Merguez & Pastrami

Merguez & Pastrami deli in Paris

The most interesting neighborhood right now in Paris is the 9th arrondissement. Walk in any various directions from a métro station after you land there, and you’ll find yourself in a completely different neighborhoods, whether it’s surrounded by stately buildings on the Avenue Trudaine or the Square d’Anvers lorded over by Sacré Cœur (which hosts one of the rare afternoon/early evening outdoor markets in Paris). There’s the rue des Martyrs, a vibrant street of chocolate shops, ice cream, and bakeries, along with great coffee shops, bakeries, grilled Portuguese roast chicken, and a candy emporium that people travel from all over the world to visit, and stock up on caramels, chocolates, and other French sweets.

Barbès, which rests on the northwest corner of the 9th is a neighborhood that’s getting more comfortable with itself. The semi-swanky Brasserie Barbès opened, which screamed “gentrification,” but there are still young men at the métro station across the street, asking passers-by under their breath if they’re interested in counterfeit cigarettes or Lacoste shirts. If you’ll permit me to use a cliché; this part of Paris is sometimes referred to as “the Brooklyn of Paris,” so Parisians really don’t have to take the L to Williamsburg to get their fix. It’s just a métro ride away.

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I’ve been loitering around the neighborhood for years and I love it. (Although a friend had his iPhone lifted at the Barbès métro station, which was offered back to him…for a price.) One of the good things about the rise of interest in this neighborhood is that a number of very good places to eat have opened, which reflect a more casual style of eating and dining out that appeals to Parisians these days. One such place is Merguez & Pastrami delicatessen.

Merguez & Pastrami deli in Paris

The delicatessen is a European concept. The word is translated from the German delikatessen, which conjoins two German words, delikat and essen – delightful food, the first part of which is said to derive from the French word, délicatesse, or ‘a delicacy.’ So it’s natural since France is part of Europe, to have a delicatessen that fits right into the capital. And I’m glad someone has finally done it.

Merguez & Pastrami deli, in Paris

What struck me was that instead of reproducing something from New York or Montreal, David Azoulay created a Paris delicatessen, with a menu of food that hones close to Eastern Europe – homemade bagels, and smoked meat – as well as dishes from North Africa and the Middle East, cultures which are part of the rich ethnic mix of France, just like hamburgers (Germany), pizza (Italy), and cheesecake (Greece) reflect the cultural mélange that makes up the United States.

David Azoulay of Merguez & Pastrami deli in Paris

David was born in Paris, to a father who was Moroccan and an Italian mother. When I heard of Merguez & Pastrami, I mentally put it in my mind as a place I wanted to visit, intrigued by the name, which combines two things I like very much: spicy merguez sausage and smoked beef. Then one day when I was doing errands in the neighborhood, I passed it, stopped in, and grabbed a card. A few nights later, I found myself at at table for a post-cocktail dinner, after a tiki drink at Dirty Dick.

Merguez & Pastrami deli in Paris

I appreciated how the menu at Merguez & Pastrami is organized with smaller plates (entrées) for sharing, and larger plates (assiettes composées) – which are also good for sharing (if you’re like me and want to taste a lot of things) – that revolve around a theme. Some highlight pastrami, smoked in-house, others around merguez, or fafalel, which is perfect for vegetarians. We had a great time at dinner, and I liked it so much, I went back a few days later for lunch and to meet David.

Housemade bread at Merguez & Pastrami deli in Paris

I congratulated David on creating a restaurant that is just the right place for the various kinds of foods that are available in Paris to come together on the same table. Middle Eastern food is getting better-represented at mid-range places, in addition to the ubiquitous kebab stands, but it’s rare to find the food made in-house, as it is here.

Soon the merguez will be offered as meatballs (which I have a recipe for in my book, My Paris Kitchen), which are coming on the next menu, to make them more appealing. The rosy sausages have somewhat of a downscale reputation in France, associated with meals wolfed down after a long night of beer-fueled revelry, along with piles of frites stuffed into bread with the sausages. When I asked David why he was reimagining them for his deli, he said, “Because you’re American,” presumably because they don’t have a the same connotation to us.

