Déjeuner à Merci:
By Sanaë

 
We are in the Marais, but not in the narrow, lively streets where falafel restaurants and small boutiques attract Parisians and tourists alike. Instead, Merci is off the wide Boulevard Beaumarchais, on a fairly quiet and sober stretch of the street. But step inside Merci and you’re entering another world: there’s a used bookstore at the front with a café, and at the end of the cobblestone pathway you’ll enter the luminous store, designed as a loft. The ground floor boutique sells designer clothes, perfumes, jewelry and shoes. Upstairs you can find furniture and Muji-style materials — bedding sheets, tablecloths, and napkins — and a beautiful selection of Japanese notebooks. True, you’ll come across expensive waxed paper bags for sale, and sophisticated teapots for sixty euros, but there are also a few good finds, and I like to peruse the store for unusual gifts, such as portable, flexible vases, or notepads made of envelopes. The basement is my favorite place though, with the Merci Cantine, open for lunch from noon to 3pm. The restaurant looks onto a small green garden where Merci grows many of its herbs. There are wooden crates filled with vegetables and fruits. The menu is written in chalk on a blackboard. Most of the ingredients are organic.
 

 

This restaurant is one of a kind. It’s hip, but not too expensive, the décor is tasteful and simple (mostly white), and the waiters are all stylishly dressed. At the front of the restaurant there’s a counter with a display of salads and desserts. The salads remind me of Rose Bakery, up north on rue des Martyrs. They change every day and look like works of art, colorful and with unusual combinations, all vegetarian: green beans, nuts, carrots, melon, radish, lentils, fava beans, are favorites. Freshly squeezed juices (there’s kiwi, ginger, carrot, apple) come served, still foaming, in short glasses. I always order the red fruit crumble for dessert; it’s crunchy and mildly sweet, with the natural sourness of berries. I keep coming back for more. The menu proposes a few additional dishes aside from the salads, such as a superb creamy risotto and a soup of the day, though I’d highly recommend at least trying one Salade du Comptoir, which allows you to sample a serving of each salad.
 

Our Menu
tomato, basil and zucchini soup
the salad plate: “Salade du Comtpoir – la grande assiette”
mushroom and fresh herbs risotto
fruit crumble

 
After lunch you can stroll around the store, and if anything strikes your fancy, don’t feel too guilty… the store donates its profits to women and children in Madagascar.
 

 

Dîner au Cocottes de Constant:
By Nate

 

 
Christian Constant is an accredited French chef, and this, Les Cocottes de Constant is his newest concept. For an early casual dinner in Paris it is on point. And, you better arrive early before the doors open at 7, or a wait will be in the cards. At 6:30, tourists and parisians begin to line up at the door awaiting a variety of dishes, warm, cold, sweet and savory, mainly cooked and served in cocottes — by definition a “cookery,” or a small fireproof dish. There are no traditional tables or menus and certainly no traditional french service. In fact, the service and the lack of music is where our experience left something to be desired. The music situation made for awkward silences and a flat ambiance throughout the evening, but as the waitress suggested, I could sing to brighten the mood.
 
At Les Cocottes the wine comes out of barrels, making Bordeaux — St. Emillion and Morgon affordable. For starters we ate Constant’s paté, filled with beef and pork and an amalgamation of other “secret” ingredients. For the main course, we split two. A cocotte filled with cabillaud or cod, cooked with notes of Provence and the Mediterranean Sea, and harmonies between giant capers and fresh plum tomatoes. And, a wonderfully cooked steak, paired with roasted buttery potatoes and a mixed green salad. There was more the menu had to offer, and ideally we would return for chicken fricassée and a stew of lamb. For dessert, we chose a creamy, light vanilla custard, served in a small Staub casserole dish. We left perfectly satiated, and returned to the apartment, where I partook in my favorite Parisian pastime, poking my head out the window of our 4th floor apartment in the 6th Arrondissement, and allowing my senses to enveloped by the Rue d’Assas below.
 

 

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