Any feature on 'Middle Eastern cuisine' has to begin by confronting that problematic term. To the newbie, the cuisines of Morocco, Lebanon and Kurdistan all too easily merge into one aromatic morass of mezze and grilled meat. But in reality, they differ – at times subtly, at times blatantly – on everything from taste in condiments to table etiquette. To make matters simple, we've decided to split our fave Middle Eastern joints into three broad categories: North African, Asian, and 'street food'. If there's one thing they all share, it's a convivial emphasis on sharing and socialising – in our eyes, an essential ingredient to a damn good meal. So call up your mates and get ready to discover the best Levantine nosh and Maghrebian grub that Paris has to offer.
Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian
L'Homme Bleu's simple, welcoming ambiance is the perfect background for the restaurant's superior Maghreb cooking. Here, cooks busy themselves in the kitchen while the meat grills slowly on the fire and regulars jostle for space – it might not look like much from the outside, but the full tables tell you all you need to know.We ate a plate of couscous mined with grilled lamb brochettes and merguez sauasage (€18) and a chicken tagine (€15). To balance it all out, a dish of crisp vegetables and preserved lemon, all washed down with a couple of glasses of Boulaouane Moroccan wine. The grains are fine and light, the sauces scented and full of flavour, the meats are the real deal – and if you have room afterwards, you can snack on sweet pastries (€2.50 each) from the neighbouring bakery, La Bague de Kenza. Overall, a warming, authentic shot of Maghrebian warmth in Oberkampf.
A well-kept little gem of a secret: Le Petit Bleu doesn't look like much, but it is absolutely delightful. A Moroccan canteen tucked away in a Montmartre back street, they serve perfect couscous, tagines and grills in enormous portions – it would be difficult to find better in the city. Above all, the value for money is incredible, with couscous dishes at around €10. It’s open until 1am, but the space is tiny, so be prepared to queue or to get your couscous to go (one will easily feed two hungry men). This restaurant serves one of Time Out's 50 best dishes in Paris. Click here to see the full list.
This unpretentious family-run restaurant located near the Carreau du Temple offers fusion cooking mixing French, English and Tunisian styles. Sitting at one of the few tables in the small, brightly-coloured room feels a bit like being in a hippie aunt's collection of rugs, braided wood lamps, blown glass, copper artefacts and jewels, but it all comes together in an agreeable jumble. The service is laid-back and affable, so you almost feel like you're in someone’s home.Well-seasoned and creative dishes are cooked with organic ingredients, and the menu changes regularly according to what is available at market and l'humeur du chef, and are wonderuflly cheap. There are several plates at €12, like tender citrus-marinated turkey with basmati rice and vegetables or stuffed peppers with sundried tomato sauce, or the house special of eight-vegetable couscous with dumplings for €14.Think of reserving in advance as it’s always busy (you can take away if necessary). In summer, the pretty tree-shaded terrace opens up, doubling the venue's capacity.
Some distance removed from the Arabic-speaking inner-city enclaves of Barbès and Belleville, this vast Hispano-Moorish construct is nevertheless the spiritual heart of France's Algerian-dominated Muslim population. Built from 1922 to 1926 with elements inspired by the Alhambra and the Bou Inania Medersa in Fès, the Paris mosque is dominated by a stunning green-and-white tiled square minaret.In plan and function it divides into three sections: religious (grand patio, prayer room and minaret, all for worshippers and not curious tourists); scholarly (Islamic school and library); and, via rue Geoffroy-St-Hilaire, commercial (café and domed hammam).La Mosquée café (open 9am-midnight daily) is delightful - a modest courtyard with blue-and-white mosaic-topped tables shaded beneath green foliage and scented with the sweet smell of sheesha smoke (€6). Charming waiters distribute thé à la menthe (€2), along with syrupy, nutty North African pastries, sorbets and fruit salads.
