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Make yourself at home
After landing in Paris on a Friday late-morning, lunch was in order. I knew days (read: weeks) before where that meal would be. It's a little place in the 11th arrondissement that seats 20 at most. The floor is done in jaggedy, multi-colored Terrazzo tiles. Desserts of the day sit on top a counter that separates the open kitchen from the dining room. On one side of the space, two makeshift wooden shelves stock a small but thoughtful selection of natural wines.
The menu that day had exactly three entrées and two plats. In fact, the dessert section had the most to offer, with four sweet things and an assortment of cheese—an indication that it would be silly to forgo that part of the meal. The seasonal restaurant is run by a husband-and-wife team, with the former in charge of savory and the latter overseeing sweet. The formula here is simple, and thus for diners, the expectation is straightforward: at least one item from each part of the menu, some wine, and at the end, some coffee. Order more (and ideally, share) if you're not dining alone. If you're with at least three—which, luckily, I was—have at the whole menu.
For us, that meant savory labneh with za'atar (served with mini pockets of whole wheat pita); bright green asparagus with tahini and bottarga; and a sunny-side-up egg with feta, shiitake, and some sort of shoots. Then, a seared piece of flaky white fish on a bed of super-fresh fava beans and haricot verts side by side juicy-tender lamb meatballs served over chanterelles, carrots, and jus.
We were running a bit behind schedule due to a delay at JFK, meaning we were the last party to sit for lunch that day. With the service period winding down, the room was peaceful. Yet Moko—not just the owner and head baker, but also the host, server, and resident personality—kept things lively. An expat living in Paris, she transitions into English with magnetism. She's warm, funny, and immensely hospitable and she makes cookies that are insanely delicious. A Moko cookie has a dense center that's soft and gooey and edges that are cracked and crispy. As we lingered over a few espressos, a couple of cookies (miso tahini and multi-grain chocolate chip), and a slice of rustic, apricot galette, my mom tried to convince her to produce a cookbook.
"Really?" Moko laughed. She was flattered but for the most part, uninterested. "Why make a cookbook?" she said. "You don't make money, so what is my reason?" All that mattered to her was making good food that people could come eat and have a nice time while they were at it. If anything else, she could use a bigger apartment, she joked. Her place across the street had become too small with a few young kids now in tow. It was funny to learn that, because to us, this was her home, and we were dining at her kitchen table.
5 Rue Saint-Bernard, 75011 Paris, France
+33 9 80 81 82 85
Related and recommended:
A lovely profile on the trailblazing chef Raquel Carena of Le Baratin [MAD Feed]
David Lebovitz (another expat) on Mokonuts [davidlebovitz.com]
Can't say I disagree: The Best Bistro in Paris is Run by the Levha Sisters [Bloomberg]
V good, v useful: The Eater Guide to Paris [Eater]
Also great: Paris City Guide [Bon Appétit]
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