Indian feast in France
on photo for enlargement
When it comes to culinary offerings, few cities are as palatable
as Paris. Here in the City of Light, I’ve feasted on delectables
such as Steak Tartar and Duck L’orange in a belly-boggling
array of French restaurants.
Dining out in Paris can be an expensive endeavor, however. In an
effort to balance my budget and satisfy my pallet simultaneously,
I frequent a tiny pedestrian lane lined with decidedly non-French
Few tourists venture here because it’s located in a working-class
neighborhood. Locals pass by every day and miss it when they blink.
But when I found my way onto “Passage Brady”, a tumbledown
19th-century shopping arcade, I stumbled upon the most affordable
lunches in Paris. In the process, I stepped into another world.
Passage Brady boasts the city’s highest concentration of Indian
and Pakistani restaurants. Twelve culinary establishments populate
this narrow Passage that runs between Blvd. de Strasbourg and Rue
St. Denis in the 10th Arrondissement (District).
When I stepped onto Passage Brady, it was as if I had fallen through
a rabbit hole and landed in Delhi or Mumbai. Apart from the restaurant
menus, which are written in French (with English translations), there
is little to remind you of Paris.
Built in 1858 so that shoppers could stroll from one boutique to
the next without succumbing to rain and muddy unpaved streets, this
pedestrian mall features a 1-block-long, 2-story-high vaulted glass
roof. Some 150 passages were constructed in Paris during the 19th
century. Many have been refurbished to accommodate designer boutiques
and loft-style apartments. Some, like Passage Brady, have fallen
The glass roof is cracked in places. The tiled floor is worn and
broken. At Pooja and Jardin De L’inde, two of the busiest restaurants,
alfresco diners stare into the dusty window of a hardware store.
And yet, it’s the ramshackle disposition of Passage Brady that
provides warmth and charm.
Lanterns dangle from the rusted crossbeams. Indian music drifts from
one of four coiffure shops where haircuts are a bargain at €6
euros. At Velan Sari, shoppers pore over Indian knickknacks, colorful
saris, and more than 100 types of incense. They cram the aisles,
searching for mango chutney, tandoori paste, coriander seeds, pomegranate
molasses—every imaginable product which to make home-cooked
Restaurant signs jut out from above darkened doorways, beckoning
passersby. Reine Du Kashmir. Passage De Pondichér. Shalimar.
The names evoke the spirit of India and Pakistan as much as Passage
Lunchtime customers feast on lamb or chicken curry specials for only €5
euros ($6.35). Because proprietors compete fiercely for business,
the specials are available at all 12 restaurants.
Dinner is a pricier affair. At Pooja, my personal favorite, main
courses go for $14 to $16. Elaborate three course meals cost $33.
Passage Brady is much more than chicken Tandoori and chapatti, however.
It’s a bridge between ethnic communities. It’s a cultural
melting pot filled primarily with Turks, Africans, Indians, Pakistanis,
a wide range of tourists, and of course the French.
Because Passage Brady is an extremely narrow lane, pedestrians are
forced to walk single file between the outdoor tables. On several
occasions, I sat beneath the 150-year-old glass roof, scarfing down
chicken curry and watching the locals squeeze by.
Burka-clad women stopped to scrutinize vegetables at the stand in
front of Velan Sari. Indian and Pakistani workmen carted boxes back
and forth. West African women filed into Coiffure Dove, the only
salon catering to “Afro Americain” hair.
I’ve seen Turkish laborers, Moroccan families, Asian businessmen,
French office workers, and German tourists. I once saw a white Westerner
with a group of Eastern European locals. His head was shaved; he
wore a Buddhist monk’s robe. The cultures and skin tones are
typical of the 10th Arrondissement. Many of Paris’ 375,000
legal immigrants live and work in this district.
At the western end of Passage Brady, for example, Rue St. Denis teems
with Turkish restaurants, open-air butcher shops, ma and pa grocers,
and vegetable stands. St. Denis resembles an Istanbul market more
so than a Paris street.
The eastern end of the Passage (at Blvd. de Strasbourg) leads to
a plethora of African enterprises. Within 3 blocks of this entrance,
there are perhaps 2 dozen bustling black hair care salons.
Africans. Turks. Indians. Pakistanis. Tourists. The French. At one
time or another you’ll see them dining at a restaurant along
Passage Brady. It’s a cultural and gastronomic feast.
Brady is situated approximately 2 blocks north of Blvd.
St. Denis, between Blvd. de Strasbourg
and Rue St. Denis in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement.
Restaurant hours: lunch (12:00 p.m. to 2:30); dinner
(7:00 p.m. to approximately 11:00 or 11:30 p.m., depending
on business), 7 days a week. A few popular restaurants
are listed below.
Pooja: 91 Passage Brady; Tel: 011-33-148-240-083; Web:
Jardin De L’inde: 90 Passage
Brady; Tel: 011-33-144-790-890
Shalimar: 59 Passage Brady; Tel: 011-33-145-233-161;
Reine Du Kashmir: 82 Passage Brady; Tel: 011-33-145-233-935
Passage De Pondichéry: 84 Passage Brady; Tel:
Most restaurants offer lunch specials at €5.00 euros
for selected main courses ($6.35 based on a 1.27 conversion
Dining tip: A can of Coke or a small bottle of mineral
water can cost $5 or more at Parisian restaurants and
cafés. Budget-conscious travelers should ask for
un carafe d’eau (decanter of tap water). The water
is free, superbly drinkable, and waiters are happy to