La Rentrée in a Paris Passage
“La Rentrée” is unofficially official today, as it always is, in tandem with Labor Day in the U.S.
So while Americans are taking the day off, stoking up the barbecue for burgers, here the kids go back to school, the worker-bees go back to business, the meter maids go back to ticketing the cars for unlawful parking and life as we know it in Paris resumes with a vengeance.
This is the week that everyone has promised to reconnect with one another, answer long forgotten emails, complete some tasks that were put on the shelf while they relaxed at their country homes, tanned on the beaches or traveled to foreign lands.
‘Of course, this is the image people like me have been projecting about the French August holiday for decades, and of course, it’s really a bit of an exaggeration. Not EVERYONE has quite so much time on his hands, especially those who are managing businesses of their own, and particularly the immigrants who aren’t in cushy civil servant jobs.
This is one reason during August you may find the little French bistrots shut tight while the ethnic restaurants are packing them in. To find the best ethnic restaurants in Paris, generally speaking, it’s best to venture into their own neighborhoods for the most authentic. Every now and then, when I have a hankering for an injection of Indian or Pakistani cuisine and culture, I head for the area around the Strasbourg-Saint-Denis Métro — rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin and the passages that quietly connect them.
Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis is one of Paris’ most colorful “quartiers.” You will see many more men than women, gathered on the sidewalks talking or in the bars. They are dark and swarthy, of mostly Indian, Pakistani, Asian and Middle Eastern descent. I realized that because of it, as a woman walking alone, I felt even safer among them.
One of the passages which most Paris guide books don’t share with you is worth knowing — Passage Brady. It is one of two covered passages in the 10th arrondissement, constructed in 1828 and put on the historical register in 2002. Boulevard de Strasbourg cuts the passage into two parts, but only the first part is covered.
Passage Brady is a cornucopia of Indian restaurants, one after another, barking in the passing clientele. If you walk the length of the passage without being tempted to enter any of them, you will notice that there is something special about the FIRST one that commands the best position, “Pooja” — it’s the only one with standing room only. Ther
e’s a reason for that. It’s the best one.
Serving Northern India specialities in a space with warm colors and Indian kitsch style with dim lights, Pooja (which means “prayer” in Hindi and is also a woman’s name), is proprietor Umesh Bhatt’s soulful child. You will not find tourists at his tables, but a variety of French and multi-cultural seekers of savory dishes.
They speak perfect English here, so don’t hesitate to ask for their recommendations. I can attest to the Dhal Panak (lentils and spinach), the Murgh Tandoori chicken, Pyaj Pakora (onion fritters) and Lamb Korma, not to mention Garlic Naan (bread), perfumed Basmati rice and Mango Lassi (a yogurt-based drink). We were in Indian heaven taking in the beautiful aromas and exotic tastes…yet, we weren’t in Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, or Mumbai.
We were right here in the middle of Paris “La Rentrée!
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]
P.S. Don’t forget, Parler Paris Après Midi is one week early this month because I am heading west to California for the Living and Investing in France Conference in San Diego September 16 and 17th. (To register for the conference, visit /parlerparis/liveinfrance) So, be there TOMORROW at 3 p.m. to meet, drink and be conversational! Scroll down or visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more information.
P.P.S. Parler Parlor French-English conversation group celebrates La Rentrée on September 23rd with its annual party — this time with Hot Dogs American style and a special offerings on both 10 and 20 session membership cards and the six-month membership! Scroll down or visit http://www.parlerparlor.com/ for more details.