La Cuisine Mexicaine: Paris vs Southwest US

When I think about home one of the first things that comes to mind is Mexican food. No, there is no hidden Hispanic heritage beneath my pinkish skin and blonde hair. There is, however, a deep love for the cuisine and culture of Mexico. Throughout my entire childhood, my family made Mexican food several times a week. Every few years or so, we would have a “Mexican Thanksgiving,” filling our plates not with turkey and cranberry sauce, but with enchiladas and guacamole. Mexican food is my comfort food.

Naturally, moving to Tucson, Ariz. for college only meant my knowledge of and love for this cuisine increased by 200 percent. Tucson is a utopia for Mexican food connoisseurs.

Paris, on the other hand, is not.

Here, Mexican style foods are part of the expensive, foreign section in the grocery store, so tortillas, salsa, and chips costs twice as much as they would in Arizona. I have yet to find refried beans, and I had to ask my mother to send me some in a care package. After weeks of searching, I finally found a Mexican food restaurant in my neighborhood. There’s a Chipotle in Paris…(the ellipses indicate sarcasm and eye-rolling).

My Mexican food craving finally bested me this week, so two friends from Arizona and I decided to try out Casa Palenque, a restaurant in the 6th arrondissement. We split three dishes, critiquing every one. This brings me to…

El Enfrentamiento: Los Hermanitos vs. Casa Palenque

Los Hermanitos is a popular Mexican restaurant in Farmington, New Mexico. My family and I stopped here on our way back to Arizona from Colorado this summer. Here, I enjoyed one of the best chile rellenos I’ve ever had– dripping in red sauce, covered in cheese, full of spice. I got more than my money’s worth.

In general, Mexican food from the Southwest United States comes in large portions, and the main entrée is usually accompanied by refried beans, Spanish rice and a small heap of lettuce and tomato, chopped. The cuisine is not “Tex-Mex,” but New Mexican. The dishes are moderately spicy, and guacamole and sour cream top each bite. Sopapilla, which is similar to Indian fry bread, is a common desert.

Paris’s Casa Palenque, in the 6th arrondissement, does Mexican food with a flagrant French flair. Here, my friends and I tried the guacamole plate (pictured above), the green veggie enchiladas and the chicken mole. Each dish was relatively small compared to what you would get in the Southwest. The rice came in perfectly formed circles, and the beans (black) didn’t seep into the enchiladas like they would in Arizona or New Mexico. In other words, these plates were very typically French.

Frenchiness aside, the meal was tasty. The guacamole was flavorful and had a great texture. The enchiladas were prepared in a more taco-like style, but they were by far my favorite dish. The chicken mole was too sweet, but I still found myself lapping up the left-over sauce with my finger. The downside, however, was the price. The portions were disproportionate to the cost, which is something I’ve come to expect that from Parisian restaurants.  This is, of course, a cultural difference. Americans are infamous for their ridiculously large portions, cars, houses, everything. Still, I had hoped for a little more from Casa Palenque.

The verdict? 

There’s no doubt the Southwest does Mexican food better than Paris does. But at least Paris isn’t entirely void of Mexican food, and at least I’ll be able to get my fix when I’m craving something I can’t cook in my own kitchen. Mexican food is, after all, very close to home for me, and being without it is not an option.

To decide for yourself: 

Casa Palenque 

22 rue de l’Arrivée, 75015, Paris, FRANCE

Metro: Montparnasse- Bienvenue

Los Hermanitos 

2400 West Main Street, Farmington, New Mexico, USA

¡Buen provecho!

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