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.
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.
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.
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.
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.