Dirty Lemon

It’s been quite a year for businesses in Paris. From the gilets jaunes movement, to the longest transit strike in French history, then a pandemic, they’ve had to tough a lot of things out. One of the troopers has been Dirty Lemon. After a major remodel of a space that formerly held a LED-lit sushi restaurant, I had a night out with friends – Jennifer, Jane, and Forest – at Dirty Lemon, tasting and testing some of the cocktails on their menu. And even better, enjoying the food of cheffe/owner Ruba Khoury.

Ruba’s goal was to create a bar and space that was for everyone, but especially women-friendly, something she said was lacking in Paris. The name comes from a bad experience she had with a funky lemon she was served, and ate (with unfortunate results), at a cocktail bar in the Marais. But Ruba knows her stuff. She worked at such esteemed restaurants in Paris at Septime, Yam’Tcha, and Frenchie before creating the menu at Ibrik, which I loved, that reflected her Palestinean heritage and growing up in multicultural Dubai.

I’m happy to report that after several visits, between closures and re-openings, Dirty Lemon is back and now open again with terrace seating and the same great food and drinks.

The cocktail menu changes seasonally and on my first visit, I had a creative riff on the Manhattan cocktail with a floater of olive oil, fleur de sel, and a touch of chocolate. Other cocktails maison included a Trophy Wife with apricot-dill shrub juice, gin, genepy, and verjus, an icy-cold Basil Smash with fresh berries and gin, and a Dirty Lemon Martini seasoned with a little spice, and a dash of olive brine.

One trend that Ruba picked up on, during a trip to the States, was a cocktail menu that featured the type of glass the drinks are served in, and whether or not the drink is going to be served up, or on-the-rocks. I love that. That saves people like me, who are pesky and have to run down the menu with the bartender or server, asking which drinks are up and which are on ice. I do like both, but sometimes I’m in the mood for a cocktail in a coupe, other times, I want one over ice.

If cocktails aren’t your thing, being France, wines are available by the glass or bottle, like the rosé I recently enjoyed there this week. I’d started with a glass of Viognier, but my friend’s rosé looked so appealing, I ordered a glass of that next.

But if good food is your thing, you’ve come to the right place. Ruba’s interpretation of various dishes, and use of spices and seasonings found in the foods of the Middle East, find their way into inventive dishes like a plate of fried oysters with spiced mayo and charred lime that was on the À partager (To share) portion of the menu, but you’ll find that it’s hard not to want to eat them all on your own.

The oysters weren’t on the menu on a recent visit but one thing they can never take off the menu are the “Dirty” frites (shown at the top of the post), a platter of housemade French fries with garlic sauce and lamb confit. Omg, are those good!

Another winner that was on the menu on my first visit was Hummus with deviled eggs, gem lettuce, za’atar, and fried onions (shown above – with apologies for the less-than-stellar photo taken in low light.) People like to debate who makes the best hummus, where it’s made, etc…but I’d like to put this out there that is one of the best plates of hummus I’ve had, anywhere. Period.

Ruba recently updated the hummus, above, offering it with summertime green beans, housemade lemon confit, pinenuts, and tangy sumac. We lapped it up with some of the fresh baguette slices offered on a warm summer night, sitting outside, enjoying the relative tranquility of Paris in mid-summer, as the city empties out for les vacances.

Ruba is out there, overseeing it all, when she’s not in the kitchen. It’s nice to see her back at the helm as cafés, bars, and restaurants in Paris figure out what’s next. One interesting twist to Dirty Lemon is that the bar is open until 2am, with food being served until 1am, a rarity in the city. I’m usually in bed well before then, but for those with late-night cravings, there’s a great new option.

Dirty Lemon
24, rue de la Folie Méricourt (11th)
Métro: Richard Lenoir or St-Amboise

Follow Dirty Lemon on Instagram, which also lists opening hours.

