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Ethnic food in Paris for a visitor from San Francisco.

Hello CH Friends,

I'm visiting Paris for 5 days / 4 nights next week, and had heard that some of the ethnic food in Paris is significantly different from what can be found in San Francisco. I'm wondering first, if this is true, and second, what places are recommended?

I'm assuming north african and middle eastern would be the most different? But maybe some Scandanavian or eastern european? And i'd assume no asian, but please correct me if i'm wrong.

budget isn't a concern, but i'd like places where i can have a fast and light meal, not too terribly far from the "city center" as i'm also having long, heavy french 3-star meals while i'm there. Either lunch or dinner is good.

Thanks!!!

-Dustin

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  1. Flora Danica and Olsen are in the 8th; good for a light lunch.

    1. Ethnic is always a weird definition. Sounds like you are looking for either North African or Noma influenced modern European. For the latter Saturne is good, for the former search the board for the much discussed topic. If you include ethnic Spanish you could argue Dans Les Landes of Le Chateaubriand could pass (OK Basque is close).

      I tend to dismiss Asian in Paris as I think many other cities are ahead (London's regional Chinese for example) but others are supportive. But I suspect SF is generally better in this regard.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        Similarly the word "ethnic" stumps me. Doesn't it means non-French? There are more than 200 countries recognized by the UN. Ethnic encompasses an enormity. It is in fact much more vague than to say you want to eat French. :-)
        In my limited experience in France, I have had luck with the cuisine of countries with historic ties and extensive exchanges with France: Indochinese and North-African.
        It may help us help the OP if he could specify further the cuisines that interest him, instead of requesting info on all things non-French. Any tastes, herbs, seasonings, spices, cooking styles of a given region, a given culture?

        1. re: Parigi

          Parigi - I always think the opposite I.e. the ethnic food of France is French food but I assume i am just a simple pedant.

      2. Plenty of North African food -- but do keep in mind the large colonial holdings of France that included a good portion of Southeast Asia -- so there's *plenty* of Asian to be had...I like the Asian food in Paris, but it can be hit or miss -- there's some pretty awful, flavorless greasy mess, and there are places that are pretty good.

        1. Sorry I was unclear with my use of the term "Ethnic" -- I mean this:

          >> the cuisine of countries with historic ties and extensive exchanges with France:
          >> Indochinese and North-African.

          Or another population (I don't know which ones -- I'd guess maybe Eastern European or Scandinavian, but that is only a guess) that has a much better developed community in Paris than in San Francisco -- and it shows through some of the foods you can get.

          I am not just asking for good food -- i'm asking for good food for which something similar can't be found in San Francisco. Which makes this question hard, because San Francisco (at least in my view) has very good food from pretty much everywhere.

          I'm only interested in traditional food, not something particularly modern or Noma-influenced.

          I was hoping someone on this board was familiar with the offerings of both cities, and could point me to something quick and easy (some form of street food would be great) in Paris that would be way, way different from what i'd find in sf.

          Thanks again.

          1. Dustin, I haven't made my trip yet, but I'm born and raised in SF (returning frequently) and in deep research for my trip to Paris. The ethnic food I am most looking forward to can mostly be found in SF, but I believe because of the colonial ties and current immigration patterns, will be different in Paris.

            The one I am most curious to try is Vietnamese. I love La Vie in SF, and here in Austin and Houston we have some excellent places as well. Since so much French influence is apparent in Vietnamese food (bahn xeo crepes, baguettes and pate in bahn mi), I'm interested to see what Vietnamese is like in France. Here is the thread I have been following:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/711327

            Throughout Europe, I have noticed significant Turkish influence. SF has some Turkish places, but there are high recommendations in Paris for a Turkish/Kurdish sandwich shop called Urfa Dürüm. It looks great, and I plan to have my second meal in Paris there after shopping up and down the street on which it is located - rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in the 10th.

            North African is another one I am targeting. I passed up a merguez sandwich at a festival in the countryside a few years ago, and have been dreaming about it since. Couscous with merguez is on my list to find at Chez Hamadi, Gepetto, or at one of the market vendors.

            Hope that helps, please do report back!

            2 Replies
            1. re: saticoy

              thanks saticoy. those sound like great recommendations. i'll look into these:

              Urfa Dürüm
              Couscous with merguez from a market vendor (any idea which market?)

              and do some more CH research into vietnamese places.

              1. re: Dustin_E

                Urfa Dürüm is great.

                For market couscous, I like Le Marakesh in the wondeful marché St Quentin (not that far from Urfa Dürüm).

