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Mexican Food in France


bleudauvergne
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There was some banter in the Small Town Dining thread in the Adventures in Eating forum about the Mexican food in France being laughably bad.

In my experience, the actual quality of the food is not so bad as it is just plain mediocre, but at the same time it's really expensive which translates to a dissapointment for me almost every single time I try a new place.

A lot of people ask why on earth we'd even eat Mexican food when in France, and it most likely does not seem a logical choice for people traveling to France for a visit, but many expats I know say that the single thing they miss foodwise about living here is the lack of quality Mexican food. It's something I crave every once in a while, that's for sure.

I've taken to making my own tamales from time to time, and serving them when we have American guests, always appreciated, and Loic brought me a tortilla press when he went to Mexico last year. We also have a stock of various dried and some smoked peppers (I compiled my list from a thread in the Mexico forum and Loic got every kind I asked for) which add a whole new dimension. Every time one of my friends or colleagues goes to Mexico I ask them to bring me back some masa harina, which is not commerically available in this country.

There is one authentic Mexican place in Vieux Lyon, on rue du Boeuf, called Mexico Lindo, that makes their own chips that come out hot to the table but they don't serve corn based dishes for the most part other than that. The chef at this restaurant came to Lyon to go to the Bocuse Institute, and then went back to Mexico after he graduated for a spell, then came back to Lyon to open his Mexican place. It's expensive but if you're craving the real thing, that's it.

Are there any other places that serve good Mexican in Paris or elsewhere?

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Forget it, there's not even anything equivalent to a Taco Bell in Paris. I once ate at Susan's Place, apparently the winner of Best Chili in Europe, and it was disgusting. Oh, and Susan is Polish.

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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What did she do to it? Who judged the chili contest?

I find that the salsas are never up to par and the chips are almost always stale here. Never ever dishes using corn tortillas, and the flour tortillas taste chemically, as if they have been revved up with additives for long life. And it's never spicy enough. The food rarely ever makes it to the table warm. Forget any bean product. It's not like the ingredients are not available (except masa harina), it's just that it's been so stereotyped here that it has become a bad caricature of itself.

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There's a little place in the 5th called Mexi and Co which is certainly not great, but it's not half bad either. It's a just a little hole in the wall that serves burittos, quesidillas, etc. The people working there are definitely latino, but I'm not sure if they are Mexican or not. They also serve some groceries as well, like ancho chilis, red beans and even FLUFF, for some reason. 10 rue Dante, 5th.

Anahuacahlli, also in the 5th, is supposed to have very good upscale cuisine, but I've never been.

And there's A La Mexicaine near the Pompidou center which I've been to, but it was a few years ago. I liked it, but not enough to go back.

My Nova guide lists Taco Loco, and says they serve "authentic Mexican home-cooking". They also mention that everyone there is Mexican. 116 rue Amelot in the 11th. I'll have to give it a try.

And The Studio, which bills itself as Tex-Mex, is set in a beautiful courtyard outside le centre de danse de Marais, but the food is mediocre at best.

I've also passed by a little place on rue Tiquitonne but can't remember its name.

The other night I was out with a friend and we had planned on going to Les Vivres in the 9th but it was already closed (it was 20h30). So we walked around the area and spyed a Mexican place that was half full. We decided, against my better judgement, to give it a try since we were hungry and just wanted something quick. The first really bad sign was that after he gave us the "Mexican" menu, he asked if we would like the "Indian" one. :unsure: Needless to say, it was pretty bad.

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Mexico actually belonged to the French, for a short while. France introduced the French bread roll, now known there as the bolillo, though to tell you the truth, it seems as if spain could have just as easily introduced it. i've also read that the mexican passion for pastries was partially induced by French rule.

earlier, the spanish brought pig which really transformed the native cuisine with its lard (introduced frying) . they brought cow which made milk/cheese, another transformer. and they brought diseases, but lets not go there.

the germans, bless em, brought the art of brewing--the result, mexico's beer culture.

mexican food is so wonderful when its wonderful, and awful but in some weird way acceptable when its mediocre....and nothing is worse to my mind and palate than mediocre mexican food.

so, bleu, when are we all invited over for tamales?

x marlena

ps there is actually quite a mexican community growing in britain right now. i haven't been to the two mexican places, one opened by cool chile co, and the other someone else, but perhaps will start a thread on the UK forum...

