In the land of meat and cheese (that would be Paris) the fact that there are numerous places popping up that serve innovative, vegetarian-friendly fare is an accomplishment, and music to any Intolerant’s ears. There are enough establishments that Parisians have even devised a whole new culinary category to lump them into: biocool. There are gluten free bakeries, vegan-ish canteens and swank meatless restaurants that strive to make a solid turnover while serving organic food that leaves one foaming at the mouth and begging for more.
Soya is one of Paris’ newest biocool additions. It’s meatless. It’s organic. It’s pretty damn cool. Located in the 11th arrondissement in an old atelier close to Avenue de la République (20 rue de la Pierre Levée), the emphasis at Soya is on quality as opposed to quantity. With a handful of dishes it seems that the menu is thoughtfully drawn down with a creative mix – salads, curries, soups, tofu and tempeh-laden mains and desserts – to choose from.
The minimalist and industrial interior is composed of white walls, huge blackboards, old-school wooden furniture, cement floors and metallic accents. The staff are to-the-point, but friendly overall, and know their menu inside-out. Where Soya gets bonus points is that the kitchen seems quite accommodating to people who are vegan or have a host of intolerances. If you need to know if a dish has dairy/gluten/eggs/nuts/other allergen in it, just ask your server and he/she will help you in making a memorable selection for your meal.
My dining companions and I settled on a combination of organic wine, pumpkin soup, hummus, lasagne with side salad, and a quinoa, tofu/tempeh mousse and squash purée concoction. My friends – big meat eaters and lovers of all things dairy – were a bit skeptical at the outset (I’ll keep their commentary to myself), but when the food arrived and we began to dig in it was clear how mindsets and allegiances shifted.
One bite at a time.
The pumpkin soup was hearty, warming and wonderfully spiced. Laced with a bit of tofu, it had a lovely lingering aftertaste that was pleasant on the palate. I stole a bit of the pumpkin purée, quinoa and tofu mousse from my friend’s plate and it was delicious. Nutty and savory it gave me plenty of ideas on how to spice up the quinoa dishes I prepare at home.
The hummus however, was the item that surprised me the most as it’s a pretty standard dish that doesn’t vary much regardless of where you travel. I feel pretty safe in saying that’s Soya’s take on hummus was some of the best I’ve ever had…and remember: I live in the Middle East. It was a generous helping of mashed chickpeas that came with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and parsley, several slices of cucumber and a bit of sweet potato for good measure. What I really loved though was the addition of cashew nuts, a few tablespoons of lemony olive oil and a drizzle of biological soy sauce that momentarily confused my tastebuds, but took the dish to a whole different (and rather enjoyable) level.
For a demi-pichet of wine, three mains, a starter and one dessert the bill clocked in at a modest 70 EUR. Not bad for a mid-week outing in Paris. The truly priceless part of the evening however, was listening to my carnivorous, dairy-imbibing friends jabber on about the place and how they needed to plan another dinner there sooner rather than later.
It seems that Soya has become the vegetarian kid on the block that others really want to befriend.
Definitely way too cool for school.