            2. Once again I will recommend Ravioli Chinois Nord-Est, a hole in the wall a block or so from Belleville metro.

              Some 20 varieties of potsticker-type dumplings and as many esoteric salads. Two can eat for 20€ and barely be able to waddle out. My husband and I each ordered a salad and then shared one order of 10 dumplings. Most everything on the menu is 4€.

              I liked the fact that these dumplings were light on ginger, an ingredient that is often overused in SF potstickers and dumplings.

              1. Please note, I'm not being a smartass here....This is my genuine opinion, and my heartfelt suggestion....

                The "ethnic" food I would suggest that is not only extremely tasty, easy to find, and nothing at all like something you'd find in San Francisco is...French.

                Explore the regions of France in Paris -- Normand, Breton, Basque, Southwest, Provencale, Lyonnaise, Alsatian, etc., etc., etc. ....the possibilities are endless, and it's really truly not like anything you're going to find in San Francisco (especially on a cost basis!)

                34 Replies
                1. re: sunshine842

                  Very nice concept, but one problem I see is that in some cases it is hard to find a good sample comme il faut of the region dish in question in Paris. I am thinking of dishes like tartiflette, tielle. They can be found even in some supermarkets,but if one had tasted the real McCoy in the region, then those tielles are not tielles, those tartiflettes are not tartiflettes.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    but they're a lot closer than anything you'll find in San Francisco....the OP specifically wants food that he won't find in SF....and turning up tartiflette would be a tall order indeed...I'm not sure you could buy a proper AOC Reblochon in the US if you wanted to (not sure how long the affinage is)

                    And nobody -- **nobody** said anything about eating those industrial slabs of onion-flavored cardboard sold as tartiflette at Leader Price. (although the OP probably can't get *that* in SF either...!)

                    (and following that line of logic, the OP would be very, very hungry, because even the best Asian or North African food in Paris is going to NOT be the same as that found in Hanoi or Marrakesh, so why bother...)

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      >> even the best Asian or North African food in Paris is going to NOT be the same as that found in Hanoi or Marrakesh, so why bother

                      That is very helpful to know as well. thank you. Getting to Hanoi or Marrakesh isn't really any more difficult for me than getting to Paris is, so perhaps i should really focus exclusively on french dishes while i'm there.

                      1. re: Dustin_E

                        for clarification -- the phrase you snipped followed the rather critical phrase of "under that logic" -- I'm not by any stretch of the imagination saying you shouldn't bother with Asian or North African food.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          aha! missed that critical part.. :-)

                      2. re: sunshine842

                        It seems that the "A" word (authentic) has reared it's ugly head here. Did you know that Tartiflette was a marketing gimmick put together by the Syndicat Interprofessionelle du Reblochon in the 1980's?

                        Did the aller-retour rue du faubourg St Denis/rue de Provence twice today, à pied, around lunchtme. I saw people feasting on lamachun from Urfa Durum, a bunch of women ordering bobun from the Cambodian hole-in-the-wall near the New Morning, a huge queue from the cyber café across the street where the headscarfed Turkish women sell their petit plats, and another line coming out of the African joint just up the road. Bulma café, where they sell bobun and banh-mi was doing brisk business too, as was Vivant, where they were were serving the Burratta bought from Cisternino straight up the street...and onward and onward past dozens of places selling "ethnic" food. Some of them not very good, some of them really good (you'll find them if you search on these boards.)

                        Perhaps all the people eating this food were misguided American tourists.

                        1. re: vielleanglaise

                          >> aller-retour rue du faubourg St Denis/rue de Provence

                          sounds like a walk i should hit. thanks.

                          1. re: Dustin_E

                            "sounds like a walk i should hit. thanks."

                            There are far prettier or more rewarding walks in Paris than this one. I wasjust trying to make the point that in Paris there's a bunch of Ethnic food, that for good, or some would say, for worse, is now ubiquitous.

                            While understand and I am jealous (need an eating buddy?) of your opportunity to splurge in 3 star joints, I understand and applaud your desire to "go ethnic."

                            I ate my my best plateau de fruit de mer of my life in Wellington New Zealand, the most memorable Sushi in Austin, Texas, and tastiest Pakistanti in, London, England.

                            1. re: vielleanglaise

                              oh, thanks -- i had thought that was a particularly interesting subcommunity / area.

                              if the "ethnic" food is ubiquitous, maybe i'll just keep my eye out for something that looks interesting as i stroll around the city.

                              1. re: Dustin_E

                                Try doing a search in the window above mentioning the words Streetfood, North African, Asian, Chinese,,cheap eats. This subject often rears its head here and has its supporters...and detractors.

