grains of madness from Manzili

Researchers at the Natural History Museum are taken aback. For the past few weeks, a crowd has thronged every lunchtime in front of a small counter at the exit of the Jardin des Plantes, on the rue Cuvier side, in Paris. Two young women with soft voices and emollient smiles distribute good and bad points: “Sorry, we are overbooked”, “Oh no, you won’t be on the terrace, it’s the booking algorithm that decides”, or : “I’ll ask you to be patient on the side.” You have forty-five minutes in advance of your reservation. “

The couscous mesfouf is topped with small hard-boiled quail eggs, sprinkled with sugar, sprinkled with raisins. Served as an accompaniment to fish, it turns around to turn into a dessert.

People do it with a smile and without complaining. They want to have lunch at Mohamed Cheikh’s! Champion of the 2021 “Top Chef” final, he opens for the summer a restaurant with vegetal decoration and Mediterranean cuisine: Manzili, “my house” in literary Arabic. Algerian by origin, having grown up in Fontenay-sous-Bois with, among others, a grandmother who masters the art of couscous, he worked, in disorder, under the leadership of Alain Senderens, Eric Frechon, Yannick Alléno and Philippe Labbé, at the delicious time when he officiated at Shangri-La.

For now, lounge music pierces the eardrums. The bodies of the waiters wander in rhythm between the tables. Despite the cool wind, summer vibrates with all its might. Customers draw their cell phones to scan the QR code which will give access to the menu. The average age is around the radiant thirties. Two girls nod in time, toast with a pink cocktail. Click, selfie. At the next table, lovebirds hold hands while consulting their smartphones. When the waiter approaches them, they are ready for the order.

Treat in semolina

The dishes are to be shared. The five green asparagus, however, seem quite alone in their rectangular plate. Roasted they should be, softened they will be. The basil mayonnaise is “why not”, without ruffling anyone. Because it is hungry, a piece of bread with olives is broken in order to sauce. Disappointment, it looks industrial. However, customers still have the banana. And even, a young woman sways at the arrival of her plate.

Good humor is contagious. So when the grilled lean makes its appearance under “its chlorophyll juice, peas, candied lemon”, joy is in order. It lasts under the influence of the acidity of the lemon, the fish with a barbecue taste and the peas which we love the season. The couscous mesfouf is topped with small hard-boiled quail eggs, sprinkled with sugar, sprinkled with raisins.

Couscous mesfouf with raisins from the restaurant Manzili, in Paris.

Served as an accompaniment to fish, it turns around to turn into a dessert. This traditional Algerian dish is ingenious and succulent. The Raïm, an alcohol-free cocktail made from grape juice, lemon and fresh rosemary, supports it in this sweet and savory double game. The smile is no longer feigned, the sway is real. You just needed a bowl of semolina to be won over. Sometimes there is no need to show off.

The address Manzili, 47, rue Cuvier, Paris 5e. Phone. : 01-40-79-80-72. Open daily from noon until October 3.

The essential The couscous mesfouf with raisins.

The best location The 207, perfect for four people who want to hear each other speak.

L’addition Around 50 €.

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