Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Cafe Pinson Experience

Steamy windows and all at Cafe Pinson.

The cafe's whitewashed back dining room.
Pinson means "finch" in French. I never did figure out the connection between the name of this new organic, vegetarian cafe in the too-cool north Marais and the petit oiseau, but it definitely doesn't have anything to do with "eating like a bird"; come here for Sunday bunch and you'll waddle out the door like an overstuffed penguin.

My friend Sophia and I tried to squeeze in the first week Cafe Pinson opened, but that was a futile experience. It was standing room only that Saturday, and so thick with hungry people that the big picture windows sported a curtain-like layer of opaque moisture. We thought it best to let the shiny veneer of novelty wear off before giving it another shot. A month later, with a noon reservation, Jeff and I arrived to find a much more relaxed, less damp and frenetic atmosphere inside.

A little inside-looking-out perspective.
The lady in the silver jacket slipped on a giant fur coat as she got up to leave. That's something I never thought I'd see in a vegetarian restaurant!
Right away, we noticed the professionalism of the staff. Smiling (in Paris! For real!) and attentive, we were seated within five seconds of giving our name to the bespectacled hostess. Our table for two in the back dining room where was already adorned with the entree pour deux: slices of soft, chewy bread and three little dishes of homemade tartine spreads: Banana-lime, chocolate hazelnut, and "butter" made from coconut and almond oil. (The chocolate was my favorite, followed by the butter. Neither of us really knew what to make of the banana spread.)

Breads and homemade spreads.
The chocolate-hazelnut spread was to-die-for yummy.
A dreadlocked server arrived within a minute of us sitting down and explained the brunch menu: Two courses--one salty, one sweet, both with vegan options--, all-you-can-drink coffee and tea at the front counter, and fresh-pressed juices for an additional six euro. Jeff went with regular ol' veggie (they serve eggs here, but no dairy), and I went the normal vegan route.

We filled our coffee mugs and immediately set to work stuffing our faces with the delicious bread (served in a little brown to-go box) and spreads. We got seconds, then thirds on the bread. It was that good. When our meals arrived, we gave it the skeptic's once-over; how was this bowl of daintily-proportioned goodness possibly going to sate us two gluttons?

Modestly proportioned and deceptively filling. 
The cooks' quarters.

The no-fuss brunch menu.
Where Jeff had a poached egg, my plate had a white-bean spread. Where two savory madeleines were tucked into his celery rave-parsnip puree, I had chia-sesame triangles. The most exciting thing on the plate, visually and otherwise, was the kale salad (KALE SALAD!!!) with fennel, carrot, and pumpkin seeds.

Kale up close!
Everything tasted pretty damn good. Simple, but good. And, as usual, there was no salt or pepper on the table, but it didn't really need anything. (Though we did talk about how, at home, we'd have doused everything with hot sauce, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast. And that would've been just the start.)

Between courses, I introduced myself to the chef, who I recognized from Pousse Pousse, the raw vegan restaurant in the 9th where she worked until being wooed over to Pinson. She, in turn, introduced me to Agathe, the owner, who was dining at a nearby table. She was friendly enough.

Soy yogurt, house-made granola, and puree of ... ??
At last, our sweet course arrived. Mine, homemade granola atop soy yogurt. The granola was divine: crunchy, fresh, with lots of nuts and dried fruity-things inside. A fruit puree--apple? pear?--came along for the ride. Jeff got more madeleines--sweet ones, this time.

Madeleines: not vegan, sadly. 
This meal wasn't cheap--€50 for two, without wine!--but that's the going rate for brunch in the City of Light. It was filling, and tasty, and the service was really, really good. We got the feeling that we could have stayed all day and no one would have said a thing. We might have, too, if the coffee was better, but still, two hours was plenty. When this place ditches the eggs, it'll be perfect.

Worth every centime? Just about.

7 comments:

  1. Mmmmm looking forward to checking that one out!

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    1. I'd love to hear your thoughts when you do, Kendal. Tell me if it's worth a trip back!

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  2. Right Aurelia .. you and I have a date LOL LOL .. next time I am in Paris .. I will accompany you to a Vegan/Vegetarian restaurant .. and I will try some ..:-)

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    1. Anne, you are falling under the vegan spell--and I like it!

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  3. Hi Aurelia! I've just discovered your blog and I definetly love it!
    I'm from Italy, but I go to Paris usually 3-4 times a year, so your advices are really helpful to me! Expecially this Cafè, I must totally try its brunch!
    Thanks again!
    Julia

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    1. Hi, Julia! I hope you'll like Cafe Pinson as much as I did. I'd love to know your favorite places in Paris--especially Italian food. I'm forever on a quest for the perfect pizza--one that isn't made chez moi!

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    2. Hi Aurelia! Unluckily I still haven't found a good pizza in paris, but I'm still looking for it!
      Right now I'm so into Sol Semilla, I love their shop and restaurant... And for cakes/sweet Vegan Folie's!
      For what concerns italian food in Paris, I don't know any good vegan place... I'm not a fan of italian food outside italy, it always disappoints me...
      Julia

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