                                It might help others help you if you do this and also mention where you're staying.

                                1. re: vielleanglaise

                                  i'm staying near the Hotel de Ville metro stop, believe this is in the 4th.

                                  1. re: Dustin_E

                                    Okay. For Asian, in that aream you have Minh Chau at 10 rue de la Verrerie.

                                    It's tiny. The WC's in another builidng The menu hasn't changed in 20 years. But it's very good. Though it's vietnamese, I think this restaurant could only exist in this city, in this neighbourhood, in this street,

                                    1. re: vielleanglaise

                                      You also have l'as du Fallafel on the rue des Rosiers. Again "ethnic" but very Parisian (though many people prefer other falafel joints in the same area, or elsewhere.) You get a slice, or rather a pita full of a certain local colour here (the Sepharade diaspora).

                                2. re: vielleanglaise

                                  The tartiflette reference originally comes from me.
                                  I was thinking of these points: (1) Certain regional dishes have no trouble traveling to Paris; others, nyeh. (2) It is less accessible to fly to Hanoi for a good pho than to go to Annecy lake to have a tartiflette with farm-fresh reblochon. (3) Some dishes are difficult to f¨%k up. A tartiflette, if not well made, is what I would call a blob.
                                  Some dishes travel well (to Paris). Others don't. Mystery. I should have clarified.

                              2. re: vielleanglaise

                                actually, vielleanglaise, I didn't even mention tartiflette in my comment...and of all the wonderful food that comes from Alsace, tartiflette wouldn't be in the upper rankings, IMO. I like it, but there are so many other, better dishes! I'd send someone for choucroute or baeckoffe long before I'd suggest they settle for tartiflette.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  "actually, vielleanglaise, I didn't even mention tartiflette in my comment..."

                                  "And nobody -- **nobody** said anything about eating those industrial slabs of onion-flavored cardboard sold as tartiflette at Leader Price. (although the OP probably can't get *that* in SF either...!)"

                                  You did.

                                  However, I was just trying to make the point that while I understand the someone who only wants to eat only "French" ("austrian" pastries, anyone? stockfish? ), food in France I also understand the desire to eat cuisines of other origins too, as that's what I do when I travel.

                                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                                    No, actually, I didn't, other than in response to Parigi.
                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8472...

                                    Tartiflette just isn't anywhere on the list of great things a visitor to France just has to try -- I like it -- I make it -- but it's neither a regular item on my menu, nor have I ever ordered it in a restaurant.

                                    Look -- in a perfect world, we'd all have unlimited time and unlimited money to go eat Authentic Food in each dish's place of origin.

                                    But eating Provençale cuisine in Paris is a darned site closer to The Real Authentic Deal (especially if the restaurant is owned and operated by folks from Provence) than you're going to get in San Francisco...or Chicago...or even Hanoi, for that matter.

                                    (and as far as it being less of an issue to go to Annecy from for tartiflette than to Hanoi for pho --I'm really not going to argue a statement of the blatantly obvious -- the point was that if you aren't ever going to eat anything that's not Capital-A Authentic because you're not at its point of origin...you're going to be pretty hungry -- and awfully deprived.)

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      "the point was that if you aren't ever going to eat anything that's not Capital-A Authentic because you're not at its point of origin...you're going to be pretty hungry -- and awfully deprived"

                                      .Dunno about that. I dont feel hungry or deprived when I eat "ethnic" food in Paris (see my recommendations to OP who's staying in the 4th above) or abroad, when I travel. Judging by what my French Parisian friends eat, they don't either. I just got back from an apero where one of them, from Lyon, who grew up eating in bouchons, was happily munching a lamachun. But perhaps he was mistaken,

                                      1. re: vielleanglaise

                                        Parigi (Parigi's post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8472...
                                        )rather wholeheartedly denounced the entire concept of regional French food in Paris, saying that it's just not the same as it where it's made....Parigi seems to be saying that one should avoid any sort of food that's not traditional to the place where it's consumed -- from THAT logic, you'd be hungry and deprived, because you'd never eat anything that wasn't traditional to the Ile de France when in Paris. No pho, no lamachun, because they just don't travel well, and they're not Authentic.

