Thursday 19 February 2009

Blinded by the Sun

The winter has been unusually harsh in Paris and those who have not slipped away to snow-heavy mountain slopes are now waiting impatiently for the return of the warm rays of the spring sun. The days are stretching longer, but February still brings drizzle to smear the streets and chilly winds that force us to keep scarves tightened. The inhabitants of the city try to find light and warmth where they can, and for a slice of both, I decide to push open the door of "Le Soleil de Paris".

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.

Further Information:
47 Rue De Provence, Paris 75009
Lunch Menu, Starter/Main/Dessert €14.40


ArtSparker said...

Very strange to come here from the post on libraries...This establishment seems to have the idea that mere insistence on something will make it extraordinary...or is it that its idealized reflection will distract from its ordinary nature?

Avid Reader said...

It does look like a warm place --on a cold day i could really appreciate the glow...

Starman said...

It does look warm and welcoming.

PeterParis said...

Defeintely a place to got to, even if the menu is "ordinary"; already the price of the menu seems quite attractive! (Thanks for the address!)

There are a few restaurants with Asian crew and nowadays also a lot of "bar tabacs" (two out of three in my immediate neighbourhood)!

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering about the acoustics in there. Looks beautiful.

Evolutionary Revolutionary said...

I am craving sun. Did you get your vitamin D?

...Your usage of 'whilst' makes me hope there will be a british footman to greet me.

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