Cure for the Lonely Heart: Le Danton

I have an embarrassing confession to make. It’s really embarrassing, but here I go. Despite the fact that I’m in Paris, perhaps the most exciting city in the world, I managed to spend most of the day in bed, sleeping and being lazy. Yes, I had wasted away a full day of my precious vacation in a tiny hotel room, watching a video game-loving (and very lovable) teenager “make” himself into a Tae Kwon Do master in French-dubbed version of MTV’s Made! It was a lethal combination of fatigue, jet-lag, and loneliness that kicked me to the bottom of this sloth. It was also a double-edge sword because the more I felt terrible about myself, the more I wanted to stay in bed and do nothing.  I missed my boyfriend and my family back home, and thinking about all the work I left behind made me want to hide under the sheet and cry.

Then it hit me that I am on vacation, which meant that I can do whatever I wanted to do, however I wanted to do it, without any guilt. If sleeping and being lazy was what my body and mind needed, then that’s what I’m supposed to do, despite the fact that I’m 6,000 miles away from home. And work will always be there, whether I stress over it or not so why bother. After I made peace with myself, I felt so much better, like a ton of weight had lifted off my shoulder. That’s when I decided to peel myself off the bed, take a hot shower, and go out for dinner – my first meal of the day.

David Lebovitz, an American cookbook author and a pastry chef who now lives in Paris, said in his book, The Sweet Life in Paris, that the moment he shaved and put on a nicely ironed shirt just to go a few steps from his door to the dumpster to throw away trash, he knew he had become a Parisian. Although I’m no close to calling myself a local, I know exactly what he meant. Just to go across the street to a neighborhood brasserie for quick dinner, I too took a long shower, put on a full make-up, did my hair, and wore my favorite black sweater that I bought just for this trip!

I had walked by this restaurant, La Danton, a several times yesterday and was very curious to try it. It was very well-lit and lively, with solo diners and large parties sharing good meals and good time. The menu outside also showed promise for some delicious eats, so I walked right in! I sat in the small table facing the glass window, overlooking the busy intersection. I love people watching. When Briana and I were in Paris last time, we would sit for hours to watch people go by and make up funny stories about them. Several things that I noticed tonight – that Parisians love black pea coats, and many of them still smoke cigarettes! All restaurants now prohibit indoor smoking but there are still lots of smokers outside.

I was in the mood to try heavy dishes tonight but knowing that this was my first meal of the day, I settled on something light. Yes, I ordered a Salad Nicoise (surprise, surprise).  It was perfect because it was light enough not to upset my still-sleeping stomach, while still providing some flavor and substance along the way.

I must say that the salad here was much better than the one I had at Le Mondrian last night. The dressing was much more flavorful, and I loved that it came with a bed of boiled potatoes and some olives. Although the anchovies weren’t as tangy as the other ones, I was very satisfied with the overall dish.

The wait staff who took care of my table was really sweet and attentive, making sure that I had enough baguettes at all times. In total, I probably ate an entire loaf of the French bread because it was so delicious! I was pleasantly surprised how delicious Boudeaux wine was since I remembered not liking it much in the past. I ordered 25 ml of the red wine which was about two glasses. A nice couple sitting next to me offered some wine of theirs. They said that they couldn’t finish it and wanted to share it with me! Score!

For dessert, I had the luscious homemade pear tart with fig ice cream which made me melt! I washed them all down with a rich cup of café latte.

This meal was exactly what I needed tonight. And thanks to the curiously strong espresso, coupled with 20 hours of sleep, I ended up staying awake all night. I have no idea how my body will react after literally no rest.  Please wish me luck as I have a lot planned to the day, to make up for the lost time.

Two more days until my best Maya arrives in Paris!  I can’t wait!

Le Danton
103 Boulevard Saint-Germain 75006 Paris
Metro: Odeon

Sweet Homecoming: Le Mondrian, St. Germain

After I settled in the hotel room and took a few minutes of rest, I strolled out to the streets of Paris to do some window shopping before dinner. It was still raining outside and the neighborhood was less lively than I remembered. I learned later that many of the restaurants and shops are closed on a Monday, which explained why the streets were a little calmer than before. Also, it was around 7:00 p.m. which was still considered early for Parisians. Many places actually don’t open until 8:00 p.m. for dinner.

After walking around aimlessly for about an hour, I spotted an adorable bistro that looked friendly enough for a solo diner like me. Dining alone has not been an issue for me for a quite some time (although it used to be my biggest fear in life before I tacked it with my previous European trip) but it still takes a bit of courage to go in to an eating establishment by myself. It’s not that I care about what other people think about me eating alone but it’s still something. I always check out the atmosphere to make sure that I would feel comfortable dining there.

Le Mondrian, located on busy Boulevard St. Germain, is a type of French bistro that you would see in movies, with cozy outdoor patios and all. It is so cozy and lovely, that I simply had to go in. I also saw many solo diners inside so I knew that I would feel at home here. Unlike the restaurants in the states, it looks like you can seat yourself anywhere in Paris, so I took the small round table that faced the window in the back. After watching people walk by, I realized that this was the exact same restaurant that my then-travel partner Briana and I had our first meal in Paris back in 2004. And coincidently, I had ordered the exact same thing – Salad Nicoise with a glass of red wine. No wonder this place felt very familiar. I guess the more things change, the more stay the same.

It was nice to return to one of the first places that started my addiction to this salad, piled with greens, haricots verts (a fancy term for those thin green beans), tuna, boiled potatoes, black olives, tomatoes, boiled eggs, and most importantly, pickled anchovies, served with vinaigrette dressing. My first encounter with the salad was in the South France, in Nice (where it originated, hence the name), and I had tried Salad Nicoise at almost every restaurant I visited in Paris and in the states ever since. And I intend to do it again on this leg of the trip — a quest to find the best Salad Nicoise in the world.  🙂

The Salad Nicoise at Le Mondrian was good but not anything special, just as I remembered. The best part, however, was the anchovies, which was very, very vinegary – exactly the way I like it!  It actually reminded me of well-marinated saba (mackerel) at a sushi restaurant. I thought the dressing was more on the bland side (and I wanted more of it) and I was a little disappointed that it came with no boiled potatoes or olives, but all in all, it was a great way to start my Salad Nicoise adventure.

On the way home, I stopped by a crepe stand in front of the Odeon Metro station and treated myself to a Nutella crepe for dessert. Of course, this was after I stopped by Gerard Mulot patisseries, conveniently located across from my hotel, to pick up several macarons.  If you didn’t know, in addition to Salad Nicoise, I’m on a mission to find the world’s best maracon as well.  🙂

Le Mondrian
148 Boulevard St Germain, 75006 Paris
Metro: Mabillon or Odeon

Vegetarian Feast for My Sister’s Birthday!


I’ve been meat-free for more than a month now and I’m happy to report that I haven’t cheated yet. I thought I wouldn’t last a week on this new diet but it seems like semi-vegetarian lifestyle actually suites well with me (I call it “semi” because I still eat fish. Come on, I can’t be that good!).

I hosted a birthday party for my sister the other day and presented a meat-free dinner to a skeptical crowd. Although we had a couple of meat-and-potato guys, dishes were a hit. Even the manly men enjoyed a fresh Nicoise Salad …


Insalata Caprese …


Crimini Mushroom with Gorgonzola Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes …


Baked pasta with cream sauce and Greek Salad.


Happy birthday, Saori!