Young Parisians and the cuisine curious are joining taco-deprived expats in exploring a new wave of Mexican cooking in Paris restaurants.
Being a native of Los Angeles, and with the city’s close proximity to Mexico, I’m spoiled by the real deal: chunked-avocado, jalapeño-laden guacamole served with hot, crispy, homemade tortilla chips. So you can imagine my trepidation in moving to Paris, where the first Mexican spot I saw had instructions posted on how to eat a burrito. Ay-yi-yi, we’re a long way from Mexico. Or are we?
Anahuacalli feels like the most authentic Mexican restaurant in Paris. It’s owned and operated by Mexicans, and with two other establishments in town, they seem to be on to something. I think you can judge a Mexican restaurant by its margarita, and its chips and guacamole, and Anahuacalli scores high marks on most fronts. There are a few different types of margaritas, including one called Marijuana, but I went with the classic on the rocks and wasn’t disappointed with the balance of sweet, tart and tequila. The chips are made by frying homemade tortillas, which are appropriately crisp, and just in need of more salt. There was a nice portion of guacamole containing chunky avocado, forming nice peaks in the bowl, but it was a bit bland. I felt like I had to go to my guacamole taste archives to complete the full picture, as the spices were lacking, but throw in some salt and one of the two provided salsas and you’re back in business.
The menu has some familiar faces, with enchiladas, tamales and a good sampler of five different tacos, but it also steps out of the Mexican mainstream with a rich and tasty turkey mole served over rice and mixiotes, a marinated leg of lamb with an ancho chili sauce.
Anahuacalli serves solid food to curb your Mexican cravings. Just be sure to pack your own spices or tell them to kick up the heat, which is something they’re not used to doing for the French palate.
Rice and Beans is vibrantly decorated with a colorful, graffitied front window, giving a sneak peak to the two lone but boisterous communal tables inside. Unfortunately, though, the fun stops there.
There’s a basic menu of tacos and burritos, and you might even be excited to see black beans (a difficult commodity to get in Paris) and rice accompany your order, but you can only look so long before disappointment sets in. The proper ingredients are there, but the taste is not. The meat is lacking in any substantial flavor, and asking the thick salsa to do all the work is a tall order.
Join your friends for a Negro Modela at this lively spot in the 2nd Arrondissement, but eat before you go.
Candelaria is my favorite spot in Paris for a good taco taste of home. Unfortunately it’s also the smallest, with one communal table and a few bar stools. Getting a seat isn’t always easy at peak hours, but drop in at a random time and grab a front-row seat at the bar to watch all the action in the tiny, single-file, two-person kitchen.
The tortillas in the soft tacos are a real stand out. You can almost hear a mariachi band playing when you bite into the homemade masa, made fresh daily. Frying them for the chips doesn’t do them justice, but they do serve as a sturdy scooper for a really flavorful guacamole that I hope Candelaria will start serving in a bigger dish, because it’s hard to lick such a small bowl.
There’s usually several different selections of fillings for the tacos and tostadas, and the vegetarian taco turned out to be the sleeper hit, with the soft, warm tortilla enveloping melted cheese, mushrooms, green chilies and onions. You’ll likely see carnitas, pork mole, and/or beef on the menu, which are also sure to please with good depth of flavor and spice. The communal bowl of mango salsa is a welcome addition to any dish.
You won’t find margaritas here, but just past the stove is an unmarked door that opens at 7 five nights a week to reveal a wonderful hidden lounge where you can explore your cocktail cravings. And now you can have your tequila-laden Green Hornet alongside your green chili and cactus tostada on Sunday nights in the bar area, which is a great ending, or beginning, to any week.
30, rue des Bernardins, in the 5th Arrondissement.
01 43 26 10 20.
Rice and Beans
22, rue Greneta, in the 2nd.
01 73 70 46 09.
52, rue de Saintonge, in the 3rd.
01 42 74 41 28.
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