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18 comments

  • July 30, 2020 3:27pm

    Ruba is such a sweetheart. And those Dirty Fries…
    Looking forward to another visit! Reply

  • Cyndy
    July 30, 2020 5:28pm

    I was surprised last year to learn from my French teacher that a female dog is a chienne and a female cat is a chatte.Six years of high school and college French plus two years of recent private lessons–who knew!

    So now a female chef is a cheffe? Reply

    • July 30, 2020 5:59pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it has become one. Because French has masculine/feminine words (in some cases) there’s been discussion about broadening that to include terms like cheffe. That’s how Ruba refers to herself so I used that here. Reply

      • Cyndy
        July 30, 2020 7:07pm

        I’m always interested in how language evolves and enjoy being able to notice that in a second language (I’m at about the toddler level…) Reply

    • Gregg
      July 30, 2020 9:30pm

      Um, Cindy, please be aware that both “chatte” and “chienne” have other meanings in French that aren’t necessarily used in polite company. As a French teacher, there may be reasons why these vocabulary words were left for you to discover on your own. Reply

      • Cyndy
        July 30, 2020 9:47pm

        Merci beaucoup! Reply

  • Karen
    July 30, 2020 5:31pm

    Oh, Paris! Reply

  • wildbill
    July 30, 2020 5:35pm

    Like many places California can be appealing but after reading this it is less!
    Ruba’s would be worth the quarantine! Reply

  • heidipie
    July 30, 2020 6:17pm

    I always ask if cocktails are served up and over, too! Some of us like to really drink and not just sip, so a highball is essential! Reply

  • Kathy
    July 30, 2020 6:23pm

    What’s the idea behind the Trophy Wife moniker l wonder Reply

    • July 30, 2020 6:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      Some of the drinks are named after terms used to describe women, such as Le Tomboy, Girl Next Door, Hot Mama, Bloody Mary, Poor Little Rich Girl, Soft Butch and My Fair Lady. So it makes sense when you look at the whole menu, I think : ) Reply

  • July 30, 2020 6:39pm

    I learned about Yam’Tcha in one of the episodes of Chef’s Table: France — if you’ve never watched it, it’s borderline poetry — and a month or two later accidentally met the owner, who seemed very sweet.

    Quite the pedigree! Reply

  • July 30, 2020 6:46pm

    (As for the “less-than-stellar photo taken in low light”, there seems to be enough light in that shot, you just have to take the temperature down a notch into the cooler, bluer regions. Most editing apps should be able to do it: Pixlr, Lightroom, whatever.) Reply

  • Dana Ward
    July 30, 2020 7:55pm

    Please convince Ruba to write a cookbook. I’d be first in line to purchase! With things the way they are, it may be a long time before we can taste her cooking otherwise. Reply

  • Susan
    July 30, 2020 7:56pm

    This all looks and sounds amazing! Thank you for continuing to inspire those of us who can’t wait to visit Paris again! Merci beaucoup! Reply

  • Gregg
    July 30, 2020 9:25pm

    Oh David, your blog is the best reading of the week and your Paris Kitchen cookbook has become my Bible during these difficult times. We of course had to cancel our November trip to France, but stories like these are like a little vacation and give me hope that we will be there soon. Thank you so much! Reply

    • Bunni
      July 30, 2020 11:24pm

      I so want to go there, but alas as an American I can’t. I can just sit here and salivate and dream. And yes please convince Ruba to make a cookbook! Reply

  • Lancelot
    September 11, 2020 11:45am

    To Dirty Lemon: Your restaurant is awfully noisy.
    You are not alone in the street you know ?

    Yesterday, on Friday 10th, September 2020, there was a birthday party in the street. In the street. At 11 pm. People crying, laughing in the street. This street is not large you know…. And the noise circulates a lot. It was so crowded…. maybe 50 people in the street singing “happy birthday” (without any mask and prevention coronavirus measure by the way).

    Some people who live close to you work a lot, in the early morning. Don’t be selfish and think about the fact they need some rest from 9 or 10 pm… My night has been so bad because of the noises you made during the night. That’s a shame really.

    Thanks to be kind to your neighbors. Reply

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