Cheap eats: A beignet at Krishna Bhavan.
24, rue Cail, in the 10th Arrondissement.
01 42 05 78 43. Open every day, 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.
There are at least two categories of eaters who often feel disadvantaged in Paris: vegetarians and spice lovers. Both will appreciate Krishna Bhavan.
It’s tucked away on rue Cail, a sort of Indian row of restaurants, sari shops and groceries between Gare du Nord and La Chapelle. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate: the population here is mainly Tamil, an ethnic group that traces its roots to southern India and northeastern Sri Lanka, and whose complex (and mainly vegetarian) cuisine is bolstered by the belief that to serve food is to serve humanity.
In other words, if you’re looking for chicken tikka masala, look elsewhere.
As you might imagine, the room is nothing special, though it’s cheerful enough, with colorful portraits of various deities, all kinds of wall hangings, a happy crowd and a warm welcome.
If it’s variety you’re after, the thaali—a sort of sampler of rice served with several different sauces and garnishes—is the way to go. It’s served in a metal tray, with the rice surrounded by jewel-like piles meant to be scooped up with the rice or bread, fork optional. There was a cool raita, turned pale peach by bleeding carrots, a deep yellow sambhar (a sort of dal), a slippery and piquant stew of okra, and spicy eggplant, each as subtle as it was bold.
We ordered that, along with the pongale (a creamy rice dish studded with almonds), a couscous-like uppuma, a couple of beignets and some chapatti as well. The sweet waitress looked at us strangely when we ordered; this was too much food for two people. She was right, but with thaali topping out at a whopping 8 euros, our desire to try as many things as possible wasn’t restricted by budgetary concerns. So we went for it.
There are no bombers of Kingfisher to be found at Krishna Bhavan, which is not only vegetarian but alcohol free. Have a mango lassi or tea instead.
It might be easy to dismiss the idea of going out for Tamil food on a visit to the city of wine and rillettes and cheese and steak frites, but this neighborhood, with its windows filled with colored silks and men rolling flatbreads and bins of hot peppers and sacks of rice, this is Paris, too.
In a nutshell: Krishna Bhavan is perfect for vegetarians, the budget conscious and anyone craving Indian food or just looking to get off the beaten central Paris path.
Price check: A la carte, 1.50–8 euros; set menu, 13 euros. Very inexpensive.
If you’re a vegetarian but south Indian isn’t your thing, you might like Soya, a cool veggie newcomer in Oberkampf.
20, rue de la Pierre Levée, in the 11th.
01 48 06 33 02. Open every day.