Lebanese, Syrian and Armenian
Would it be as much fun eating here if it wasn’t so hard to get to? Of course not. The double-take at the unmarked door at 17 Rue Bleue, the struggle with the entryphone (you don’t need to punch a number, just push the call button), the bemused scamper across the quiet internal courtyard, the furrowed eyebrows at the signs in Armenian script and the shoulder-shrugging climb up a twisting staircase in the direction of the smell of food – it all adds up to a meal out with the thrill of finding a genuine hidden treasure. Especially when what could be an unnerving journey ends with a brilliantly sunny welcome from the proprietress of the canteen at La Maison de la Culture Arménienne, who clucks over you and calls you chéri as she trots back and forth from kitchen (manned by her husband) to dining room. It’s not a high-end operation, of course, but the basic dining room with its trinkets and Armenian flags, the jolly tables of regulars swapping stories and above all the cheap, good food all add up to a place of particular charm. Armenia’s peculiar history and geography give a certain romance to its cuisine. A country of green plateaus and grey-blue mountains, its national symbols are the apricot and the pomegranate – at once rich and fresh, colourful and filled with symbolism. Persecution by the Turks before the First World War and uneasy relationships with Russia and Azerbaijan today mean that Armenians have a huge and varied population in diaspora; their food is one of many fier
Liza Soughayar's restaurant showcases the style and superb food of contemporary Beirut. Lentil, fried onion and orange salad is delicious, as are the kebbe (minced seasoned raw lamb) and grilled halloumi cheese with home-made apricot preserve. Main courses such as minced lamb with coriander-spiced spinach and rice are light, flavoursome and well presented. Try one of the excellent Lebanese wines to accompany your meal, and finish with the halva ice-cream with carob molasses.For brunch, coffees, teas and fruit juices are served with dishes such as hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush or the arabieh salata – a salad of lettuce hearts, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Or you could try foul, a stew of beans and chickpeas, manakish, mini pizzas, grilled chicken with basmati rice and traditional Lebanese mezze.
Don't be put off by the newspapers in the window – this unassuming restaurant-cum-newagent, in the middle of the hip rue Faubourg Saint-Denis, has a class all of its own. The Middle Eastern menu is cooked by Ahmad, who grew up in Nawa in southern Syria and emigrated to Stockholm before coming to Paris with the idea of sharing the cooking of his homeland: hummus, salad, pickles, kibbeh ras (ground beef with pine nuts), falafel, labneh (strained yoghurt) with olive oil, mtabbal (aubergine dip), tabbouleh and more. A falafel sandwich ‘extra’ is put together as you watch: €5 for falafel, hummus, grilled aubergine, cauliflower and chips, or a vegetarian platter (€11), with vine leaves, mtabbal and great tabbouleh. For meat-eaters, shawarma: marinated beef or chicken with garlic and lemon for €5. The Daily Syrien: cheap, choice and very cheerful.
A beautiful terrace on the roof of the Institut du Monde Arabe, which is remarkably quiet outside of lunch and dinner times. Le Zyriab by Noura isn’t just a high class Lebanese restaurant, it’s also a daytime café open to all. Elegant outdoor tables topped with parasols offer a sublime view over the Seine and the Ile Saint-Louis, with the Notre-Dame cathedral in the background. The staff are very friendly, happy to let you spend an afternoon reading on the cushion-strewn banquettes. Drinks aren’t cheap, and given the price of a Perrier of a coffee (excessive at €6), splash out on something more interesting: the home made lemonade, a rose or jellab date syrup drink, or a strained yoghurt laban aryan. Pastis fans should try the Lebanese version, arak. There’s also a good if expensive selection of whiskies of 12 years and older, plus Lebanese and French wines and champagnes.
Kebabs, Durums and Falafels
By noon on a Sunday there is a queue outside every falafel shop along rue des Rosiers. The long-established L'As du Fallafel, a little further up the street, still reigns supreme, whereas Hanna remains something of a locals' secret, quietly serving up falafel and shawarma sandwiches to rival any in the world. A pitta sandwich bursting with crunchy chickpea-and-herb balls, tahini sauce and vegetables costs €4 if you order from the takeaway window, €8 if you sit at one of the tables in the buzzy dining room overlooking the street. Either way, you really can't lose. This restaurant serves one of Time Out's 50 best dishes in Paris. Click here to see the full list.
