Tonight I have a very good meal at tiny Bonjour Vietnam in the Latin Quarter. I can’t figure out what a Bonbun is (their specialty), nor could the waiter describe it to me. I run into this frequently. They have a menu with English translation, but there are still specialty words that you don’t understand, and they don’t speak English. The waiters usually point to the menu in this case like you’re an idiot, and say, “It’s in English!” I have to laugh, though. A couple walks in a few minutes later, and wants to order carryout. Even though she’s speaking French, I can tell the woman asks, “What’s a Bonbun?” It definitely does not register with the waiter that this is also what I wanted to know.
So instead I have the crispy duck with ginger, orange and cilantro. Excellent, very flavorful and not drowning in sauce. I’ve found much of the French food here to be rather bland, so I’m glad to eat something with strong flavors. The restaurant is also cute inside. It even has much more comfortable chairs than the typical French bistro. But I pass on dessert, because I don’t remember ever having had a good dessert at an Asian restaurant.
Besides, just around the corner is Aup’Tit Grec, the amazing street creperie on Rue Mouffetard, and I’ve been intrigued by one of the crepes on their menu: Nutella, Banana, Coco and Grand Marnier. So I head over there, and for the first time ever, the line is short. Probably because it’s 10:30pm and the dinner crowd has thinned out.
Now, if you’ll recall, last time I was there, I distinguished myself by giving the chef 20E and leaving, thinking I had given him 5E. He had someone chase me down the street to give me my change. He’s honest, that P’Tit Grec, and truth be told, intelligent and rather good looking.
Well, my stupidity last time at least made me memorable. When I walk up I can tell immediately that he recognizes me. He says, in English, “How are you tonight?” and smiles. I tell him I was thinking tonight I’d give him 40 Euro. He laughs. So I order their high-end dessert crepe. He starts skillfully preparing the crepe. Damn that Nutella looks chocolate-y and fine. But then he adds the rest of the ingredients, and I’m wondering what the white flakey stuff is. And I suddenly realize that “coco” is not cocoa. It’s coconut, and I dislike coconut. But I just decide to go with it. It’s already on the crepe, and besides, I was a “problem customer” the last time. I hand him a five, and say in French, “This time it really is five.” He laughs again and flashes a big smile. It’s a nice smile. His teeth are very white.
Sometimes you can re-try things like coconut, and sometimes they’re all right. In fact, better than all right. This crepe was flipping fantastic. Women frequently compare dessert to sex and I usually think it’s a bit crude, but tonight I was Meg Ryan, saying “Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!”
Except I wasn’t faking it.
I now might be just a little in love with the chef. Anybody who can make a dessert that amazing must be husband material.
I also feel like after having crepes here, I can never go back to the sloppy falafels in the Marais. I know the falafels there are legendary. In fact, they fight over “falafel claims” at the many falafel stands there, i.e., “Best on the Street,” “Best in the World, ” etc. And I do think the falafels might be a bit more healthy. But they’re nowhere near as delicious as the crepes. Nor do I think the guys at the two falafel stands I’ve tried are nearly as nice as the guy at Aup’Tit Grec. He also spends more time preparing the food, and you can taste the difference.
If you come to Paris, you’ll see people walking all over the Latin Quarter and the Marais with street food. You should use the natives as your guide: if they love it, you should at least try it. (Well, other than macaroons, which are gross.) You won’t be sorry about the street food … some of it is sublime, but all the street food I’ve tried has been quite good.