Around Paris: 15th: L’Arbre de Sel

15 01 2010

One of my favorite Christmas surprises this year was a restaurant guide to Paris and France published by Le Fooding.  Not only does it have irreverent writing and good tips on some lesser-known, not-necessarily-starred restaurants, but the artwork is incredibly cool, too!  Following the ultra French Christmas celebrations, Nick and I have been on a bit of an Asian food kick.  So when I was flipping through my new guide and I happened upon the phrase “probably the best Korean cuisine in Paris,” we had to try it.  Now I’m no expert on Korean food, but I’ve been reading more and more about it lately (I sense the dawn of a new fad), and I thought it was high time I get stuck in.

L'Arbre de Sel - exterior

We got our chance last Friday, a frigid, icy day in Paris (see the snow on top of the cars?).  Along with our friend Joe Dragavon (an eager participant in the venture who wanted a shout-out), we lucked out getting a table for three without a reservation.  Inside, L’Arbre de Sel is warm and intimate.  Sleek modern art graces the walls, and appears to be for sale as well.

There was no question as to what I would be ordering – I saw the bibimbap served in a sizzling hot bowl and knew it would be just the thing to shake off the chill.  My compatriots were equally decisive, despite the generously sized menu.  Nick chose a kimchee soup, and Joe went with the chicken bulgogi.  Each of our dishes was served with an assortment of sides, including bowls of broth, rice, pickled vegetables, and small pieces of savory omelette.

Hot bibimbap

As hoped, my bibimbap came in a large stoneware bowl that sizzled against the rice and vegetables inside.  The minute it was in front of me, I stirred the egg into the mélange – which included beef, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, bean sprouts, and more – letting it finish cooking from the residual heat.  I added a bit of soy and hot sauces and gobbled the whole thing down.

Kimchee soup

Nick’s bowl of kimchee soup was piping hot as well, both in temperature and in Scoville units.  Given that he is someone who enjoys food so hot it makes him tear up, it is notable that he kept commenting on how hot it was.  Also, I think, a good indicator that they’re not dumbing down or compromising their cuisine at L’Arbre de Sel.  Too often in  ethnic restaurants in Paris you find the food much milder than you would expect.  True, the French palate is not known for its tolerance of spice, but I hate having to convince waiters that yes, I really do want it HOT.

Chicken bulgogi

Bulgogi is generally known as Korean barbecue.  It turns out Joe is a big fan of the sweet-salty-spicy concoction, and responded favorably to the (again) sizzling platter placed before him.  Thin strips of chicken were lightly coated in the flavorful sauce, along with a few vegetables.  (This all feels so healthy!)

Like I said, I am by no means a connoisseur of Korean cuisine, but I definitely liked what I ate at L’Arbre de Sel.  Judging from the completely non-Frenchified food we had, I’d guess the place is pretty authentic, but I’d love to hear from someone who knows more about these things.  Hails?  Either way, though, the dishes were fresh and tasty.  I’ll definitely be going back.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




14 responses

15 01 2010

Kimchee soup? Want! I do love pickles, and spiciness! But the most important question: did your bibimbap have that hoped-for rice crust at the bottom? 🙂

15 01 2010

Looks pretty close to what I get in Koreatown in LA, right down to the Hite. One thing to look for if you want to warm up: there’s a place here called BCD Tofu House which has locations here in the USA (including 2 in Seattle), plus Korea and Japan. They do soontofu and one nice touch is they bring rice to the table in clay pots, which they then spoon into metal bowls like the one pictured above. Then they pour some water into the pot which brings the crust up and gives a nice rice broth to drink at the end of the meal.

16 01 2010

Hannah – Yes, it did! And it was delicious. See, that’s the kind of thing I don’t know to look for as a Korean food newbie. Thanks!

Kevin – DO they have OB, too? We preferred it to the Hite. BCD Tofu House… I’ll keep that in mind. Love the sound of that clay pot rice!

16 01 2010

Just found your blog by coincidence as I really want to go back to Paris right now. Reading you makes me think I’ll just go to Koreatown and eat kimchee soup instead, it should do the trick 😉 Thanks, I’ll come back!

17 01 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever tried Korean food before although I have been reaing a lot about it too. I think you could be right about it being the next fad.

The food at L’Arbre de Sel looks really good, I think I would have chosen the bibimbap too, it looks delicious and I love fried eggs!

17 01 2010

Wow, impressed that they have Hite… although Cass is better. Foreigners here complain about the beer, but I quite like the Cass! Then again, I know nothing about beer. 🙂

Everything looks pretty authentic, right down to the fab bowls and the stainless steel chopsticks. Full marks to L’Arbre de Sel!

The only difference that jumps out at me after a few months of living in Korea is that you all ordered different foods. I think I’ve yet to experience that. Eating is a much more communal experience here than I’m used to. For bibimbap, the table will be groaning under the weight of a million or so side dishes, and everyone makes their own bibimbap from those. Soup is often eaten from one big central bowl which everyone shares, which I found very weird at first! And bulgogi (as well as many other foods) is brought to the table raw and cooked by the diners on a big central grill or pan. Everyone shares. It’s one of my favourite parts of the Korean culture.

I do prefer it when they give us individual bowls of soup, though. 🙂

17 01 2010

Chloe – Glad to help! 🙂 And welcome!

Sam – It was. If you like fried rice, you will love bibimbap.

Hails – Thanks for your input. I guess the individual servings may be their nod to the French way of eating. Which is fine with me, as long as the taste is authentic. I’m all for family-style dining, but a communal bowl of soup does seem to be taking it a bit too far!

18 01 2010

I love le fooding! That sounds like a great guide. I know absolutely nothing about Korean food (I’m ashamed to admit because a branch of my extended family is Korean!), but now I want to go to L’arbre de sel and try it out.

18 01 2010
hungry dog

Sounds like a great dinner, especially for a cold winter night!

19 01 2010

Hopie – Then you have no excuse. You won’t regret it.

hungry dog – Absolutely!

19 01 2010

I don’t know much about Korean food other than that I love bibimbap! That looks delicious. I’m not going to be in Paris anytime soon, but there are plenty of Korean restaurants in Los Angeles to satisfy the craving that you just created. Thanks!

20 01 2010

Jessica -Anytime. 🙂

21 01 2010


23 01 2010

david – Moi, aussi!

%d bloggers like this: