Ara Chocolat

There’s no shortage of chocolate shops in Paris. Many of them are concentrated in areas like the Marais or Left Bank, which are swankier places set up shop, but offer easy access. So in what are called the “double-digit” arrondissements, you’ll find more quirky places, and you’ll never know what you might come across if you wander around them.

Having dinner one night at Churrasqueira Galo, I spotted a sign across the street for a torréfacteur of chocolate, meaning, they torréfier (roast) and grind their own beans. Making chocolate is a special skill and most chocolatiers are fondeurs (melters) of chocolate, and it’s rare to find one that grinds their own beans, especially where you’re not expecting it.

So a few days later, I went back to Ara Chocolat during business hours, timidly buying a few chocolates in a bag and bringing them home to try. I liked them so much, I went back to meet Andres Zakhour, the owner and chocolatier (and fondeur), to find out more.

Andres was a pastry chef and chocolatier in London, but wanted to make his own bean-to-bar chocolate, so went back to his home country, Venezuela, to learn how to do it.

When I asked Andres why he opened his shop in such a quirky place, he said that he walked around the city, looking at neighborhoods and places where he could do what he wanted to. This was the only place that was within his budget. In popular cities, such as Paris and Rome, newer talent often sets up shop, including bakeries and gelaterias, in the more affordable residential neighborhoods, rather than in high-rent districts.

Almost everything in Andres’ chocolates is organic and vegan, except the chocolate from Venezuela, because Andres told me, “they don’t have an organic certification there.” Fillings for the chocolates are made with ground nuts, rather than cream.

There isn’t the extensive selection of chocolates you’ll find at the lavish boutiques, but a more edited selection, featuring ingredients like coconut, sesame, cashews, peanuts Brazil nuts, green mango, pink peppercorns, and muscovado sugar. But they stand their ground with the big boys (and girls) in other parts of Paris.

I was especially tickled with the yellow-tipped chocolates filled with cocoa butter and turmeric, which had an especially lively kick. (And I think I’m falling for the whole turmeric thing, after a delicious, fermented turmeric tonic at Sqirl in Los Angeles.) But there are also bars of single-origin chocolate, including one made with elusive Porcelana beans, as well as bars made from cocoa beans sourced in Belize, Nicaragua, Peru, and Costa Rica, but the majority are from Venezuela, one of the great cacao-producing regions of the world.

Andres makes hot chocolate in the cooler months and when I was in there, I met Sarah Poli of Paris Végane, who said, “It’s the best hot chocolate in Paris…and I know, because I’m Brazilian!” I had to take her word for it because it wasn’t hot chocolate season. And although I didn’t get into the kitchen, she did – and made a video.

The weather was transitioning from spring to summer when I went, and Andres was finishing a batch of mousse au chocolat, but it wasn’t quite ready. Traditional chocolate mousse is made with eggs, or in some cases, cream, and I asked what he used to make his hot chocolate and chocolate mousse, since they are both vegan, he said “Water.” Water allows the flavors of the chocolate to shine and hot chocolate in Latin America (and elsewhere) is often made with water or milk, not cream, which highlights the purity of the chocolate.

In summer, there are chocolate-enrobed popsicles to cool down with, featuring fruits and nuts, that will take you right to the tropics…without leaving Paris.

Ara Chocolat
54, rue de Dunkerque (9th)
Tél: 06 70 09 87 75
Métro: Anvers or Gare du Nord

Note New Hours: (Different than shown in photo, above) Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Noon to 7pm.


Related Posts and Links

Hervé This’ Water-Based Chocolate Mousse (Food 52)

Taza Chocolate

Mexican Dinner with Susana Trilling in Paris

How to Make Chocolate Bars

Barbès Market

La Manufacture de Chocolat Alain Ducasse

 

 

 

 

 


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20 comments

  • Catherine
    June 28, 2017 5:10pm

    Oh yes, zoom over from London on Eurostar and head straight there! Thanks David. What an amazing looking and sounding place!

  • B. G. Berg
    June 28, 2017 5:46pm

    I would love to taste these chocolates but 90 euros a kilo? Yikes! My wife tried the Pain d’amande cookie recipe from Flo Braker. Easy to make and a BIG hit with everyone! I love these posts, David!

    • June 28, 2017 6:03pm
      David Lebovitz

      That’s actually quite reasonable for chocolates in Paris. (Good-quality chocolates are in the 85-130€ per kilo, 2.2#, range.) But they are worth it, I think : ) Happy you and your wife liked those cookies. They really are terrific.

  • HELENE
    June 28, 2017 6:24pm

    mmmmmmmmYES!

  • Sharon
    June 28, 2017 6:33pm

    I hope you know how much joy your blog brings to the mornings of so many. Heartfelt thanks!

  • June 28, 2017 7:29pm

    Wow, this place looks awesome! What a gem. I can actually walk there easily from my flat in Paris! Thanks for sharing.

  • June 28, 2017 8:50pm

    This is fascinating. Although I have a deep distrust of anybody who doesn’t mix his chocolate with cream.

  • Camille
    June 28, 2017 9:57pm

    Were you able to see the manufacturing process at all? I wonder if it takes place in the back of that tiny shop. Making chocolate from the bean requires a lot of equipment and is a huge investment indeed!

    • June 28, 2017 10:36pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s a pretty small place so I think the roasting and grinding area (and equipment) are pretty modest. He didn’t invite me back there but I linked to the YouTube video which shows some of the process & equipment.

      • jenniferc
        July 4, 2017 7:29pm

        Amazing profile David – thank you for sharing. Love hearing about these hole-in-the-wall places not generally known to the public (yet!)

  • Stephan
    June 28, 2017 11:52pm

    I’m considering spending my first Christmas in Paris this year and I’ll look forward to his ‘chocolat chaud’! And the other treats too ;)

    • June 29, 2017 9:08am

      Do go to Angelina on Rue de Rivoli, I love their hot chocolate, thick and creamy and so decadent.

      • Stephan
        June 29, 2017 7:05pm

        Thanks, Nadia. On my last trip, I went to the Angelina at the Luxembourg Gardens. Delicious and even more so with a Mont-Blanc pastry!

  • June 29, 2017 9:04am

    Oohhh! Sounds very tempting. Fattening but tempting……

  • Emma
    June 29, 2017 10:56am

    A reliable source of porcelana chocolate ! David, I kneel in front of you !
    I used to buy it when Jean-Paul Hévin or Pierre Hermé had them, but couldn’t find them anymore. best chocolate I ever tasted.
    So I think I know where I have to go this Saturday.

    About fancy pastries, may I ask you your opinion about l’Eclaire de Génie ? I trued the praline and another time the vanilla éclairs (as I test traditional flavors, they can’t lie) and was less than satisfied: think, bland, not really tasty, the vanilla was so so (my chiboust filling is far better, but I do it with Olivier Roellinger vanilla pods). And the size of the éclairs is really too small, it lacks generosity. Especially regarding the price tag.

    • June 29, 2017 1:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      I wrote them up a few years ago, The Éclair shops of Paris but haven’t been to their shop in a while. I know they’ve expanded and open several more shops so perhaps they’re not as careful as they once were. And I know that people do bring up their price frequently.

  • June 29, 2017 4:19pm

    Went to this chocolate shop today and tasted some very unusual and delicious Peruvian chocolate. We bought two bars and will be back for more. Thanks also for the reference back to Churrasquiera Galo across the street. We had lunch there and it was fantastic. The chicken was moist and tasteful by itself, but their special hot sauce sealed the deal – a little like Sriracha, but chunky, maybe with piment and some Indian spice that made me think of Tikka Masala. I don’t really know what it was, but we ate a lot of it. Luckily we had a small pichet of green wine and a huge bottle of water to cool our tongues.

  • June 29, 2017 4:23pm

    Forgot to mention that Andrès, the chocolate maker, speaks English very well. This was a boon for us, as we had the opportunity to learn more about the difference between the beans of different countries and the colors and flavors of the resulting chocolate. He’s very nice.

  • Renee
    July 1, 2017 3:31am

    Oh, I can’t wait! This shop is very close to the place we’re renting when we visit in October. I’m putting it on my map!

  • Ttrockwood
    July 4, 2017 5:01am

    Thank you for writing about such a wonderful shop! I love that his premise is not necessarily to have a vegan chocolate shop in paris, but to showcase the bean to bar chocolate he does make- and they happen to not include dairy.
    Your praise here only demonstrates what a great combination this can be :))

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