Thursday, June 16, 2011

La Charrette Créole - Cuisine from the Indian Ocean

Recently, Tom and I had the occasion to dine at La Charrette Créole, a friendly little Indian Ocean oasis in the heart of Montparnasse. It is located next door to the former address of Chez Honey, an art gallery/night club operated by Herb Gentry and his first wife, Honey Johnson, during the heyday of the post World War II African-American expat era. The restaurant won the coveted Marmite d'Or award in 2009, so we were anxious to sample the dishes that they prepare.

Façade of La Charrette Créole
© Discover Paris!

We were greeted warmly by the proprietor, Sylvain, who is from Mauritius. He heard us speaking English as we perused the menu outside, and he instantly began speaking to us in English as he welcomed us inside. His wife, Sidonie (from Madagascar) was equally friendly.

We were seated at a corner table next to the short side of the bar, as much of the small dining room was occupied by tables for four to eight persons. Several large parties arrived during the evening, and we were grateful to have our privacy.


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We were in the mood for culinary exploration that evening, so we began by ordering rhum arrangés (flavored rums). Mine was ginger-flavored, and Tom's was flavored with a citrus fruit called combava, which is native to the region. I envied Tom his drink, because I found it to be much more to my liking than my ginger concoction!

The condiments for our meal were placed on the table at the same time that our drinks were served. They consisted of rougail tomates (a sort of tomato salsa), rougail cacahuetes (a grainy, peanut paste), and piment (pulverized hot, green peppers in a thick sauce).

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For the first course, I ordered bouchons saucisses and Tom ordered beignets de chouchou (christophène). We failed to remember that portions in Creole restaurants tend to be copious, and were surprised to find six morsels of our selected entrée plus a generous salad of achards de légumes (a slaw) on our plates. Tom consumed his entire dish, while I prudently left room for the courses that would follow.

Beignets de chouchou
© Discover Paris!

Bouchons saucisses
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For the main course, both Tom and I selected cabri massalé, which was stewed goat marinated in numerous spices. It was served with red beans and basmati rice. We both found the goat to be scrumptious! I was happy that I did not finish my starter so that I could fully enjoy this dish. Again, I prudently forewent eating a full serving of rice and beans during this course so that I could save room for dessert.

Cabri massalé
© Discover Paris!

Tom ordered a Madagascan beer - Three Horses - to accompany his meal. It was a pilsner, and he thought it was of average quality.

Desserts are always on the simple side in Creole restaurants. We both opted for ice cream and/or sorbet for this course. The restaurant offers three scoops of one or more flavors on their list. I decided to take advantage of my ability to choose multiple flavors, and selected corrosol, lime, and ginger. Tom chose to order three scoops of corrosol (soursop). The scoops were moderately sized, and each was topped with a dollop of whipped cream. We both found our selections to be light and not overly sweet. They were the perfect culmination to our meal.

When we asked for the check, we were served a complimentary rhum arrangé that is called simply "rhum arrangé." Flavored with cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla, we found it to be quite good. Next time we visit La Charrette Créole, we may well order this particular drink as our apéritif.
Rhum arrangé
© Discover Paris!

Service was friendly though somewhat uneven, with multiple servers coming to our table throughout the evening. The most exuberant of our servers was Lucie from Madagascar, pictured below.
Lucie, our server
© Discover Paris!

Dinner for two was a modest 57 euros. Based on the quality of the food and the prices on the menu, we intend to return to La Charrette Créole!


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