l'oriental and a bit more paris
- jen kalb
We were at L'Oriental in Paris last week too! Thought their couscous was excellent - those sweet raisins Leslie mentioned were soaked with cinnamon and rosewater (I think) so they added enormous fragrance. The chicken in the chicken tagine with olives and lemon was the best tasting chicken Ive had in a long time, but I was less satisfied with the blending of the flavors in the dish (dont think the components had cooked together all that long) the homemade sesame bread was also great - a great pick from the Leeds guide.
However another couscous spot L'Annexe in the Latin quarter listed in that guide had closed. As as result, we were subjected to what is probably the only vegan restaurant in paris, which was nearby. (its in the guide with faint praise) If you like piles of shredded raw veg and wheat gluten (in Paris!) by all means go!
If you are a vegan or have to live with a vegan, forget about eating out in Paris. I found out the hard way.
We did manage to squeeze in visits to (1) Thomieux (delicious house wine and creditable Cahors) - where cassoulet was fine, but nothing to write home about (no crust at all) but the fried potatoes were terrific cooked in duck fat, and sprinkled with parsley and fresh garlic. cottony bread, great stop overall and (2) Brasserie Balzar (your post got me there, Martha!) for a pleasant Sunday afternoon feed, excellent liver andfried potatoes, all doused deliciously in butter. The herring and potato starter was also terrific, I was less impressed with Jim's choucroute, though the size of the serving was colossal.
Since we were renting an apartment, we subsisted largely on bread and cheese. Fortunately, where we were on the Ile St. Louis, there was lots of good bread and cheese nearby (two fine cheesemongers on the main street of the island alone, as well as good butchers and a ferme outlet for foie gras products. I particularly liked the organic breads from Kayser on Rue Monge; unfortunately, Martin, right down the street from our apt. was closed for the holiday (we happened to walk by Poujaran in the 7th and got some of their country bread but it was a bit sourer than I liked).
Read your post while sipping my ambrosial Mariage Freres Marco Polo tea and munching on toast made from smuggled bread w/ Mariage Freres The Gelee picked up last weekend during my own glorious New Year's holiday in Paris. Many wonderful meals which I will hopefully have some time to report on soon, but I did want you to know that I actually thought of you often Jen - as we parsed through menus offering bone marrow, wild duck, veal head and the like - I wondered what your daughter was eating!! Actually, my boyfriend's favorite Paris light lunch - a hummus sandwich loaded with eggplant, carrot, and tomato slices (much more generous w/ the veggies than typical Middle Eastern sandwich here) from L'As de Falafel on the Rue de Rosiers probably would have fit the bill. Perhaps your daughter can take heart in Alain Passard's announcement that L'Arpege is going vegetarian (none of my Parisian friends could stop talking about this --they think he's crassly capitalizing on the nervousness about French food and playing to an American audience)....