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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I've been to A La Mexicaine a few times -- it was a block from my flat -- and really enjoyed it. Much more like upper-class Mexican food in Mexico than U.S.-style Mexican, so it didn't really salve my particular craving, but I was impressed. I believe that I remember reading that the menu was planned by the wife of the cultural attaché from the Mexican embassy/consulate.

I actually have a strange hobby of trying Mexican restaurants in improbable places. I've had terrible Mexican in Amsterdam and London, and am looking forward to surreal Mexican in Tokyo later this year, if the husband will let me 'waste' a meal eating something non-asian.

~A

Edited by ScorchedPalate (log)

Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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I have not eaten here, but recently on bonjourparis someone mentioned a place in tht e6th called Fajitas. The poster said she'd lived in Phoenix for many years -- so she knows Mexican food. She said the food was preety good -- not the best but certainly not the worst. The only real problem was the "sour cream" which was more like whipped butter than sour cream. But all-in-all, she liked it and said it would be a fun place to go if you're looking for something different. Address is 15 rue Dauphine (metro Odeon or Pont Neuf). Hope this helps! Oh...they have a website, too -- www.fajitas-paris.com

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I do understand Lucy's situation. Good Mexican food is one of the few things I really miss a lot from living in the States.

The problem with Mexican food in Paris is that ingredients are really hard to come by. They were easier to find ten years ago or so, now most importers seem to have died away.

"A la Mexicaine" is a nice place, not always great but basically nice.

"Anahuacalli" serves elegant and tasty food, though not spicy enough (that darned French palate again...).

There used to be a big cantina out in the sticks near the Buttes-Chaumont, "Ay Caramba", and the food used to be great. I don't even know if it still exists, I haven't been there for years.

"Mexi & Co" comes in handy because they sell the odd canned jalapeno and sometimes dried black beans (with holes in them), but they seem to switch more and more to tequilas and beers, pushing food items into a trap of oblivion, and they serve terrible food anyway.

As a general rule I'd say that the Mexican situation in Paris is quite poor. There used to be a great little place near the cimetière du Montparnasse, called Los Recuerdos del Porvenir, run by a lovely, round-shaped Mexican man whose name was Emilio if I remember well. The food was delicious and authentic (and the rompope was unforgettable),, but the restaurant was short-lived.

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I reckon Taco Bell would make a fortune in Paris. Imagine that, cheap, fake Mexican fast-food, the same quality as most of the current "Mexicans" in Paris, at a fraction of the price!!

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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Give the success of McDonald's, I'm surprised Taco Bell isn't in France already. It does seem a natural.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Strange, isn't it? KFC has a few outlets in Paris, and they all do a phenomenal business all the time...but only recently, after about 10 years , have they started expanding a little into the suburbs.

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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the germans, bless em, brought the art of brewing--the result, mexico's beer culture.

Ah yes. That's one good thing I can get in a Mexican restaurant here, the Dos Equis even at 6€ a pop. I do enjoy that. the Margharitas are never very good though. We make those at home.

There's a bookshop where I pretty much do all of my book shopping here and they have taken to giving me freebies when I stock up on the cookbooks. Last time it was a Tex Mex cookbook. The recipes were so bad, can of this, can of that... really bad. I think there was one recipe in the whole bouquin that I would even consider trying. I haven't done any real research into what kind of cookbooks are available in French. I guess that would be worth looking into. :rolleyes:

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The range of Mexican food is wide, but the food I'm guessing that most Americans would miss in France is what we find in taco shops: tacos, flautas, tortas, enchiladas, chiles rellenos, etc. The items that are needed but wouldn't be available seem to mostly boil down to tortillas, chiles, and pre-made sauces- as for the enchiladas, for those not willing to make their own. Depending on the kind of sauce you want, tomatillos might also be needed. But you can buy very respectable canned enchilada sauces- much better than regular salsas in my opinion. It seems to me that if you can find a market with dried and canned chiles and tortillas, you could make pretty respectable taco shop food. You can make carne asada or pollo asado from flank steak or chicken breast for instance. You can fry some chips. Make some guacamole and salsa. I'm guessing you can get dried pinto beans somewhere.

