I’m not sure if this is a strictly Parisian phenomenon or if it happens everywhere, but Paris is full of restaurants and food shops owned by former bankers or other high-paid professionals who became fed up with their gilded cage and put their savings into a new career, often with admirable results, thanks to in-depth research on the chosen cuisine or products, quality ingredients and good management.
Eats Thyme is a perfect example of this trend. It was founded by former investment banker Carla Rebeiz, who dreamed of updating Lebanese cuisine without messing too much with its traditions and “irresistible charm.” For Eats Thyme (yes, another nonsense name in English – where is David Jaggard when you need him?), she sources za’atar (a mix of spices usually including wild oregano, thyme, sumac and toasted sesame) from a women’s cooperative in Lebanon and offers vegetarian and vegan choices on the menu.
Eats Thyme, which she hopes to turn into an international brand, opened in Paris during the pandemic and quickly developed takeout and delivery services. On the day we had lunch there on the sunny terrace, a cherry-tomato plant was growing in a pot on each table, a nice touch.
The highlight of the meal was definitely the shared mann’oushe (flatbread) in its simplest version, with za’atar, which we all adored. It is also available with a variety of different toppings, like a pizza, including labneh (strained yogurt); spicy sausage, cheese and pickles; seasonal vegetables and tahini; etc. They would probably make a great meal by themselves when ordered for one person.
I had one of the daily specials: a Lebanese-style moussaka in its meaty version, served atop riz aux vermicelles (a mix of rice and pasta). The meltingly tender eggplant had nice crispy skin, and while the chopped beef was barely present, the dish was still rich and delicious.
One of my friends had the Baladi salad, which is found in many Middle Eastern countries. This refreshing version was made with quinoa, seasonal vegetables and labneh. It hit the spot for her.
The other friend ordered a Caesar salad because it suited his mood, but he didn’t get very excited about it. My advice: skip the “international” dishes here and stick to Lebanese.
We all drank a wonderful, not-too-sweet lemonade flavored with orange-blossom water. Desserts were a slightly dry cake called sfouf, made with anise, turmeric (hence its color) and sesame, and a lovely pannacotta-like mouhalabie, also flavored with orange-blossom water and topped with chopped pistachios.
The service couldn’t have been friendlier and more efficient. However, I didn’t appreciate the rule that customers can’t stay more than an hour at lunchtime and more than two hours in the evening, but let’s hope that it only applies during the current pandemic restrictions. In any case, we weren’t asked to leave even though we probably overstayed our hour.
That and the disposable cardboard dishes gave the experience the feel of a quality fast-food restaurant, but at lunchtime, when people have to get back to work (goodbye to the traditional three-course lunch with wine!), that can be excused.
Carefully selected Lebanese grocery products are on sale inside, including little packets of za’atar, with the usual high prices for this kind of place.
I’ll definitely go back, however, for more of that addictive za’atar mann’oushe – in fact, I’d like to have some right now and every day hereafter.Favorite