Wed 5 Jan 2011
Vegetarian bento box.
31, rue du Paradis, in the 10th Arrondissement.
01 40 22 05 55. Mon–Wed, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.;
Thurs–Fri, 9 a.m.–midnight; Sat, noon–midnight.
After a few weeks of holiday overeating, lunch at this new bento-bakery-canteen seemed like just the ticket. Chef Kaori Endo, whose résumé includes a stint at Rose Bakery, has been garnering praise for her light and colorful Japanese-inflected food, and bobos and fashion types have been filling the tables from the start.
There’s a counter for takeout at the front, or you can take a seat in the large dining room, which feels a little like a school cafeteria, if the school happened to be holding a craft fair: multicolored pom-poms with long streamers hang from the ceiling; a flea-market assortment of ceramics lines shelves along the back wall, with all manner of dried flora stuck here and there; and a long chalkboard serves as the menu. Large shades strung with brightly colored string cover the otherwise bleak fixtures. The whole thing is kind of weird and fun.
At lunch most people seem to order one of the bento boxes, which come in vegetarian, meat or fish versions. After a steady diet of duck fat in December, I went vegetarian. On the right, two thick wedges of grilled tofu with sweet soy glaze and sesame seeds sat atop satisfyingly chewy brown rice. On the left was a salad of baby greens, a wedge of roasted pumpkin and a seriously delicious salad of chickpeas, avocado and tiny cauliflower florets, with an aromatic and zippy coriander seed dressing.
If this food sounds boring, rest assured it’s not: it’s lively, and fresh, full of texture and surprisingly complex.
Mini brioche pizzas.
Other options included a spring roll, lentil soup and salads—cauliflower or grated carrot. There are onigiri (sticky rice balls), little brioche pizzas and a chirashi of salmon—basically a deconstructed sushi roll.
There’s orange juice squeezed to order and a cocktail du jour—not a cocktail at all but a mix of juices, on my visit a bracing blend of kiwi and orange, a fine way to tell off a threatening cold. Wine drinkers have a few options, too.
In the evening the menu is a little more sophisticated, with more small plates and higher prices.
Don’t skip dessert. Wedges of cheesecake were being devoured on almost every table, and I have heard raves about the creamy coffee tart (liégeoise). I was curious about the cake matcha, a slice of loaf cake the color of moss on a tree after a spring rain. It was studded with raspberries that tempered the green tea’s funk, and tiny sesame seeds on the crust added texture.
In a nutshell: Kaori Endo’s playful east-meets-west canteen is the place to eat your vegetables right now in Paris.
Price check: Plan on spending about 20 euros at lunch, and 30 to 35 euros at dinner.
If Nanashi sounds good but you are strictly vegetarian, you’ll like Bob’s Kitchen. Read a full review here.
74, rue des Gravilliers, in the 3rd. 09 52 55 11 66.
Mon–Fri, 8 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat–Sun, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.