Soya: A Restaurant Review by Sarah Sahel
In a hidden street behind the canal Saint-Martin, signs indicate the imagined past lives of printing shops and ceramic manufacturers. Haussmanian façades contrast with balconies from the 1960s. A truck is parked in the middle of the road, delivering spare parts to the Germanic producer “Kurz.” It stands in the way of lost drivers who accidentally turned right on the rue de la Fontaine au Roi. Two boys chase one another on small bicycles, electing the street as their playground. The sky is heavy with dark clouds, and despite the early summer, rain is forecast for the afternoon. If the neighbourhood is lively, made of colourful bookshops and little cafés, the rue de la Pierre Levée (“street of the rising stone”, a rather unusual name for quite a common setting) remains calm with very few pedestrians. Yet, those who come here have been initiated into the pleasant world of Soya, an organic vegetarian restaurant hidden behind a black front and large picture windows.

Opened in late 2007, Soya welcomes a mixed crowd of curious Parisian hipsters, families gathered around long wooden tables, health-aware and environmentally-friendly women as well as upper class couples with infants in their arms. Tourists have not heard of the most well-kept secret of the right bank: Soya’s fresh, favourful, and original brunch. The atmosphere has something of Berlin or London, although the food boldly adopts Mediterranean accents, the dishes rich with aromatic herbs, chick-peas, and olive oil.
In the open kitchen, Slimane takes a steaming lasagna from the oven. The smiling Japanese cook, probably in her late twenties -she has been working here for the past year- holds the secrets to a unique hummus, a sweet beetroot dip, and a mild basil sauce. Most recipes were created by a young entrepreneur, a former designer now dedicated to tailoring tasteful dishes to the eager customers who loudly compete when identifying the mysterious ingredients. Miso paste, tempeh, tofu and soy beans, but also tahini, legumes, seaweed, quinoa and many more forgotten vegetables, are all in favour.
The 24€ brunch formula consists of a daily fresh fruit juice (for instance an orange-pineapple-banana with a generous pinch of ginger), a bottomless cup of hot tea, coffee, and a compilation of simmering savoury dishes (veggie couscous, lasagna…), cold mezzes (dips, salads, fritters…) and sophisticated sweets (gluten free hazelnut apple crumble, vegan vanilla cream…).
For a few hours, time has stopped. The lucky ones linger on, touched by the generosity of this organic canteen. A man takes out his book, while enjoying the last sips of his tea. The rush of lunch service has finally subsided. Guests quietly discuss their week and plans for the upcoming day, as Soya offers them the comfort of a home. In the kitchen, chefs prepare for the evening service.
20, rue de la Pierre Levée
75011 Paris (France)
+33 1 48 06 33 02
Metro: République, Goncourt & Parmentier


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