"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)!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cantine California -- Restaurant Review

46 Rue Turbigo
Phone: 09 81-15-53-13
Metro: Arts et Métier
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses) Note: Does not include beverages

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+)

  3.5 - stars...............................................................€........................................................... 1 - Bell

This restaurant has been open for just a little over a week. They are the same owners who opened up the "Cantine California" food truck  , and along with "Le Camion qui Fume"  with great success and started the whole food truck movement in Paris. Hats off to both of them.

My best friend has already gone a couple of times, and each time has given input to the staff, after all he is from Southern California, and they know a thing or two about Mexican food.  There's a couple of things he shared with me about this restaurant, and in my own review with you that I wanted to share.

First of all, spicy food is not appreciated or even much liked for the average French palate. Their philosophy being, why add spice to mask the flavor of the food?  My argument back has always been, why mask good food with lots of sauce or creme? My point is, given the right amount of spice or sauce, it can enhance and bring out of the flavors of food, n'est-ce pas?

I went with a friend who also owns a Mexican restaurant in the 8eme. He always likes to test other restaurants similar to his. I have yet to find a really good taco bar or restaurant that serves tacos as we know them in California. The restaurant is very new, very modern with clean lines and not kitschy or excessive. The bar and kitchen are open, so you can actually see the activity around you. It's a nice and airy open restaurant.

We perused the menu. They have a very simple menu of burgers and tacos. Being that we came here specifically for the tacos, we decided to get all 3: fish, carnitas, and chicken.  When I think of tacos I assume they will be wrapped in corn tortillas, not so in France. Corn is considered animal food and the French palate does not like corn tortillas for the taste nor the texture. So, my best friend told me ahead of time to specifically ask for corn tortillas.

We started out with their margaritas. I like them salted. Although the margaritas were very good, I found them to be too tart. But that's a personal preference, because my best friend, who always likes to test margaritas, said they were excellent at 6€ a glass. They were the best he's had in Paris for the price point.

As for the tacos, my favorite were the fish tacos. The one flaw I found, I don't believe the tortillas were heated e.g., steamed, and it tasted like they came right out of the package because they kept ripping. The fish tacos were nice and crispy with a moist interior and topped with their creamy coleslaw, made it a hit.  Note, my best friend gave them input a week earlier stating that the coleslaw could've been creamier, so they were. The carnitas were good, but my friend thought they might've been a little too sweet. And, the chicken was not very exciting.

We liked the fish tacos so much, we ordered two more.  Unfortunately, we forgot to mention we wanted them with corn tortillas and they came with flour tortillas. You can definitely taste the difference. Just remember you must repeat that you want corn tortillas.  The only other thing I missed was hot salsa for the tacos, instead we got "Valentino" a bottled hot sauce, which was good, but it would've been really nice with salsa. According to my best friend, they did have a tomato salsa when he was there, so I have to assume they ran out.

Overall, I thought the restaurant was definitely above average. Prices were excellent. I have yet to try their hamburgers and will do so on our next visit, because I plan on going again. The staff are incredibly nice. I complimented one wait staff that her English was excellent, she said she was from NYC, just like the "Pace Picante" commercial, boy was I embarrassed. Then I met one one of the kitchen workers and he's from SF and not too far from our home there. The manager and co-owner, Michael lived in Atlanta for 5-years.

They are off to a good start. They have a couple of kinks to iron out, but this is going to be a hit. They're very receptive to feedback, so share your thoughts.  My only fear is that they might "Frenchify" as many have done so before them. So, I encourage you to go before it gets too popular; I know it will be a big hit and success!

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