30 Rue des Bernardins
75005 Paris, France
01 43 26 10 20
Rating Standards: 4-Stars = Extraordinary; 3-Stars = Excellent; 2-Stars = Good; 1-Star = Fair; NO stars = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50-75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The 4-new bff: 2-Americans, 1-Canadian, and 1-French were sent on a mission by Americans "to seek out where no others have been before..." yep, a Mexican restaurant in Paris.
Moi, Darrell, Alexandre, and Just Jack
Before I continue with this review a few words of thought. Jack and I are from California where Mexican cuisine is a staple, just like bagels are to New York, and fried chicken is to the south. So, comparing Mexican food to Mexican that you would get in California or for that matter the Southwest, would be like comparing French food in France versus French food served in Japan, it cannot be compared because there are cultural differences that influences taste. Even when comparing California and the Southwest there are regional differences. With that said, I am reviewing this restaurant in context of it being in France, the French palate and whether it is basically good food.
The restaurant is conveniently located in the heart of the 5eme arrondisment (close to Notre Dame), so transportation is quite easy. The restaurant is very cute, and is about an average size restaurant for Paris. The staff are extremely hospitable, they are all Mexican.
We met our friends there for dinner and they started off with "negra modelo" a Mexican beer. I've been told that beer goes well with spicy foods, since I don't drink beer, I'll take their word for it. I had their house margarita (Note: they have a wonderful selection of margaritas), I had forgotten I wanted it over ice versus frappe'd, oh well, it was none-the-less refreshing and quite good. That's a good sign.
They gave us chips that were quite dark in color, so I'm assuming they were either refried or heated in the oven, and we got 2 very small salsas (tomatillo and tomato).
Tortilla with 2-salsas
We decided to start off with a combination entrée called, Surtido de entradas which basically means start of entrées. It consisted of taquitos, ceviche, guacamole, nopalitos, tostada, and it can feed 3-4, so perfect.
Surtido de entradas
I'll start with the guacamole, the guacamole for my taste was quite bland, but you did taste the avocados. Unless you have leftover tortilla chips you have to ask for more otherwise you'll be eating guacamole "seulement". A solution to the blandness, we asked for some piment (peppers) and our wait person gave us some jalapeno peppers as well as a vinegar salsa of carrots and onions that were quite good and spicy. I put some on the guacamole to give it more of a kick.
The ceviche (fish/vinegar) was good, I liked the taquitos because they were still nice and crunchy even after sitting on the serving plate. The nopalitos (cactus) was quite refreshing and tasty, I doubt it was made fresh. Again, if you want your food spicier, just add the jalapeno or the vinegar-ed salsa.
Our plat (main courses) came. Jack and I ordered the Mixiotes, which is a leg of lamb marinated, almost like pulled pork with a chili ancho sauce, nopalitos and kidney beans. The presentation was interesting, but I know not traditional, because in Mexico it's usually cooked in banana leafs and served in the banana leaf, but when in France they improvised by using aluminum foil; however, it was presented quite nicely as you can see.
This was actually my favorite dish. The lamb was spicy, but I made it spicier by adding more salsa. Surprisingly, they gave us home made tortillas ...
Alexandre ordered the Mole Poblano made with turkey and served with rice. The mole sauce consistency was quite nice, I had a bite of it and it was very tasty, just a tad sweeter than I would normally make it, but good none-the-less
Darrell ordered the Enchiladas verdes stuffed with chicken and corn in a tomatillo sauce. When I first took a bite of it I found it to be too sour, but then realized after the reading the menu, it's all tomatillo, so it's suppose to have that little sour taste. Also, I normally associate enchiladas being baked in the oven so that the tortillas become very soft and pliant, whereas this was on the crispy side, once again I reviewed the menu and it said it's gratiné; hence, it was suppose to be that crunchy consistency. Lesson learned, read the menu for details of how it's being prepared.
All-in-all we had a lovely time. The owner/Chef Tony Spinosa came out to talk to us. He gave us a history of how Mexican cuisine has evolved in Paris. He agreed that he's had to make some adjustments in order to satisfy the French palate, meaning not too spicy.
As I reflect back, about half of the patrons were French and the others were either Italian, Spanish, and of course Americans. So, my guess it's slowly being understood by the French, but I think it still has a way to go. I asked Eric where he gets his ingredients, especially the tomatillos, he told me that they are next to impossible to find fresh; however, he brings cans of tomatillos from his native Vera Cruz, interesting!
Chef Tony Spinosa
Tony has had to make due with some Mexican products canned or bottled rather than fresh (e.g., cactus, tomatillos), and he does a good job. It is distinctly Mexican, no doubt about that. So, if you're missing Mexican I would recommend Anahuacalli, but go there without the preconceived notion of what Mexican food tasted like when you were at home!