                                        ...and you illustrated my point perfectly -- that you and your friends **didn't** pass by the ethnic food -- you went in, and enjoyed it, and it was good. (that's a wonderful thing, for those who wonder...) Would it be the same as what you could buy in Istanbul? Maybe - maybe not -- but under Parigi's logic, you shouldn't have eaten it, and shouldn't recommend anyone else eat it, because it's just not Authentic.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          Just adding to Dustin's dust-up, for me, authentic is an intellectual concept; I enjoy tracing the often many "authentic" versions of a given food. Most often the original was born of "needs must" or making use of abundance.

                                          In the final or degustatory analysis, the proof of any food is whether or not it is delicious and pleasing to ME. I often regard a food and understand that it is "right" but not like it, and conversely be seduced by a variation or deviation that is obviously "wrong" but which pleases me.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            I think the point Parigi was making is that it's difficult to find good, and especially cheap, regional cooking in Paris today. The communities of poor workers from the Auvergne, Britanny and other regions who came to work in Paris, bringing their culinary traditions,with them, and have a more or less died out. In my neighborhood, indeed in my arrondissement, it's difficult to find good regional restaurants.

                                            You can find many "ethnic" restaurants, canteens, take-away places run by and for and by the latest waves of immigrants who come from farther afield though. .

                                            1. re: vielleanglaise

                                              Now i'm intrigued. Is the best place to learn about the various regional french dishes (in English) one of Elizabeth David's books? Or is there a better source?

                                              1. re: Dustin_E

                                                Elizabeth David's 'French Provincial Cooking'

                                                http://www.amazon.com/French-Provinci...

                                                Good recipes and a great read.

                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                      If I never see another tarte flambee, backoff or fondue again, I'll die happy...

                                      1. re: Busk

                                        @ Busk

                                        Sorry if i missed something obvious, but why do you dislike these dishes?

                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                    >> I'm not sure you could buy a proper AOC Reblochon in the US if you wanted to (not sure how long the affinage is)

                                    raw milk cheeses aged less than 6 months is prohibited from import into the US? is that right? If I grab some cheese for a picnic one day, any suggestions for what kind? (again, i'm looking for things that wouldn't be imported into the US.) Is there a kind of cheese that doesn't even have a good approximation in the US?

                                    1. re: Dustin_E

                                      it's 60 days, but I don't remember how long Reblochon is supposed to age.

                                      Go for any cheese that you've never heard of before -- the list is long, and there's some really amazing stuff.

                                      Think you like Brie? Prepare yourself -- now head out to the store and pick up a small morcel of AOC Brie de Meaux...one of Brie de Melun...now just for fun, see if they have Brie de Provins...de Montereau...de Nangis...Mayennais..find yourself a REAL Coulommiers...just for fun, try a sliver of brie noire (it's a true love-hate divider)...and enjoy the differences in **just one kind** of cheese. Now add a section of royal briard (a sinfully rich triple-cream variation) -- Brie de Bleu....and let it all blow your mind.

                                      Chaources from the Champagne region...tomme...chevres of every description....

                                      The cheese alone is enough to keep you busy for a week of lunches....

                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                      Tartiflette is not regional food at all anyway, it was created for skiing Parisians back in the late 80s.
                                      It is, however, derived from a much older dish from the Aravis called "pela", based on slow-roasted potatoes and onions crisped in a pan, then left on a corner of the stove for about 30 minutes with the two sliced halves of a reblochon slowly melting on top.
                                      My experience of regional food in Paris is that it is always better in the original region.

                                      As for "ethnic", we've got very good North African (aka Maghrebi), Vietnamese and Laotian restaurants.

                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                        of course regional food is better in the region...but regional French food in Paris is still going to be better than the San Francisco version...

                                        I can't think of a single regional food **anywhere** that isn't better in its own region.

                                  3. re: sunshine842

                                    For french food, i have booked dinners at meurice, plaza athenee, and ambroisie for days 1,2,3 and lunches at ledoyen, and arpege for days 4,5.

                                    So I'm a little worried that adding in any more french food would make me sick. I wish i was moving to paris for 3 months and so could try lots and lots of the amazing casual regional french dishes i'm sure Paris has... maybe someday.

                                    I'm almost at the point where i can eat only a single meal a day, but not quite there, so was hoping to find some else very interesting. my default "other meal" each day would probably be baguettes and some raw vegetables from a market or something.

                                    1. re: Dustin_E

                                      believe it or not, you'll find French food to not be sickeningly rich at all (other than in sheer quantity when you're trying to try it all!)

                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                      I'm interested in the idea of exploring the regions of France in Paris. I'm running into a problem though, when I search Lyonnaise, for example, the topics that come up are mostly about eating in Lyon. Can you point me to any existing threads on regional French food in Paris? If not, can you give me some suggestions of places to try? Thanks.