I admit 6€ for a Dos Equis is a lot, but maybe if I've been away for a long time. Margaritas are something that most places, even in San Diego make poorly. I think the problem with real margaritas is that they are very strong, and deceptively so. So we end up with sweet-and-sour mix to dilute it so bars can sell more. All you need to make a proper margarita is one part fresh lime juice, one part orange liqueur (Cointreau is the best, but after the first one triple sec is fine) and 3 parts tequila. Shake it with ice and pour into a cocktail glass, with a salted rim. (The salt is important, even if it is bad for the blood pressure.) Fleur de sel works well. Any bartender in Paris can make it if you tell him what you want.

Tamales require masa, corn husks (or banana leaves if you are in Oaxaca) and a lot of patience. I usually buy tamales by the dozen from church groups or my favorite shops. I hope Lucy's guests appreciate the work involved.

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I agree with you Carlsbad.

On another note, the repeated mention of the 'success' of McDonalds in France makes me wonder if this is America's great culinary contribution to the world. Is it a point of pride that French people (not all of course) are eating at Chez MacDo? Makes you happy or what? Oooh, we passed on the basest form of processed food to the French and they ate it!

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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I agree with you Carlsbad.

On another note, the repeated mention of the 'success' of McDonalds in France makes me wonder if this is America's great culinary contribution to the world. Is it a point of pride that French people (not all of course) are eating at Chez MacDo? Makes you happy or what? Oooh, we passed on the basest form of processed food to the French and they ate it!

That's a creative use of the word "contribution," as in I get up in the morning and before I shower and brush my teeth, I make a contribution to the sewage of NY. I really shouldn't talk that way as I may have been in a McDo many years ago, but I can't remember. I know I took my daughter to Burger King once because she was very cooperative at the doctor's office. She was very young at the time. She said the onion rings were good. I said they tasted like soap. This weekend we were up very early to do a chore. We were actually woken up by a phone call and did the chore before having breakfast. We headed for a pastry shop for espresso and pastry, but my wife decided she really wanted bacon and eggs. We popped into a place that was a gem of a diner/luncheonette in terms of an interior that defied progress. It belonged in the Smithsonian. I had two eggs that I doubt were cooked in butter or bacon fat. More like margarine. There was a mess of bacon, but it tasted as if it was cooked yesterday. The "hash browns" were the worst potatoes I have had in my life. We didn't bother to have coffee. I've never had an Egg McMuffin, but I'll bet it's much better than what we had. McDo may well be more of a contribution than I'm willing to admit. That it's become so popular in France is not something that makes me proud. I remember when you couldn't get a bad meal in Paris. Sadly that's not the case now and more sadly, the locals seem to keep places with bad food in business. Whatever the case may be, McDo is not something we've given to the French. McDo came long after the Marshall Plan. It's something the French bought from us of their own volition.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Now that I think about it my MacDo comment seems to be directed at your statement about McDonald's in this thread, not my intent. I hear it in real life too. "You have McDonald's in France! (giggle, giggle).

France is becoming increasingly industrialized with two income households. American movies and pop culture are popular especially with the younger generation. Just a few reasons why fast food and convenience items are increasingly popular.

There's also big business, but that's a whole other topic.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

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I think it's amusing in the same way that it's amusing to deal with someone who has a wacky assessment of his own abilities -- you know, like a guy who sings horribly but thinks he sings beautifully and therefore does so loudly. It's funny, in a Jerry Lewis sort of way, if you know what I mean. The point being, whenever some misguided ideologue of French cuisine -- be it someone French or, more often I think, a Francophile who has only ever experienced France as a tourist -- comes along and talks about the perfection of French culinary culture, it's funny to rub that person's face in McDonald's, Quick and a litany of other gastronomic failings. If the French and Francophile cognoscenti weren't so sensitive, so clearly living in denial about it (or, alternatively, treating it as though it's a threat tantamount to a nuclear first strike), it wouldn't be nearly as funny.

