I found an authentic Indian restaurant today in Paris. Like, authentic.
14 rue Perdonnet, 75010 Paris
I come out of La Chapelle Métro station and make my way – easily, since there are no real turns to make – to the street corner où le restaurant se trouve. I take a look, and a second look, at the façade, wavering for a little while as I glance at the two Indians standing outside before I step in. Every last person in there is Indian. I take my seat, and the menu comes, and it has a Dravidian language written on it –
as it turns out, I guessed correctly that it was Malayalam. Edit: Epic fail. It’s Tamil! Well, can’t change the post title now.
Good signs, I can say, when the clientele is Indian and not touristy. This restaurant isn’t a place to go for décor, as there really isn’t any that looks Indian. There’s no Indopop playing, as you might have in Berkeley. What gives it the Indian ambience is simply that you hear softly (more softly than Cantonese people in a restaurant, anyway) the chatter of voices conversing in Malayalam.
I already know what I want: lamb biryani, listed at 6€50 (if I want a curry, they cost 3€). Spicy? – I hesitate for a second after finally understanding the question – yes, please. He asks me if I want a drink. Fine, some tea too, for 1€.
The only person I hear speaking French besides the restaurant staff is a family sitting in front of me. The girl, of course, is speaking French, probably because she wants to be integrated into French society, although I don’t take her as a model for a good accent in French: it’s like American-born Chinese-Americans who speak mostly English but have some kind of non-standard accent.
Ah, food’s here. A dome of rice, some yoghurt on the side with vegetables in it, and a truncated chicken drumstick. I dig into the main attraction. The spiciness doesn’t shock me: my eyes aren’t at all beginning to water. Still, substantially spicy, near the top of my realistic spiciness levels. The yellow-coloured basmati rice is aromatic, the lamb looks generous enough and well-distributed, vegetables exist. And it tastes good. The yoghurt tastes cooling and creamy, with that mixture of cool-spicy and sweet and sour. I grab a bite of the chicken, which is tender inside and semi-crispy and well-seasoned outside.
The tea comes piping hot in a metal cup, so I take it by the slightly flared rim. It does look appropriately foamy. First sip. Ok, nicely hot, but too sweet for me, I think, because I can’t taste enough tea. Still, it seems more interesting than just water in a wineglass, although I have that too.
Satisfyingly filling, and good-tasting. Yes. But these waiters seem to be real Indians: they sit down and talk with some of the customers even after I’ve finished. After a while my plates disappear, and after I raise my eyebrows slightly and ask, l’addition, s’il vous plaît, the check does come. By the time I leave, it’s fifteen minutes after I finished, so this is a place to take your time and be… non-Western may be the word.
With the caveats given, I recommend a visit.