Restaurants

Saigon Sandwich

Saigon Sandwich

True dining bargains are so few and so far between in Paris that by the time you discover a new one, the previous find has usually turned into an old legend that the Elders like to recount around the fire while the Young sit there and wish they’d brought their iPod.

But when it comes to lunch and fuss-free food, Paris has no shortage of hole-in-the-wall gems: you just need to know where to look. And today, let us look in the general direction of Belleville and, more precisely, a little street off the general hullabaloo of the boulevard.

There hides a Vietnamese sandwich joint called Saigon Sandwich. Barely larger than my kitchen, it is the workshop of one sandwich-making artist, a middle-aged man who takes immense pride in the quality and freshness of his subs, assembled to order throughout the day.

To those unfamiliar with the Vietnamese sandwich, let me introduce the bánh mì, a deceptively simple combination of meat, crudités (cucumbers, carrots, daikon, onions, cilantro, chili), and some sort of dressing (most often mayonnaise, garlic chili sauce, Maggi sauce, or a combination thereof) on a piece of light-textured baguette — a little souvenir of the friendly presence of the French in Vietnam in the 19th and 20th century.

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Paris and Olive

Paris Guide

[Photography by Myles New]

Just a heads-up for those of you who are in the UK: the March issue of Olive magazine has just come out, and it includes a feature I wrote on Paris dining.

If you don’t have access to British mags where you live (in Paris, you can buy Olive for 6.90€ at WH Smith, 248 rue de Rivoli in the 1st), here is the list of restaurants, stores and hotels mentioned in the article.

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Dry-Cured Duck Sausage

Saucisson de Canard

[Dry-Cured Duck Sausage]

We had long wanted to try Le Petit Canard, a small restaurant tucked away in a side street of the 9th arrondissement, just a few blocks from us. I had often walked past it on my way up and down the hill, and it looked cosy and warm, with just a handful of candle-lit tables. As the name implies, the menu focuses on all things duck, and I have a weakness for monomaniac restaurants.

We finally made it there last week with our neighbors and my two oldest girlfriends. For starters, we decided to share a selection of duck charcuterie: smoked magret, duck rillettes (a pâté of shredded meat), two kinds of duck terrines (one with port and green peppercorns, one with chesnuts), and slices of duck saucisson, a dry-cured sausage that’s classically made with just pork meat.

All the products served at this restaurant come from a small farm in Haute-Savoie, a region in the French Alps. This came as something of a quirky suprise, because Haute-Savoie isn’t typically renowned for its duck breeding — the bulk of French duck products comes from the South-West. The owner confirmed that this farm, operated by his brother-in-law in a village called Balaison, is the only such farm in the area, but that the ducks fare very well in the cool mountain air. They enjoy the ski slopes, too.

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Christmas in Paris: Food

Holiday Food

No one needs to be reminded that food is an essential part of the holiday celebrations, and for this second part of our tri-city series, let me recommend a few places to eat some of the delicacies that epitomize Christmas in Paris.

[New York Food] [London Food]

Oysters!

A traditional treat to open a holiday feast is the platter of oysters, freshly delivered from the ocean and freshly opened by whoever is brave enough to risk slashing his left palm open. Oysters are most often served in the shell on a bed of crushed ice — although some purists argue that this dulls their flavor — with thin slices of rye bread, salted butter, and lemon juice. Besides the many classic Parisian brasseries which proudly display their selection on sidewalk stands, a good place to eat oysters is L’Ecaille de la Fontaine in the 2nd. It is owned by the über-famous actor Depardieu, who also operates La Fontaine Gaillon, just a few steps away. L’Ecaille is the marine annex to this pricier venue, and offers a daily selection of ultrafresh shellfish and related dishes. Their oysters can be tasted in the 19€ formula (9 oysters, a dessert and a glass of wine) or in the larger variety platter (62€ for 2). The restaurant is closed on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, but they will be open for New Year’s Eve with an 80€ menu (make your reservation asap).

L’Ecaille de la Fontaine
15 rue Gaillon, 75002 Paris
01 47 42 02 99
Closed on Sat-Sun.

Game!

The hunting season officially opens in early September and closes in late February. Regardless of how you feel about hunting — a higly controversial topic, I know — the discerning palate will appreciate the unique flavors that game provides, whether it’s deer (daim or biche), boar (sanglier or marcassin), wild ducks (col-vert or sauvageon) or other birds (palombes or cailles). Two excellent restaurants feature those animals prominently on their seasonal menus: Chez Michel in the 10th, which mainly focuses on Brittany-inspired cuisine, and L’Ami Jean in the 7th, a South-West gastro-bistro.

Chez Michel
10 rue de Belzunce, 75010 Paris
01 44 53 06 20
Closed on Sat-Sun and Mon. for lunch.
L’Ami Jean
27 rue Malar, 75007 Paris
01 47 05 86 89
Closed between Dec. 24 to Jan. 3.

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Soul Food in Paris: Chez Haynes

Chez Haynes

This post is in honor and memory of the victims of Katrina. Please donate what you can to the Red Cross or the charity of your choice. Thank you.

In 1949, Louisiana-born Leroy Haynes opened the very first American restaurant in Paris. He was a cook, an actor, a wrestler and a sociologist, he had many friends from both sides of the Atlantic, and his restaurant quickly became a favorite hangout for the local African American community and visiting celebrities. Jazz musicians, singers and dancers, Hollywood actors, all of them smiling and beautiful on the black and white pictures hanging from the walls, with little notes to Leroy scribbled in the corners. When Leroy died some fifteen years ago, his wife took on the operations and made sure Haynes’ spirit and food lived on.

In its present location since the mid-sixties, the restaurant‘s facade looks unprepossessing to say the least, with the kind of secretive look that makes you wonder if it’s actually open, if you’re welcome to step in or if maybe it’s a private club. This undoubtedly explains why, although Haynes is but a few blocks from our place, we had never dined there.

But considering the current catastrophic events, what better time than the present to go and eat a little soul food? So off we went a few days ago, our neighbor-friends in tow. The restaurant was very quiet that night, with just a few other tables, which allowed us to chat for a while with Haynes’ widow Maria, and Cesar, the Brazilian waiter who also organizes wildly popular live samba nights on Sundays.

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