This blog started almost exactly 15 years ago in November 2007, can you believe it? We really can’t. Eating the World all began over a dinner in Paris in August 2007 where we talked about the international cuisines we had eaten to that point while dining at Au Village, a wonderful Senegalese restaurant in the trendy Oberkampf neighborhood. However, despite this formative experience of having Senegalese food for the first time, we actually never reviewed the restaurant. Perhaps it seemed like it loomed so large in our lore that naturally, we believed a review must have come out of it. Well, 15 years later, we are rectifying the omission.
We haven’t been to Paris since 2011, and when we decided we were returning to Paris this year, we wanted to see if Au Village was still around. Turns out they are still there, going strong, and have renamed themselves as Le Village, at the same address, (86 Parmentier in Paris). The bi-level interior is simple, with wood accents and Senegalese-inspired decor, plus a small bar. They also have a few tables outside, and we were grateful that Parisians aren’t deterred by a slight chill for dining al fresco.
We visited Le Village after 15 years away on a chilly fall day, but were promptly greeted by the ebullient proprietor. To warm up, we ordered 2 pots of tea, classic mint tea, ataya, and a new drink us: quinquéliba, a Senelagese herbal infusion made from the Combretum micranthum shrub. The quinquéliba was woody and herbal, and very refreshing. The menu at Le Village is full of Senegalese and West African classics. For appetizers, you can get fish or shrimp acaras (bean fritters, and a relative of acarajé in Brazil), fried pastries filled with tuna, along with lighter options like avocado puree and crab and tomato salad. Some of the most classic Senegalese main dishes are represented, including Mafé peanut sauce, and the mild mustard-and-onion Yassa sauce. You can pick your choice of protein: beef or chicken, or even veggies. For those who prefer fish, you can try Thieboudienne, fish with red rice, or Firir, a whole fried fish. On weekends, there are special dishes, including Thiebouyapp, a lamb and rice dish.
We ordered beef mafé (top) and chicken yassa, two of our favorite dishes, and those by which we judge any Senegalese restaurant. For an appetizer, we got the fried plantains, alocos. The mafé was rich and delicious, and the yassa was light and delicate. The mafé and yassa were perfect versions of these Senegalese classics, and tasted just as good as they had all those years ago when we tried them for the first time. We didn’t have room for dessert, but there were several intriguing options, including coconut flan, banana flambeé, fresh tropical fruit, and mango tiramisu. The food at Le Village is a greatest hits selection of Senegalese classics, and the service was warm and friendly, making us feel like we were regulars. We loved everything we ordered, and we still feel that Le Village is a great introduction to Senegalese cuisine. There may be dozens (hundreds?) of Senegalese restaurants in Paris, but Le Village will always have a special place in our hearts.