On a snowy, wintry day in December, a friend invited me for lunch. The address he gave was in the Palais Royal quarter of Paris, which is one of my favorites and also easy to get to. Normally. Not so easy, in fact, when snow has halted Paris's bus service and sent all and sundry scurrying to the city's connecting arteries, otherwise known as the Metro.
His description of Le Comptoir de Tunisie, could not have been more intriguing...nor enticing. Always one to be drawn to what might be a "Secret Garden" experience, the upstairs semi-private dining area of this spice shop, sounded like it was not just centrally located and exotic, but also off the beaten path.
Le Comptoir de Tunisie is indeed a secret garden that perches there on its white-cushioned and sofa decorated second storey, overlooking rue de Richelieu. It's a taste of Tunisie in the heart of the Palais Royal/Louvre district of Paris.
There's no need for any translation of the menu, there is one dish offered for the noonday meal, the only meal the cosy dining room serves. On the day I dined with my friend, our meal started with a subtle and delicately spiced pumpkin soup. Watching the big fluffy snowflakes float down onto rue de Richelieu on that cold wintry Paris day, there wasn't anything else in the world I would rather have been eating at that moment.
Equally as comforting was the fish that followed on its plate of couscous. The cook, a native Tunisian who didn't seem to speak much French or Englsh, explained through the Parisienne proprietress (whose daughter-in-law and granddaughter are Tunisienne) that she cooks the same meals that she used to for her family back home.
Wine is served with the meal. A delightful fruitcup flavored with orange blossoms and anise provides just the accent for the apres-repas. Though, if your hostess takes a fancy to you, she just might serve the dark, rich strong coffee with a plate of assorted Tunisian sweets, authentic and lightly epicee'. Meal costs 15 Euro, before tax and tip.
Le Comptoir de Tunisie, 30 rue de Richelieu, 75001 Paris www.lecomptoirdetunisie.com