Fashionable Paris has swooned for burger vans, hot dogs and tacos, but perhaps the best of the street food was always here; in a Kurdish sandwich shop.Hidden away in the heart of Strasbourg Saint-Denis, Urfa Dürüm is a tiny wood-panelled venue where you are greeted at the entrance by the owner, flour and rolling pin in hand, busily preparing the flatbread dough. Further inside, meat grills in the stone oven. On the chalkboard menu, there are two choices of house speciality: Lahmacun or Dürüm.Lahmacun is a small wrap prepared like a pizza with minced meat, tomatoes and onions, and rolled up with salad, red onions and a squeeze of lemon. Crunchy and delicious, it’s hard to beat at just €2. You can have the famous Kurdish sandwich Dürüm with steak, chicken, lamb’s liver (€6) or straight up lamb (€7.50). Just a few minutes’ wait and it arrives perfectly cooked, wrapped in its flatbread, piping hot and accompanied by tomatoes, red onions, rocket, parsley and lettuce. No chips, mayo or harissa – this is to be eaten as it is. Since it’s all superb, there’s no need of any further extras. This restaurant serves one of Time Out's 50 best dishes in Paris. Click here to see the full list.
The best doner kebab in Paris? Perhaps not, but if the lunchtime queue outside this tiny dive on the Rue Batignolles if anything to go by, Istanbul is a strong candidate at least. The secret is the care that the two brothers who run it take over the preparation of the meat – no worrying unidentified matter in these kebabs. The beef is deboned and sliced anew each day, then marinated for several hours in a secret spice mix inherited from their grandfather, himself a restaurateur in Turkey. The rest of the preparation is standard, but the result is exceptional. For €5 you can get your hands on one of the French capital’s legendary sandwiches – and its reputation is no accident.
Just minutes away from the Rue des Rosiers and the every-popular As du Falafel, Miznon has wisely decided to stick to what it does best – pitta sandwiches – rather than try and compete with its chickpea-cooking neighbours. The original restaurant in Tel Aviv has been wining over customers for some time, and the Parisian branch follows the same formula – a charmingly basic décor featuring lots of boxes of fruit and vegetables, the same warm atmosphere, the same dishes cooked under the direction of head chef Eyal Shani.It’s a little more expensive than you might find elsewhere, but streets ahead in quality. The cooks, mostly Israeli natives, chop chicken and meat right in front of you at the sparkling clean counter. With a cup of free mint tea and some spicy sauces, you can get stuck into chicken pitta, lamb kebab and steak with things like grilled cauliflower or sweet potato, takeaway or eat in. If you are lucky enough to find a seat in the packed dining room, grab it quickly and enjoy the welcoming vibe.
Still hungry? How about some…
Book ahead to celebrate the Year of the Horse in one of our best Chinese restaurants this Chinese New Year (January 31). Paris has two main areas for Asian eating: Belleville and Chinatown in the 13th arrondissement, where you can sample excellent Thai, Vietnamese and other South East Asian specialities. Also check out our selection of Vietnamese restaurants in Paris – their Têt Nguyên Dán falls on the same day. Belleville Au Poivre du Szechuan Sichuan chilli is a fiery, lemony spice used in west China, Japan and Tibet, which has happily found its way to a laid-back, lime-green restaurant in Belleville, with a menu that stands out from the area's jazz standards of bo buns and egg rolls. Among innumerable dishes, we loved the crunchy caramelised pork, lamb with cumin, beef hotpot with chilli oil and wu xiang pork. Less so the spiced chicken, which was all bones,a and the make-your-own wok option, which had an excellent bouillon base, but the strange water-lily roots and fish balls lacked flavour. A shame, as overall the cooking is light and subtly flavoured, if not cheap (€8-€15 a dish). Watch out for the chilli – you’ll be offered strong, medium or weak, and even the medium strength will blow your head off. Don’t be too brave and risk ruining your meal. Wen Zhou The second Chinatown in Paris is in Belleville where, as in the 13th arrondissement, it’s difficult to know where to get a good Chinese meal rather than. So note this one down in your smartphone: Wen Zhou, just before
