For any expat living in a new city, the search for a link to (or in this case a “taste of”) home can often become an unintentional hobby, and in some instances, an obsession. Take for example the American contingent here in Paris in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday when pumpkin pies seem to become Wonka’s Golden Ticket.
For those coming from Mexico, California, or any other heavily Mexican-influenced region in the States, quality Mexican food is often on the list one might title “Things I Took For Granted While Living at Home.” It is not, unfortunately, widely known among Parisians who are already inundated with an abundance of ethnic cuisines from around the world. Luckily though, there is Casa Palenque which is doing exceptional work in representing the Mexican kitchen on this side of the Atlantic.
Mexico City natives and owners Paul and Désirée have been serving their authentic Mexican food in Paris for the past ten years. They set up shop in the 11th arrondissement as a small twelve-top deli-style restaurant and quickly out-grew themselves, forcing a move down the street where they changed to a full-service restaurant. They have since grown once again and have recently moved their business to the heart of the busy 15th arrondissement.
Désirée, the kitchen’s Chef de Cuisine, is ever-present in the dining room alongside her husband, shaking hands, welcoming guests and making recommendations when choices prove difficult. The owners and staff are friendly, casual, hospitable, and best yet, they strive to ensure that your dining experience will be unforgettable. Their menu is as diverse as Mexico itself, spanning from pre-Columbian inspired dishes, to traditional items, to the regional specialties of the colorful Yucatan.
For a light starter, choose the freshly made guacamole or the spicy ceviche de cabillaud – fresh cod marinated in lemon with diced tomatoes and onions in a spicy tomato sauce. They are both light and refreshing, great for the hotter summer months. Or for something a bit warmer, the choriqueso (melted cheese with chorizo and tortillas) is also a safe bet. And if you’re in the mood to share, there is a sampler platter of mini tacos, flautas, quesadillas and tostadas.
As for the main course, it is difficult to recommend any one dish over the other, as they all stand alone as potential favorites. Considered as the national dish of Mexico, the mole poblano is a perfectly prepared plate of chicken cooked in the famous – and complex – mole, a chocolate based sauce with dozens of spices and other ingredients. For something a little more familiar, there are the enchiladas rojas or verdes, both delicately prepared and full of flavors that set them far above the ones you may know from the Californian dives. Pescatarians will be pleased as the menu includes two wonderful fish dishes: camarones al tamarindo (grilled shrimp with a spicy tamarind sauce) and the pescado à la veracruzana (cod filet with peppers, tomatoes, capers, olives and spices).
The restaurant’s newly minted bar includes some fundamental necessities for your meal: Corona, Negra Modelo, Dos Equis, Margaritas, a variety of Tequilas, and a host of Latin American wines. If the visit is strictly to the bar and you do find yourself hungry, a variety of mexican tapas are available for only 5€ a piece.
Nestled just along side the Tour Montparnasse in Paris’ 15th arrondissement, Casa Palenque’s new location offers easy metro access, a full bar with Mexican beers and margaritas, a terrace and the atmosphere of the great Mexican locales we Californian’s miss so much. Mexican fútbol matches have been known to pop up on the TV while the bar swings into action, and Mexican holidays, including Mexico’s bicentennial on September 15, are always celebrated with specials on food and drinks. So whether you’re going in for a drink, to try something new, something you miss or to catch a game, Casa Palenque is a perfect spot for lively food in a lively setting. And with almost all plates comfortably under the 20€ mark, you won’t be breaking the bank by eating not only the best Mexican cuisine in Paris, but at one of the best restaurants in the city.
Appetizer + Entrée OR Entrée + Dessert 12.90€
Appetizer + Entrée + Dessert 17.00€
Average price per person: 25€
Address: 22 rue de l’Arivée, 75015
Métro: Montparnasse-Bienvenue (exit No. 2)
Tél: 01 43 38 12 27
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 8am to 1am, Closed Sundays