In the quest of finding the best couscous and tajine of Paris, we visited the restaurant listed as the number one in Le Figaro‘s Best Couscous of Paris list –Le Zerda Cafe.
Le Zerda Cafe is located in a lovely pedestrian street called rue René Boulanger in one of the nicest parts of the 10th arrondissement. When we had called in advance for the reservation the terrace was full, but upon arrival we got a table outside after a five-minute wait. The street was lively, the weather was hot, and the night was perfect for people watching and exploring a new restaurant.
Open the door and enter the world of North African food.
We ordered “the usual”: couscous for my husband and tajine for me. I am not a big fan of semolina (made of wheat) so tajine with meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts suits me perfectly. (Note: Le Zerda Cafe, as many other North African restaurants, is happy to serve semolina also to those ordering tajine, so do not hesitate to ask for it!)
My husband’s Couscous Zerda arrived with fabulously fine semolina, hearty vegetable stew and a mix meat plate of lamb, beef, meat balls and merguez (spicy sausage). He thought that the merguez and meat balls were a bit tasteless, but he liked very much the lamb served on a brochette and grilled lamb.
My tajine included a lamb shank with pears, almonds, dried apricots and plums. The dish had a balanced taste (not too sweet) and I also liked the fact that there were no potatoes added (commonly served with tajines). Unfortunately the lamb shank (souris d’agneau) was not the best piece of lamb I have eaten as it was rather greasy. I kept giving pieces of my lamb to my husband who in exchange made me taste his meats.
Is there anything better than the arrival of boiling hot tajine on the table?
To wash all this food down we drunk Algerian red wine Chateau Beni Chougrane from the Mascara region, which was a lovely choice even on a hot summer evening. As I have mentioned before, most North African reds make me very tired. My theory is that these grapes have been absorbing a lot of African sun, making them a good remedy for falling asleep –the same effect spending an entire day under the sun can have on you!
We had a lovely evening, the service was friendly and the food very good, but somehow we had been expecting more. After all, we were visiting the number one couscous restaurant of Paris (according to Le Figaro), so we had all the reasons to expect something out of ordinary! Unfortunately I guess this is a common problem: when something is so highly praised, your expectations grow out of proportion. This is why listings are bad….
This said, I am sure we will return to Le Zerda Cafe. As one of the oldest Algerian restaurants in Paris, it is a real institution and its dining hall very picturesque. To me it looked like the most perfect place to warm the bones up during the long Parisian winter!
Le Zerda Cafe: 15, rue René Boulanger 75010 Paris. Tel. 01-42002515 or 06-28476381. Metro: Strasbourg – Saint-Denis.
Le Figaro list: http://www.lefigaro.fr/sortir-paris/2010/11/22/03013-20101122ARTFIG00674-le-test-des-meilleurs-couscous.php
Previous posts about eating North African food in Paris are:
L’Alcôve: finest meat of Paris (also serves couscous and tajine, but the house specialty is grilled meat –delicious!)
Algerian restaurant l’Atlantide in Paris (excellent couscous and tajine –my top choice!)
L’Homme Bleu: Berber hospitality in the center of Paris (reputable couscous and tajine restaurant but I was disappointed during my last visit)
Le Tipaza: refined Moroccan food (a good address near the Eiffel Tower)