Not always famed for its selection of restaurants offering spicy delicacies, Paris nevertheless hosts a healthy range of Indian restaurants to cure curry cravings. Try out our selection below, and let us know in the comments box if you think we've missed any out. Restaurants Saravana Bhavan A veritable institution, this 80 seat restaurant is in an entirely different class from the rest; a chain with branches in more than 10 countries, specialising in vegetarian dishes from Southern India. But this isn’t a curried version of McDonald’s, rather the squeaky clean surroundings and fresh ingredients put Saravanaa Bhavan above the neighbourhood’s collection of greasy spoons. The attractive space is done out in design sofas, black tables and big windows, giving more of a Japanese vibe than anything else, though the metal drinking cups and flock of busy waiters feel more authentic... Muniyandi Vilas From the outside, there’s nothing that sets Muniyandi Vilas apart from the scores of other Indian restaurants crowded around the Gare du Nord. It’s small, a bit tatty, and the aroma wafting in from the kitchen a tad overpowering. Yet once you’re sat at one of the cramped tables, the place begins to work its modest charm on you: smiling waiters, eccentric murals, cute metal cups. And by the time the dishes arrive, generous and succulent, you’ll be glad you chose this place over the others. For a fistful of euros, you can order yourself a veritable feast: an impeccable cheese parotta (a sor
Everyone likes a slice of Italy – especially when it’s topped with stringy mozzarella, fresh olives and tangy tomato sauce. These are our favourite restaurants in Paris for Italian cooking, from rustic trattorias to cutting edge chic. Come a Casa A meal at Come a Casa isn't for anyone with issues around personal space. But if you like cheese and wine and perfect pasta... Procopio Angelo Head to Procopio Angelo for masterful fresh pasta; everything in this restaurant positively sings Tuscany. Even the prices, which are as dolce as any vita... La Trattoria Pulcinella Italian fever has seized the north side of Montmartre’s Butte: there’s Trattoria Pulcinella on rue Eugène Sue... Il Prezzemolo An old Italian film is projected on the back wall, each table has a pair of scissors for cutting the thin-crust pizzas, and charming waiters... Swann et Vincent With its Parisian bistro allure, this tiny Italian restaurant offering classic transalpine cuisine is nothing if not convivial. Sugared olives... Al Taglio One of the first outfits in Paris to sell pizza by weight, now a popular practice, Al Taglio is an understated canteen with chic overtones... Pizza Chic An address which could only exist on the left bank, nestled into the busy streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés where 'chic' is a religion... Il Brigante The décor is minimal and the atmosphere supercharged, with the white-hatted and –aproned chef preparing and firing his ample pizzas... L'Epicerie Musicale Ideally situated on the Ca
Whether it's sushi, bento boxes or ramen noodles, Paris has an abundance of quality Japanese restaurants to choose from. From slick and stylish restaurants to traditional Osaka-style eateries, you can find great Japanese food across the capital. Check out some of our favourites below... Fine dining Asia Tee Kenji Asia Tee is just one small room and a few tables, with Japanese chef Kenji running a one-man show in the open kitchen and his welcoming family helping out front of house. Plus a small dog in his basket, who’s part of the décor. Kenji cooks a homely Japanese menu that changes with the seaons, but with refined touches that he learnt at the Hôtel Impérial de Tokyo and working with Michelin-starred French chefs like Michel Rostang.Each dish is available in small and large, and there's a selection of set menus. For €45 you get three amuse bouche, three main plates (choose from six fish and three meat), soup, rice and dessert. We loved the perfectly roasted slices of lamb flanked by an interesting puree of green pepper and yuzu, with chips of lotus root, and the succulent sashimi exceed all expectations. You can also reserve in advance for a vegetarian version. The bigger hitter is the omakase menu at €78 (in Japanese, it means ‘I leave it up to you’). Everyone at the table needs to agree to the menu in advance and give their preferences, then Kenji prepares an assortment of 10 small dishes per person. Asia Tee is full for dinner every night, so make sure you book ahea