Merguez & Pastrami deli in Paris

Like fresh corn, another food that doesn’t get the same adulation that it does in the U.S., the French are, however, taking to sweet potatoes more and more, which are often available at markets that cater to Africans. But when they are cooked as “frites” until crisp, concentrating their natural sweetness, and paired with tangy yogurt sauce, it’s very hard not to like them, no matter where you’re from.

Merguez & Pastrami deli in Paris

David spent a year working at the soon-to-close Carnegie Deli in New York, and named his oversized pastrami sandwich after the place. The Carnegie is loaded up with pastrami, along with horseradish mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes. I’m normally a purist about pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, preferring just meat (and lots of it) piled between two slices of warm rye bread with only a swipe of mustard, but understanding that this is a Parisian deli, I’m not surprised by lettuce and tomato. The housemade bread it’s served on is another plus in its favor.

Merguez & Pastrami deli

There’s also Ruben’s Cousin, a nod to the original, but with beet mayonnaise, cabbage and cheddar melted over the pastrami. The Yaffo sandwich (below) leaves the falafels on the rue de Rosiers in the dust. Freshly fried chickpea fritters are packed in warm, housemade pita with harissa (Tunisian hot sauce) eggplant, tomatoes and tahini.

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The sister sandwich, Sabich, is a heap of hummus, fried onions, egg, cilantro pesto, eggplant, pumpkin compote and tahini – whew! Bonus: If you’re a vegetarian, there’s plenty for you to enjoy here.

Like everything else on the menu, from the bread to the smoked meat, all of the desserts are fait maison, made on the premises.

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The seasonal apple Tatin pavlova was, admittedly, hard to finish off after lunch. But I did the best I could, diving into the caramelized apple and pecan-filled meringues with as much gusto as I could muster. Rather than being an overload of sweet, David pointed out that the caramel “cures” the crème fraîche, and balances the two nicely. Me? I was digging out the perfectly caramelized apples, doing my best with the oversized dessert, which is probably best for sharing.

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The delicatessen makes a great stop for lunch, especially if you’ve made the walk to Montmartre or need to revive after a trip to the Marché Saint-Pierre fabric store, which I’ve braved a few times. (Tip: Even if you’re not into fabric, this multi-level store sells bistro-style tablecloths and napkins at very good prices. Plus they have probably the last elevator in Paris with an attendant in it, to take you up and down. Another tip: Don’t touch the elevator buttons.)

coffee at Merguez & Pastrami deli in Paris

Merguez & Pastrami is a true original: a Parisian deli, which isn’t a copy of its New York or Montreal counterparts, but reflects the diversity of flavors and tastes of the French capital. The deli is getting a reboot soon, with some new dishes on offer, with many favorites remaining in place on the menu. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming next.

Merguez & Pastrami
57 Rue Rodier (9th)
Tél: 01 77 13 55 57
Métro: Anvers


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25 comments

  • October 14, 2016 1:31pm

    If the food is anywhere near as good as it looks, it’s got to be amazing. And that bread! But seriously, those are some gigantic sandwiches.
    BTW, have you seen the movie “Delicatessen”? A French film from 1991. Dark humor. Very dark. Very bizarre.

  • October 14, 2016 2:17pm

    Oh my!! That is my kind of place. What an amazing global mix of all the best food cultures in my book. Wow!

  • Little wave
    October 14, 2016 4:12pm

    Yummo.
    Sounds like a very Israeli joint. The Yaffo and Sabich ring a bell. I wonder….

  • Gayle
    October 14, 2016 5:48pm

    God, you’re killing me. I had nothing in the house to bring for lunch, so I fished at the bottom of the barrel and only have a PB&J sammy. Now, I’m salivating…but not for PB&J.

  • October 14, 2016 5:51pm

    Hard to top great deli food (I was born in the Bronx). I’m a pastrami lover. Love the apple Tatin pavlova.

