Nothing can replace the wood-fired cooking of a Creole grandmother. A cari prepared in a huge pot, with a base of ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes, chilli and turmeric, allows the flavours to blend and mingle into something new – the special alchemy of the cooking of the island of Réunion. You won’t find the real thing in Paris (or let us know if you do), but the ‘péi’ (‘home cooking’) at Bernica is perhaps the closest you’ll get in these latitudes.
The signature dish of Réunion, the cari (distant cousin of the Indian curry) works with almost all fish, meat, seafood and vegetables of the Indian Ocean. On the plate, it comes with rice, grains (peas, red beans, lentils), brèdes (green leaves from cauliflowers, etc.) and a rougail spiced paste, often scented with kaffir lime, which can also vary to encompass tomato, mango, aubergine and more.
The menu at Bernica offers a good range of local specialities: cari with chicken, zourite (octopus), bringel (aubergines), prawns, sausage rougail (a great classic), cod rougail, baba-figue (with banana flower and smoked bacon) and cabri massalé (a variation of the cari with masala spices). Add to this samosas and balls of cod to start, a sweet potato cake, and an excellent coconut tart for dessert, all watered down with punch and rum, and all the boxes are ticked.
Cosy and familial, the restaurants has slightly dated décor, and tucked away in a little alleyway it offers neither sunshine nor particularly warm service. The bill isn’t exactly cheap either. But there are times when, for fans of Creole cuisine, a good cari has no price.
This restaurant serves one of Time Out's 50 best dishes in Paris. Click here to see the full list.
|Venue name:||Le Bernica||Contact:|
4 impasse de la Gaîté
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sat 12noon-11.30pm|
|Transport:||Métro : Edgar Quinet, Vavin ou Gaîté|
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La Bernica is a gem. Montparnasse is a crossroads of necessity, which brings out the worst in restaurateurs, La Bernica is a stand out exception to the norm in the splash zone of France's rail hub.
The only local traffic drawn to this populated wasteland is among the clutch of theaters huddled around the thin Rue de la Gaite, which is quite literally crowded with inviting restaurants of all varieties. Around the corner - almost hidden - on Impasse de la Gaite is this visually unassuming, but totally brilliant Creole restaurant. I grew up in the South (of the United States), and cajun and creole food was the first to ever excite me. Without being campy or pandering this restaurant serves cuisine that outshines the redundant offerings in much of the south (of the United States).
Make sure you try one of the house special rum punches with your meal.