Previous to my move to Paris I spent a week here with a friend, Chrissy. We had quite a lot of fun together exploring the city and eating our way through it, being our own tour guides, and stumbling across whatever was in our path. It really is a wonderful way to view Paris because there is so much to see here that if you make a definite plan to go from A, to B, to C you can miss out on a lot that lies in between. During our wayward stay I did look up a few places to check out, such as recommended restaurants and whatnot. I'm not exactly sure where I found this particular restaurant, but somewhere in all my books Chez Lena et Mimile was mentioned and it was close to our hotel.
Though it may have been close to our hotel, it was still not a quick walk to Chez L & M. Confusing and swirly we went this way and that spending a good hour trying to figure out how to get to the small courtyard, turnabout, intersection thingy where this restaurant lived. Luckily we found a Parisian who helped us locate the establishment and who boosted our self-esteem by informing us that even Parisians got lost in that area.
From what I remember the restaurant was what I would want from a Paris restaurant. It wasn't extremely expensive and the food was good. The atmosphere was comfortable and homey, and the restaurant itself was irresistibly charming, sitting above a minuscule garden with it's own statue at the center. Upon being seated we were given little shot glasses of mushroom and cream soup which were not only delicious but also warmed out hearts to the place more than the fiery roast they were feeling already. Free food? Heck yeah! Right away? Where have you been all my life?
Chrissy and I were tired and the restaurant was fairly bare since it had taken us so long to find the place that normal eating hours were over. Not to mention that we were still fighting off some serious California jetlag. So we didn't exactly have the energy to pour over the menu and thus ended up ordering the same thing. From what my poor french skills could uncover, it was a shellfish pasta and when the two gigantic bowls were placed in front of us, I knew from the smell that it was going to be delicious. And delicious it was.
Shellfish has the ability to be rich and refreshing all in one fell swoop. And this pasta definitely captured that. It was a dining experience to remember and since I have moved back to Paris I have thought of that place often. But, alas, I was concerned that I would never see it again. Finding it once when I could remember what it was called was hard enough. Finding it again without much to go one would be an epic journey.
But then today one of my first tasks at work was to go and deliver a few bags of ordered catering products to a small location for my boss's cousin's law graduation celebration. Assisting in the assembly of all this tiny stuff was my actual first task and being told I needed to move faster by even Irina was the wonderful accompaniment I got with that job. But going in the taxi through Paris was lovely. Since I usually take the metro I don't get to see what exactly it is I'm passing, but today in the taxi I felt like a real tourist. I couldn't help but stare at everything out the car windows, thinking of how much I still have to explore in my short time here and feeling giddy at the thought of it.
I knew we were getting close to our destination when we pulled down a classic small Parisian cobbled street. Like a kid in a candy store my eyes drank up everything around me until, suddenly, my brain digested exactly what it was I was seeing. This was familiar. I had been here before. It looked like...but it couldn't be...and yet, it was. This was the small little turnaround, street corner, garden where Chez Lena et Mimille sat. And I took this unlikely discovery as a sign from the fates that I had to return there and enjoy a delicious meal.
As soon as I arrived back at work I quickly scribbled down the name of the restaurant and planned to go back there as soon as I could. Perhaps after a day of exploring the Fifth Arrondissement to regain my expectedly drained strength from shopping.
And even though after my return I had a normal, unrewarding day at my internship, I still had a flicker of excitement for the next few months to come once I'm free. Seeing that little restaurant inspired something inside of me to take in as much wonderful things as I can while I'm here. So even though I was exhausted after work I held to my promise and met up with Elze in the Saint Germain area of Paris and we set out to explore her neighborhood.
We didn't get very far but did manage to stop into a beautiful olive oil shop which offered a plethora of infused olive oils, flavored vinegars, tapenades, and salts to name a few. It was magnificent to see the walls towering with stacks of different oils and the fact that they had samples of everything certainly warmed my heart to them. I bought a bottle of apple honey vinegar that I found so delicious I'm afraid to open it for fear that I just may drink the whole thing.
We then continued our way down the cobbled walking street and up into Un Dimanche À Paris, which means, "A Sunday In Paris." It's a famous patisserie and chocolatier and is as immaculate and breathtaking as an art studio. Everything is beautiful and neat and you can even watch the chefs working in the kitchen behind glass walls. Though it is not at all the type of whimsical pastry shop I dream of owning, I still had to appreciate the beauty and perfection that this shop embodied. I did not buy anything but plan to go back and try out a few different goodies and perhaps find some Christmas presents there for the chocolate lovers in my life.
Elze and I then met up with two of her friends and we went to a little bar for drinks and eventually our bellies growled us into ordering food. I just got an appetizer, a salmon tartare, and though it was nothing to rave about it certainly was nice. And spending time with people in a Paris bar on a Paris street eating a simple and clean dish is something anyone can enjoy. It's moments like that that make me realize what it is to actually live here.
Overall it was a wonderful day out of the house and it helped encourage my inner feelings of anticipation for when I'm finally done with the torture of not making pastries in a patisserie and instead am out there enjoying pastries in a patisserie. So here's to hoping that I get my visa renewal sooner rather than later and then...let the eating commence!
* I have recently read terrible reviews of Chez Lena et Mimille claiming they are ridiculously priced and not nearly good enough to support it. Perhaps what I ordered (being a simple shellfish pasta) was on the cheaper side of their menu. Though my experience was good it is clear that other people do not feel so. I'll have to return some time and let you know more!