I have often walked past this restaurant without feeling the need to enter, but this time the glow from the interior pulls me inside. It should be noted that there are two interesting things about this place; firstly that it is run by Asian owners who serve up traditional French bistrot cuisine, and secondly that it is a true monument to kitsch.
Paris is not short of Asian restaurants, a legacy of colonial interests notably in Vietnam, but it is rare to find restaurateurs in this community moving into more traditional French fare. It remains obvious that this establishment was one that previously served Chinese food, with several elements betraying the culinary changes. The door handles still show Chinese characters, the name of the restaurant features a reference to one of the primary elements and most clearly of all, the extraordinary decor inside has not changed.
Le Soleil is a well chosen name for an establishment that gives you the impression of being seated inside the heart of a star. Every centimetre of wall and column inside this restaurant is caked in reflective gold tiling, whilst the ceiling is a series of mirrored squares. Dotted around the room are rows of potted fake flowers and chinese knick-knacks, whilst the salt and pepper pots on the table are a pair of dice. When the menu is brought to the table though, the ordinariness of the choices is striking.
Whilst more upmarket French restaurants are quick to flaunt the Asian twists to their cuisine there is no hint of any Chinese influence in these dishes beyond a slice of orange on the edge of each plate. In truth, the food is standard fare, but no worse than that at many of the more expensive Parisian brasseries in the area. The interest comes not from what is served on your plate but from the sight of your lunch reflected in gold on the walls and ceiling. The mirrors can also help us to reflect on the journey that took these people from East to West, and from rice to potato.
47 Rue De Provence, Paris 75009
Lunch Menu, Starter/Main/Dessert €14.40