Thursday, July 18, 2013

Art and Food Pairing™: Galerie Cinq Diamants and Botequim

For two years now, I’ve walked past Galerie Cinq Diamants and burned with curiosity about why this little shop, filled with African art and artifacts, sprang up just two blocks from my apartment in an out of the way neighborhood in the 5th arrondissement where no other art galleries exist. Last week, I had the opportunity to find out.

Galerie Cinq Diamants
© Discover Paris!

Zoran Smolovic, a citizen of the former Yugoslavia (the area now known as Montenegro) and long time Paris resident, owns and operates the gallery. When I met him several months ago, soon after he opened, we only had time to exchange a few words. Last week, our schedules finally coincided such that his shop was open when I had time to stop in. I got to sit down and Zoran got to tell me his story.

Zoran Smolovic
© Discover Paris!

Zoran is a journalist, a lawyer, and a photographer. Two days after moving to Paris over 30 years ago, he came across a collection of African art at an antique fair in the 17th arrondissement and fell in love with it. He began collecting at that moment and has never stopped. When his apartment became so full of art that his wife began to complain, he decided to move his treasures into a commercial area and opened the gallery in an office space formerly used by his wife.

Much of what Zoran displays is masks. His business card (which is actually a glossy color photograph) features an Igbo mask from Nigeria that hangs in a corner of the gallery. Other masks and sculptures are made by the Punu and Fang tribes of Gabon, the Baoulé of Côte d’Ivoire, and the Dogon and other tribes of Mali. Zoran obtains his works from African art dealers who transport pieces directly from Africa. He favors works made traditionally – those that are hand carved – but he does carry a few “mass-produced” items as well. He does not deal in antiques, but he only selects works that he feels are “magic.”

Igbo Mask
© Discover Paris!

Galerie Cinq Diamants business card
© Discover Paris!

For 24 years, Zoran worked for Radio France Internationale in Paris and covered the former communist countries of Eastern Europe and France. He left their employ only two years ago and now spends most of his time at the gallery.

Galerie Cinq Diamants is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12 noon to 3 PM and from 4 PM to 7 PM. Depending upon circumstances, it may be open as late as 11 PM. If you want to call (see telephone number below), note that Zoran speaks Serbo-Croatian and French, but no English.

Literally a stone’s throw away from Galerie Cinq Diamants is my favorite Brazilian restaurant in Paris – Botequim Brasiliero.

Botequim Brasiliero
© Discover Paris!

Botequim Dining Room
© Discover Paris!

Everything I’ve ever eaten here has been excellent. After experimenting with different items on the menu in the past, I’ve come to anticipate selecting my favorites on the menu – panaché Botequim as an entrée and Feijoada as the main course - each time I come.

Panaché Botequim consists of fritters containing shredded chicken and spices (Coxinha), cheese (Risole de queijo), and minced beef (Kibe). The crust for each variety of fritter is always crisp and delicious – never soggy or oily. And the fillings provide a marvelous burst of flavor in every bite.

Panaché Botequim
© Discover Paris!

Feijoada is Brazil’s national dish. It is a stew of sorts, made from black beans and pork – pork belly, pork rib, and sausage. The meat in Botequim’s feijoada is remarkably lean, even though pork belly and sausage are naturally endowed with fat. The absence of liquid pork fat (or grease, as we call it in the southern U.S.) on the surface of the beans and sauce is the perfect testament to this.

Part of what makes this dish so appealing is the way it is served. Botequim always presents its feijoada in a gleaming copper pot with a ladle. The accompaniments – steamed rice, fresh orange slices with thin ribbons of young green cabbage, and manioc flour – are always served in terra cotta ramekins. If they are not already on the table, the server presents you with the obligatory containers of hot sauce. Then you can get down to the business of dining!

© Discover Paris!

Oranges and greens
© Discover Paris!

As for beverages, I always order Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. Made from cachaça (fermented and distilled sugarcane juice) and lime, it is a potent and tasty beverage. I believe that Botequim makes the best ones in town, and enjoy them both as a cocktail and along with my meal.

After feasting on all this, I forgo dessert. The selection consists of industrially-made frozen desserts and home-made puddings and creams, none of which is sufficiently tempting for me to voluntarily overeat. I always leave feeling that I’ve “done the right thing” because the entrée and main dish are totally satisfying!

Galerie Cinq Diamants
72, rue Claude Bernard
75005 Paris
Telephone :
Metro: Censier Daubenton (Line 7)
Hours: Tue - Sat: 12 noon - 3:00 PM, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM

1, rue Berthollet
75005 Paris
Metro: Censier Daubenton (Line 7)
Hours: Mon - Sat: 12:00 PM - 2:30 PM, 8:00 PM - 11:30 PM
Sun: 8:00 PM - 11:30 PM


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