"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Monday, August 30, 2010

La cantine des TONTONS -- It is what it is...

36 rue de Dantzig 75015 Paris, Tel:

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+)

1.5 -Stars.............................................2-Bells

We walk by this restaurant all the time, in fact we live a block away from it. It's located right next to Parc Georges Brassens, interestingly, there's also another Tonton on the other side of Parc Georges Brassens on rue Brancion.  This has been reviewed by several writers and bloggers and got mixed reviews, so I wanted to experience for myself.

We were meeting with friends Bill and Dan for our last dinner with them before they return to the states. Originally, we were going to have couscous in the 5eme, but unfortunately, I've been having foot problems and walking would be problematic. So, we had this great idea to go to Tonton since it's only a block away and we've been meaning to go. Plus alot of restaurants are still closed for the holidays.

22€ for dinner
The prices are excellent, in fact down right inexpensive for dinner. As we entered the restaurant, it's quite cozy. There are maybe 2 or 3 tables meant for couples, and they have 3-long tables where you share.

We honestly didn't know how it worked, but the wait person told us it's serve yourself. On one side of the restaurant were the entrées and desserts and on the other side were 2-hot plates.

I think it's a long last relative
I thought the plates were interesting, they were miss-matched as if someone went to the marché aux puce (flea markets), I happened to like this, since it gave the restaurant an authentic rustic feel.

There were 2-boar heads as you entered the door, hmm,  methinks they were real and I maybe related to one of them! I suppose it gives it that country home atmosphere, thank God, it's not in my home.

Another thing that struck me, were the bottles of wine displayed throughout the restaurant, and they had quite a varied selection.

The wait person told us that everything was volonté (all-you-can-eat)..., hmm!

Incredible selections of wines

It's a very simple restaurant, so there are no apéros. Therefore, if you want to have a drink or cocktail before dinner, e.g., kir, have one at a local bar, café or at home.

As I mentioned, the selections of wine were incredible. We even had  a wall of wine behind us, I could have just turned around and picked one. We selected a malbec for 22€. The wine was excellent.

Home made cornichons (pickles)
On each table, there was an array of different mustards, condiments, and even a large crock pot of cornichons, home made pickles. I suppose this was done so you don't have to ask the one wait person for additional things. The pickles were on the tart side, but they were actually very tasty.


We preceded with our entrées. It's not like an American buffet where you have a zillion choices, but the selection was nice. Different fresh vegetables and even a nice chunk of paté. And, I can't forget to mention the baguettes, they had a huge baskets of baguettes.

Jack's plating, c'est joli
And, since you plate it yourself, you can make it look however you want it to look. 

Once we finished, we didn't know what to do with our plates. So, we left them and proceeded to attack the warm plates. But our wait person explained to us that once we finish our plates, we simply had to take our "used" plates and place them on the counter. Definitely a no frills service, but for some reason I didn't mind it.

Traver de porc

For the plat, you have 2-choices, a travers de porc (pork ribs) with pasta, and/or the lamb shank with white beans.  Both dishes  tasted fair.  These 2-dishes lends itself well to sit in a warming plate for hours, and not get too weird.

Agneau avec haricot blanc

After the plat, you can go back for cheeses. There was a good selection of cheeses from soft cheeses such as camemberts, bries, and roquefort. They had a selection of hard cheeses as well from cantal to comte and even some sheep cheeses (brebis).

The desserts were non-descript. They were the proverbial fruit tarts in a heavy custard. You could also get a pudding or a dessert yogurt known here as fromage blanc.

I'm glad we went, since I have never been to a "buffet" style restaurant in Paris. It's like buffets anywhere, but the difference is that the choices are less, but what they do have is fair. I for one do not like buffets, except maybe in a select few casinos in Las Vegas.

This is an OK place to go as an alternative to a bistro or brasserie since the food is probably the same quality (refer to my blog on "Food for Thought"). It's quick, easy and simple.  In some ways, it feels very French, but on the other hand, the buffet is a bit strange.

Would I go again, probably not.

Simply put, IT IS WHAT IT IS, a buffet., nothing more, nothing less...


  1. Maim, maim - allons y!

  2. Paris...all you can eat buffet. That's just wrong. And I'm not into boar's heads but i love some cornichons. Maybe I'll go there and have a look. It's cheap right?

  3. Yes, it's quite inexpensive, not cheap and tawdry though (lol)!

  4. Hi Randy, I am a friend of Virginia and Mary and have a Paris blog also. I'm not on FB so I thought I would pop in here and say "hi."

    Virg says you make her laugh and I am all about that. Right now I am laughing that Mary probably meant to say "miam-miam" and instead said something about "maim-ing" ?? Translation: Let's go maim?

    I am not laughing too much as I win the "you said what?!" award - haha!


  5. A bowl of hard boiled eggs?? Come on , that's not even up to Alabama standards. We at least "devil" the damn things.

  6. Genie, bievenue, any stalker of Virginia is a stalker of mine (lol), what's your blog? my emails are rodjns@gmail.com or rodjnsparis@yahoo.com...

  7. Oh so Genie gets your REAL email and I"m reduced to conversing via FB. Maybe a little maiming is in order! Hand me one of those fancy schmancy knives!

  8. Hi Randy, you can just click on my name and it should take you there.... just like magic!