Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Caribbean Rhythms and Senegalese Cuisine

On Friday, August 13th, my husband Tom and I had nothing but good luck! We decided to celebrate by visiting Paris Plages at the Bassin de la Villette, and following up with a great meal.

We learned of a Caribbean Ball that was to last from 5 PM until 8 PM, and a subsequent “Grand Ball” for all types of music and dancing until 10 PM. We arrived at the Promenade Signoret-Montand along the northwest side of the Bassin at around 5:30 PM, and found only a few people dancing. We particularly enjoyed watching the couple pictured below:

Dancing under the Trees
© Discover Paris!

The music – Latino rhythms from Cuba, Puerto Rico… – was infectious, so that by the time we took a stroll down the quay and returned to our original spot, many more people were dancing and watching the fun.

Spectators at the Caribbean Ball
© Discover Paris!

As is usual in France, many people danced alone, with partners of the same sex, or with their children. Who has time to wait for the right person of the opposite sex to come along? There is too much fun to be had in the interim!

 Two Ladies Dancing
© Discover Paris!

 Woman and Child Dancing
© Discover Paris!

Too hungry to wait for the Grand Ball, we left the Bassin at around 7 PM to head for dinner at a small Senegalese restaurant in the Marais called Le Petit Dakar. Those who know Paris may be surprised that an African restaurant would be nestled among the ancient buildings and the prestigious museums of the 3rd arrondissement, but Le Petit Dakar has regaled its customers at 6, rue Elzévir since September 2000. The restaurant is part of CSAO, the Companie du Sénégal et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (Senegal and West Africa Company), located on the same street at Number 9. Its mission is to promote the work of African artisans and to create equitable trade links with them.

 Le Petit Dakar
© Discover Paris!

The size of the restaurant lives up to its name – it is indeed small. But it is not cramped, as one might expect. White walls, light wood tables, and a light tile floor add a feeling of spaciousness to the single dining room. Tables are set well apart. Art by one of the cooks, Babaka Diop, graces the walls. The menu is simple, relatively inexpensive, and varied. Service is gracious. Most importantly, the food is well prepared and nicely presented.

 Le Petit Dakar Interior
© Discover Paris!

We began with punches for aperitifs – Tom had vodka bissap orange and I had rum ginger pineapple.  (Bissap is a beverage made from hibiscus flowers.)  These drinks were quite refreshing and not overly potent. We had entrées of sautéed prawns (Tom) and boudin (me).

For our main dishes, I had Yassa, a traditional dish made with chicken and onions marinated in lemon juice; and Tom had thieboudienne – a traditional fish and rice dish made with tomato sauce and accompanied by carrot, okra, eggplant, and igname (yam).

© Discover Paris!

For dessert, Tom had a café gourmand – an espresso with a side of fondant (a soft chocolate cake). I decided to not to indulge. We left the restaurant perfectly satisfied and not stuffed. As an added bonus, our bill came to less than 80 euros.

Though we’ve known about Le Petit Dakar for years, this is the first time that we’ve eaten there. It will not be long before we return! The restaurant is open until August 24th (evenings only), so those of you who are in Paris may want to dine there before they close for their summer break. If you want to attend a Caribbean ball at the Bassin de la Villette, another one is scheduled for August 20th from 5 PM to 8 PM.

Le Petit Dakar
6, rue Elzévir
75003 Paris
Metro: Saint-Paul

Bassin de la Villette
Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad
75019 Paris
Metro: Stalingrad, Jaurès


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