Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Forgot to mention another interesting meal which we enjoyed whilst in Paris. On the Friday evening we thought we would head off to the Place D'Italie in the 13th Arrondissement. The area around Les Halles, where we were staying for the last 2 nights, is very touristy and we had a feeling that we may not eat as well in that part of town as we had done in the Rue De Rome area. We read that the Place D'Italie had lots of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants and as it was a part of town that we did not know, we thought that it may be an interesting place to walk around. Many years ago, on a previous visit to Paris, we stumbled across a tiny but delightful Vietnamese restaurant in Montparnasse. Ordering the food was quite good fun as neither us or the lovely couple spoke much French, which could be understood by the other party. However the food was delicious, so as we settled our bill Orynthia decided to use one of those handy phrases that you find in the back of the guide books, this one basically meant "The meal was very good, thank you". As soon as Orynthia mentioned these words, our hosts became very animated and suddenly produced a bottle of Saki (or something similar), and poured out two large glasses of this potent brew for us. Neither Orynthia or I were sure of the correct etiquette for this sort of drink, so we decided to bite the bullet and knock it back in one swig. This produced even bigger smiles on our host's faces and our glasses were instantly replenished! We could see ourselves being quickly flung into an alcoholic maelstrom and a potentially tricky journey across Paris as our ability to read (or even see!) the metro sign disappeared into an alcohol induced haze, so we decided to take the cowards way out sipping the drink slowly before shaking hands and leaving the restaurant. Anyway I digress, the idea of eating Vietnamese appealed so off we went. The Place D'Italie is basically a huge roundabout with about 8 roads leading off it. Not knowing which road to look for we headed off in the direction of the most neon lights, normally a good indication of a "Chinatown" type area. As we later discovered, we were on the wrong side of the roundabout for Chinatown, but we did discover a very picturesque little area around Rue De La Butte Aux Cailles. We walked around for around 30 minutes, being tempted by various restaurants before we walked past a tiny little African place in the Rue Du Pere Guerin. I guess that the place would hold about 10 people at the most and that most of the trade would be of the takeaway variety rather than eat-in. We had a quick chat with the guy behind the counter, who explained that this place served food from Senegal, it looked interesting so we thought that we would give it a go. I had a fish dish called "Tiebou Diene" which the guy behind the counter advised me is the national dish of the country. It was a rich and tasty dish, which included a huge portion of cous cous, sweet potato and some exotic vegetables which were new to the pair of us. Orynthia had a dish which was a sort of beef curry which was called either Maffe or Yassa. Very filling and very very cheap.


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