Le Potager du Marais

Tel: +33 1 42 74 24 66
Address: 22, rue Rambuteau, 75003 Paris
Cuisine Type: Vegetarian
Metro: Rambuteau

In a country famous for foie gras and bouillabaisse, the geranium and ivy-decked awning of Le Potager du Marais proudly serves only organic, macrobiotic vegetarian food. And it’s not just wheatgrass shakes, but tasty, hearty fare.

From appetizer to dessert, the lengthy menu serves up dishes that range from basic pasta to French-ified Indian dishes, all sans a trace of meat.

We got to the Potager (Vegetable Patch) around 10pm on a summer Saturday, and the place was packed. My companion and I snagged the only vacant seats at the skinny cafeteria-style communal table, a trend that is picking up in the United States, as well. The owner, a tall, thin Moroccan named Stéphane, personally pulled out the chair and table section so I could slide in.

The music and lighting were soft, and our neighbors accommodating. The menu, however, took center-stage. After three days of having only one option besides salad in any restaurant we’d visited, the variety made my head spin.

To preserve our sanity, we opted for the prix fixe menu. For €20 we could get any appetizer, one of several entrees and a choice of five desserts. For starters, we chose the eggplant caviar and the Potage du Jour – a zucchini soup, creamy but delicate. With that, we ate chunks of fresh rye bread, and sipped from our half pichet of Hérault Rouge (€7).
For the main course, I chose the Croustillant de Légumes – what the English waitress described as a veggie patty – plus a fresh carrot and cabbage salad with horseradish dressing and sides of squash and spiced spinach (€13 if I hadn’t opted for the prix fixe). My companion decided to try the next most French thing on the menu: the ravioli basilic (€11). While we were waiting, our next table received their order – the stir-fried tofu (€11). The menu’s pedestrian description of the dish was unjustified: sizzling on a platter flanked by crispy potatoes and broccoli, it smelled and looked mouth-wateringly yummy.

The croustillant was rather good, the vegetables were tender and fresh; the patty milder but more textured than I expected. The red-sauce smothered ravioli, however, was unremarkable, with merely a light sprinkling of basil flakes. With some of my horseradish-flavored carrots, it was tastier. The basil pasta proved to be pretty basic, the cheese-stuffed ravioli mild to just this side of bland.

Dessert, however, was perfect. The chocolate mousse was divine: rich, dark, dense and light at the same time, bliss on my tongue. And we savored the second dessert just as much: a whole pear, dipped in a nearly bitter froth of chocolate cream, sprinkled with sliced almonds. The sweet fibrous fruit crunched and swirled with the almonds and thick chocolate in a mélange that could overwhelm some palates.

The dessert choices feature several options including the ubiquitous cheese plate, chocolate mousse, and compote (all €6) and apple Tarte Tatin flambée (€10.50). The starters range between €6 and €8.50, and they have a wide variety of large salads, all €10.50.

Wines are limited but decent (3 reds, 3 whites, 1 rosé, all French) and you can order by glass (approximately €5.50), 25 cl half pichet (€8.50) or a full pitcher (either €11 or €15). They also feature several juice “cocktails” and you can drink up a healthy blend of carrot, ginger and apple juice for €6.50.

We left Le Potager du Marais happy and full. I’m sure I will visit it again for my fix of fresh vegetarian food. Only next time, I’ll set aside any pretensions of wanting Parisian food and choose the adventure of whatever looks and smells best!