  • Leslie Bonner
    October 14, 2016 6:03pm

    How wonderful it looks! Another place to try in Paris.We just had the pastrami sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli in New York and I’m glad I got to experience it before returning to California.

  • shanna
    October 14, 2016 6:41pm

    Oooooooh! I’m so hungry now!

  • Susan Allen
    October 14, 2016 7:24pm

    Carnegie deli! Oh my! I must go before the end of the year

  • Alice
    October 14, 2016 9:48pm

    So beautiful photos!!

  • October 14, 2016 11:16pm

    this looks too good to eat it :D

  • Susan B
    October 14, 2016 11:32pm

    I saw they were working to open up the last time I was over there–looks delicious! How the food scene has improved in that neighborhood!

    • October 15, 2016 12:34pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, the transformation of that area has been interesting as a lot of good food places, like this, have opened up. I think because people are looking for well-prepared food served without a lot of fuss at a reasonable price point, and are into a more casual style of dining these days, it’s been good for the neighborhood and the city to have more places like this.

  • Sally
    October 15, 2016 1:32am

    Those Pavs look and sound delicious. Paris is just divine for a foodie.
    I’m sorry the pedants keep poking their oars in.

  • Pam
    October 15, 2016 4:18am

    xxoo one of my favorite posts, I love the diversity and evolution of tastes .

  • Abigail
    October 15, 2016 9:37am

    Thanks! It looks great !!
    Is this area safe during the after noon? About 4 years ago, even the Metro there didn’t look safe and we left before going out to the street.

    • October 15, 2016 12:31pm
      David Lebovitz

      Parts of the neighborhood north of the restaurant can be off-putting (which is why I mentioned some of the activities that take place around the Barbès métro station) so like any big city, it’s best to not walk around areas near public transit with valuables and so forth. There is also the nearby Pigalle area which used to be a red-light district, but has been transformed due to a lot of bars and restaurants that have opened up and parts of the 9th are very expensive for real estate and there are some beautiful streets and buildings there. A lot of tourists go to the area because of Sacré Cœur church and Montmartre and the area around the restaurant and rue des Martyrs are, in my opinion, not unsafe areas to walk around, especially in the afternoon.

  • Virginia Karanitsas Howard
    October 15, 2016 7:06pm

    Once again you have me sighing outloud! The combination of food, all I love in one place then to go fabric shopping! Heaven!

  • Katy
    October 15, 2016 11:02pm

    Oh, David. Once again you have made me so very happy. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  • June2
    October 16, 2016 3:08pm

    Wow, super creative food! “Carnegie” is an awesome pun-ny name for a twist on pastrami. The pav tatin is genius for Paris and looks amazing! Also, is that like, a pita BUN? Would love to know how to make whatever sandwich that whole concoction is! Last, pumpkin compote sounds intriguing!

  • Shell
    October 16, 2016 8:33pm

    it looked like the bread David was holding was a bialy. Damn, now I want one.

  • Lori
    October 17, 2016 6:02pm

    I discovered the 9th the last time I visited Paris and loved it! We enjoyed our meal at quaint little La Plume so much we returned for a second visit and were equally delighted.

  • Elizabeth
    October 17, 2016 6:06pm

    If I had only read this before I returned home from Paris! I was right there, at the Anvers Metro on Friday. I want to thank you for your wonderful blog and all the great information on Paris. I was at G Detou when they unlocked the door on Saturday morning. I loaded up on Edmond Fallot mustard and pistachios – thank you for the tip. Rue Montorgueil was wonderful as well. I love your descriptions of your life and, of course your cookbooks, thank you for sharing so much with all of us envious readers.

  • Jake
    October 18, 2016 11:57pm

    “J’ai faim
    J’ai faim
    J’ai très, très faim.”

    – A little ditty that my brother and I came up with in our teens. And this post make me very hungry!

  • October 20, 2016 9:03am

    Beautiful, looks great!

  • Cate Lawrence
    November 3, 2016 7:39pm

    looks delish! I too miss fresh corn, it mostly comes vacuum packed here…

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