JTA — In the elegant silence of a narrow street near the River Seine, David Moyal takes a breath of fresh winter air and enters a noisy restaurant in the French capital.
Inside Miznon, he is transported to another world, filled with the cacophony of Hebrew voices and Israeli music. A bustling new bistro that Moyal runs in the 4th arrondissement, Miznon is becoming hugely popular with Israelis and French Jews thanks to its Tel Aviv feel and audacious mission to pack Paris into a pita.
Inside, a few dozen customers are chatting and gesticulating while eating fusion dishes such as ratatouille with hummus, beef bourguignon with fried eggplant or a whole head of roasted cauliflower. Sometimes a staffer will spontaneously start drumming on pots to songs by Yehoram Ga’on or the Dorbanim as one of his colleagues doles out complimentary glasses of mint tea.
“As you can see, we were going for good service but with a healthy amount of Israeli ‘balagan,’ ” Moyal says, using the Hebrew slang word that translates roughly as “hullabaloo.”
Opened in October in the heart of the Marais, the historically Jewish district on the right bank of the Seine, Miznon is the brainchild of Eyal Shani, a well-known Israeli television chef who owns a successful restaurant by the same name in Tel Aviv.
“My vision is to take whole cities and translate them into one pita,” Shani says. “So in this case, to take Paris’ energies, its groove, its longings, its limitations, its beauty and its food, and express all of that in one pita.”
Miznon is not the only Israeli restaurant in the Marais to offer pita power for a couple of euros. Next door is L’As Du Fallafel (The Falafel Ace), a Parisian eatery whose devoted clientele and 35 years in existence have made it into something of an institution here.
Moyal, 32, says he is unfazed by the competition.
Located in the tony 17th Arrondissement, a ten minute walk from the Etoile, in a neighborhood both residential and commercial, Boucherie Levy stands next to a store selling Judaica. While France’s kosher authorities have certified more than two dozen delicatessen and butcher shops in Paris, this is perhaps the most beloved, and with good reason.
By New York deli standards (think Zabar’s), the corner shop is small but inviting thanks to large bay windows, a white tile floor and brightly lit display cases overflowing with fresh meat and take out preparations. Here, you’ll find an array of Jewish comfort food like pickled beef brisket and chopped chicken liver, together with traditional French specialties such as foie gras.
On one side of the shop, I noticed paper thin garnet slices of beef carpaccio for two (10 euros or about $12), on the other, a rosy chunk of braised veal labeled ‘veau à l’os’, that I thought could be mistaken for (God forbid)… ham. Next to that, was another of the shop’s exclusive specialties: foie gras speckled with candied fruit like apricot or figs.
The pleasure of effectively navigating the idiosyncratic topography of the City of Lights is only eclipsed by discovering the perfect meal in a city known for its gastronomy. Fortunately for the kosher traveler, this is no challenge at all.
In November 2010, UNESCO added French gastronomy to its list of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage,” making France the first nation to be honored for its arts of the table. The term haute cuisine (French for “high cooking”), coined in the nineteenth century, signifies elaborate preparations and presentations of small and numerous courses. French dishes liberally employ herbs and creamy ingredients. Most localities hold open air street markets nearly every day, where they sell locally grown fresh produce such as fennel and truffle, as well as cheese, wine, poultry and cured meats.