What's particularly interesting to me, to get back to the Taco Bell point, is that the peculiar admixture of embrace and rejection of McDonald's and Quick (which are essentially the same thing, except that Quick is indigenous) has created what I've seen labeled a "duopoly." There aren't really any other significant fast food chains in France. Which creates an interesting situation wherein the chains that would represent an improvement over the existing cuisine don't have the ability to penetrate the marketplace. Taco Bell is probably not a great example, because it's not particularly good, but look at a chain like Baja Fresh. Undoubtedly, Baja Fresh serves much better Mexican food than the current French baseline. And, because it's an easily replicable chain concept that can be built by anyone, staffed by anyone and plunked down anywhere with exactly the same results, it isn't subject to the tired old objections of "But we have no Mexicans!" and "But we have different ingredients!" Yet there's very little chain innovation in France. In most instances you just have McDonald's and Quick.

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be it someone French or, more often I think, a Francophile who has only ever experienced France as a tourist

With this I agree. The Francophiles are oftentimes more French than the French themselves.

There are more French chains than just Quick. Some of them are bistro chains. Also in France prepared foods can be easily purchased through the traiteur, etc...

I'm not exactly sure what the point about Mexican food in France is. There are lots of countries that don't have good Mexican food. And there are parts of America that don't have good Mexican food. Is this a huge culinary void in France? Are French people depressed about the lack of good Mexican food in France?

EDIT: I wonder what the reaction here would be if French people started analyzing Americans and making sweeping characterizations? Why is it okay to criticise 'perceived' French snobbery? Are there any French French (not Francophile) snobs here? Is my love of the finer (and humble country cooking) aspects of French cuisine snobbery? I don't like chains, some French people do. Let's find one to post adoringly about them.

Edited by chefzadi (log)

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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be it someone French or, more often I think, a Francophile who has only ever experienced France as a tourist

With this I agree. The Francophiles are oftentimes more French than the French themselves.

There are more French chains than just Quick. Some of them are bistro chains. Also in France prepared foods can be easily purchased through the traiteur, etc...

I'm not exactly sure what the point about Mexican food in France is. There are lots of countries that don't have good Mexican food. And there are parts of America that don't have good Mexican food. Is this a huge culinary void in France? Are French people depressed about the lack of good Mexican food in France?

It pretty much is a culinary void in France for me, mainly because I appreciate being able to go out for good Mexican food at a reasonable price, so much so that it becomes a craving from time to time. I can't fulfill that need in any restaurant I know of here.

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It pretty much is a culinary void in France for me, mainly because I appreciate being able to go out for good Mexican food at a reasonable price, so much so that it becomes a craving from time to time. I can't fulfill that need in any restaurant I know of here.

Yes I understand that to be the case with many expats. Just like the lack of couscous places is void for alot of French in the States.

I wonder why there aren't more couscous places in America? Is it the lack of North African immigrants or is it something else?

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

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With this I agree. The Francophiles are oftentimes more French than the French themselves.

Recall, Francois Simon pondered how the English speakers got to the new hot restos so fast. We're simply crazier than they are.

You know how much I appreciate your posts and your views on cuisine.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

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I wonder why there aren't more couscous places in America? Is it the lack of North African immigrants or is it something else?

Yes. Yes, and spaghetti.

There's no way to substitute for Mexican food when one craves it - painfull.

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I wonder why there aren't more couscous places in America? Is it the lack of North African immigrants or is it something else?

Yes. Yes, and spaghetti.

There's no way to substitute for Mexican food when one craves it - painfull.

So says my Los Angeleno wife. I like Mexican food, now. Can't say that I would miss it if I couldn't have it. I'm learning alot about different chilis from my Mexican/Central American students. We use chilis in North African, but not the huge range that Mexican cooking does. Rachel Lauden wrote a fascinating article about the Moorish influences (via the Spanish conquerors) in Mole.

So sorry Lucy that you can't find great Mexican. In my part of town, well everywhere in LA we can get great mom and pop Mexican for often times less than $5.00 for a filling meal. We also have a range of regional cooking available, as well as some upscale places. Funny how alot of the upscale places have a caucasian Exec. Chef and a Hispanic Sous chef. *cough*

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

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Lucy,

I guess you will have to make do with Spanish cuisine, which is not the same i grant you but i'm hardly going to shed a tear! Just returned from New York where the Chipotle franchises have won me over, why bother with MacDo crap when such 'fast food' exists!

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