICKS}

As a student in New York, I loved going to cheap Chinese restaurants.  As a student in Paris, Vietnamese bo-bun and spring rolls have replaced my boxes of lo mein and General Tsao's chicken.  When I need a quick inexpensive fix, I go to one of the places around Belleville, like Tin Tin, for some no-hassle grub.  It's a paper tablecloth place that serves up good bo-bun, a bowl of vermicelli with fried pork rolls and fresh veggies.  Or else I'll head over by the Opera for one of the many Japanese noodle and soup places like Hokkaido on rue Chabanais for huge, filling portions and pork-filled gyoza.  

Verjus celeriac dumplings

The specialty at this beloved Japanese canteen is the superb udon, served hot or cold, along with some fine tempura, but the thing I crave is the katsudon, a rice bowl garnished with tender, breaded pork and a fried egg. Be prepared to queue.

Chinese food in Paris is generally a depressing affair, but there are notable exceptions, including this Hunanese table, bedecked with plastic chili peppers that offer a clue to the cooking. Try the braised pork belly with garlic, the fiery lamb with cumin, and be sure to order the General Tsao's Chicken a day in advance. 

Another great spot for regional Chinese fare, the young Zhao hails from Xi'an. I've loved everything here, but the pork buns -- not the char siu bao you're probably familiar with, but a round of rich flatbread filled with juicy, barbecued meat -- are not to be missed.

What's on your list?




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