Even when you stay at home, cooking can make you travel and you are free to choose the destination.
A poem written by Jacques Prévert, a well known French poet, ends with these verses: “Unknown strangers, you are part of the city, part of its life”. Indeed Paris is a city where different cultures express themselves through its neighbourhoods, its artistic events and also its numerous restaurants. I love to travel and even more when I can travel like a foodie tasting new and original plates. If you stay in the French capital you can have this kind of journey for one day, feeling this fragrance of various and new flavours. The restaurant Chez Bébert was the last journey I made there: a journey to Morocco.
Located close to the Montparnasse railway station, this restaurant seems to be derived from the book of the “Thousand and One Nights”, with its beautiful ceramics, wrought iron, Arabian art, golden decor that ornament the walls and tables of the place. You can order to take away, but the decoration will still make you stay to listen to the amazing stories of the oriental cuisine.
Sitting at this atypical table, let’s take a look at the menu. There are all specialties of Moroccan cuisine: the well known Couscous (from 15€ to 21€), Tajines (from 15€ to 21€), Grills (from 15€ to 20€), various Bricks (from 4€ to 6€) and the delicious Oriental pastries (20€).
As soon as you have ordered the waiter brings you a plate of “mise en bouche”. This surely to welcome you and to make you wait. It worked for me because I’ve been to that restaurant a few times and I never felt I had to wait a lot even if it was crowded. Or maybe because I speak a lot I didn’t feel I was waiting long… ;) Back to these simple and tasty “mise en bouche”. Seven of them are served: egs bricks, crunchy carrots with cumin, potatoes with cumin, pickles, raw turnips, cold spicy cabbage and green olives. All of this will surely make you feel angry but if you are not a big eater no need to take an entrance after that.
To continue with the main plate I chose the Duck Tajine with figs. Due to the cooking “à l’étouffée”, the ingredients keep their flavours and nutriments intact. When the waiter opens the Tajine in front of you you smell an explosion of flavours: spices and a mix of sweet/savoury will tempt you. In the mouth the taste is even more delicious. The spices are well mixed and well balanced with a very sweet taste of dried fruits (figs, abricots and prune) that ease the strong taste of duck. The meat is very tender, it melts in your mouth. The sesame seeds on the top give a crunchy and nutty taste to the plate. It is always served with a fine-grained semolina with orange blossom, dried raisins and cashews. The semolina is fully in line with the taste of the plate and salty enough to make a break with this all very sweet taste.
I also took the chance to try a bit of the “Couscous Bébert”, traditional Moroccan plate also very famous in this restaurant. The whole plate is like the Moroccan people, very generous: various tender meat pieces (lamb, spicy Merguez sausages, chicken, skewered meat brochettes) served with stew vegetables (zucchinis, carrots, turnips), soft chickpeas in their juice as well as white beans and a stock with a fine-grained semolina. You can easily taste cumin in the plate, especially in the stock with a small flavour of leek.
This plate is said to be a meal of sharing, hospitality and generosity. Indeed either if you are eating it with your family or your friends you only feel pure happiness…and a stomach well filled!
To live up the Moroccan tradition you should definitively end this meal with the mint tea. It will give you a last hint of Moroccan flavour as a souvenir of your journey.
Don’t forget my postcard!