Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Parisian Veggie

I'm a vegetarian in Paris, and let me tell you, it's not easy being a member of such a suspicious fringe element of society. Most French people just don't understand the bizarre concept of not eating meat by choice. First of all, I must be close to dropping down dead from various vitamin, mineral and amino-acid deficiencies. Secondly, I must be at least half-insane to refuse a food group that everyone knows is delicious, in a country where deliciousness is king.

I can't tell you the number of times that I've asked whether a likely-looking tarte, for example, is vegetarian, and told "Yes, it's just got a little ham in it". Or else, a slight improvement, "No, but you can pick the bits of ham out." If invited out by friends to a French restaurant I've never been to before, I just have to cross my fingers and hope there's a "salade de chèvre chaud" on the menu (luckily there usually is - French menus are pretty predicatable). Otherwise I must argue with the waiter to convince him to bring me a vegetable plate, which often consists of such delicacies as plain white rice, plain cooked pasta, or a heap of pommes frites dripping with beef tallow.

Believe it or not, many of the small handful of vegetarian-only restaurants are worse. A note to some vegetarian restaurant owners in this town - insipid, flavorless piles of mush are not the way to convince the French to warm up to vegetarian food!

Here is a list of restaurants I would recommend to fellow veggies here. Most of these aren't totally veggie, but they always have at least a few offerings to choose from. That's about the best you can ask for here at the moment! Click the name of each restaurant to get more information and the addresses of each (but do come back here when you're done!).

La Madonnina
This Italian restaurant isn't that much to look at from the outside, but the food is really fresh, the people working there are very friendly, and after you eat you can go for a walk by the canal. This is probably my favorite restaurant right now.

Great Lebanese food.

For the next time you have an extra 200 euros lying around. I got this one from a food-writer friend, as I haven't eaten there (although I'm open to invitations!), but he says it's amazing. Apparently it used to be completely vegetarian, but now I see in the online review that it isn't the case any longer. Probably best to ask when you book.

This crèperie is my cantine, I go there at least once a week. There are only two vegetarian crepes though, but they're both very good, and the desserts are excellent - try the caramel au beurre salé!

La Victoire Suprême du Coeur
This one's maybe a bit strange. It's run by the followers of Sri Chinmoy and there are big photos of him and quotes all around. Also, you have to like the fake-meat and 2 veg kind of stuff to like it. Their seitan is delicious, and it's right by Les Halles where it can otherwise be hard to find a good meal. My friend doesn't like this one, but I do. 100% veggie.

La Pharmacie
Mostly organic, and they do chair massages in there on Sunday afternoons.

Le Potager du Marais
I haven't tried this one yet, but I've heard good things about it. 100% veggie.

The area to go for a curry is La Chapelle (not passage Brady!). The best one is Dishny. It's ridiculously cheap, too.

Lémoni Café
A great lunch place, very "design", with delicious, healthy cretois food.

Bon appétit, bien sur, and if you have any restaurant suggestions for me, by all means let me know!