Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bento-là-là ! : 31, rue de Paradis is indeed Heavenly

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join together Le Baron and Rose Bakery in holy matrimony…” “I DO…” not believe it. Two of my favorite Parisian institutions have wed. Well, sort of. Lionel Bensemoun, of Le Baron fame, has joined forces with Kaori Endo, the culinary artist formerly known as the chef at Rose Bakery Marais for a new spot on 31, rue de Paradis in the 10th arrondissement called… 31, rue de Paradis. OK so I’ll subtract a few points for originality in the title, but 31, “Heaven Street” is a fair moniker. The new restaurant features a mostly organic, varied menu in a spacious, convivial setting.

The daily menu features Franco-Japanese fusion food including the “Bento” of the day with a meat, fish or vegetarian option. Today’s choice was a tofu with miso walnut sauce, chicken with sun dried tomatoes or a balsamic salmon, all served with a quinoa and red rice combo, a pomegranate/apple/cabbage/walnut salad and a broccoli, beet and parmesan salad. The bento is very healthy and well-balanced, delicious, filling and, for the price of just 13 euros, very affordable. Plus, no one in Paris makes tofu like Kaori – I’d been in withdrawal since she left Rose Bakery and now I’m thrilled I can again enjoy her incredible gift for tofu-cooking (yes, it’s a gift, I’ve tried to replicate it many times and have failed).

Rumor has it the spring rolls – today a chicken or veggie option – are also great and the “matcha-banana-nondairy milk smoothie” is also a must-try on a future visit. While Le Baron’s influence can’t be ignored – Lionel himself was there the day I popped in, and the place is teeming with hipsters – I found the ambiance surprisingly low-key and relaxed. It’s far from just “Le Baron nightclub at 1 PM” – it’s a very down-to-earth, zen spot with an eclectic clientele. Plus, the space is so vast that it’s a nice breath of fresh air from most of Paris’ teeny tiny, cozy spots where you’re eating elbow-to-elbow with your neighbors. It’s a great place to go for lunch with friends or even for a workday meal.

And, for those busy days, the takeout corner is absolutely perfect. In 5 minutes, one (namely, me) can walk out with a protein-carb-veggie-filled hearty meal and head back to the office with a smile. Well, I can’t personally guarantee the smile, but perhaps a dessert will do the trick? The matcha green tea-white chocolate- raspberry cake is literally a taste of “Heaven” and the chocolate cake had rave reviews too. Their smoothie and tea list is impressive and our mint and ginger infusion was perfect for a cold winter’s day. As of the beginning of 2011, 31, rue de Paradis will be open every day and certain weeknights for dinner. Just another reason to celebrate the new year. Now, let’s nickname it “Paradis” or “Heaven,” is open from 9 am – 6 pm Monday through Wednesday, from 9 am through midnight on Thursdays and Fridays (limited menu for now) and then Saturday from noon until midnight.

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