Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Dining in the Latin Quarter

After a day of wandering around Paris, lugging around ungainly luggage and climbing all over the Eiffel Tower, Squishy and I felt like we deserved something of an interesting dinner. Since we were heading to Shakespeare and Co. anyway, we thought we'd poke around the Latin Quarter to find some grub.

The narrow lanes that make up the Latin Quarter are now stuffed to the gills with souvenir shops and ethnic restaurants, with doormen cajoling passersby to dine in their establishment. Since all restaurants are required to post a menu outside, if you so much as pause in front of a menu, the doorman immediately jumps on you to tell you how wonderful you are and how fantastic his menu is. We found ourselves in front of a Greek restaurant called Mythos, and enticed by the menu and the promise of a free kir, we shrugged and went inside. The doorman celebrated by tossing a saucer on the ground. "It's tradition!" he explained. The cobblestones in front of the door were already littered with a handful of broken saucers.

We were the first diners of the evening, but our waiter was quick to explain that it's always a bit slow before 8:00 (it was about 15 minutes before) and soon the live music would start. We sipped our kirs and poured over the menu.

The ambiance of this little place was fantastic - the low ceiling was packed with herbs hanging down, and once the music started - one guy on a traditional Bouzouki accompanied by another on guitar - the place came alive, with the waitstaff singing and clapping along.

Our appetizers were tremendous; my tzatziki was oustanding, and Squishy had a sampler of different Greek sauces. A few more people started to arrive as our main dishes arrived. My beef kabob was perfect, and Squishy's lamb was so tender she could cut it with a fork. We washed it all down with Greek beer.

Meanwhile, the action outside is starting to heat up. It seems the Greek place across the lane is in hot competition with our guy out front. The door swings open to invite passersby in as the musicians smile and animate themselves, until the door is unceremoniously slammed back shut and the musicians turn their attention back to the diners. Stacks of saucers are brought up to the door from the kitchen, and every once in a while there is a resounding crash! as another saucer bites the dust.

Back inside, a woman is dancing along with the music. This seems to be her only job; I never saw her lift a finger, other than to bring a cigarette to her lips. She looks just slightly bored, in fact. But things are about to get a bit more interesting.

An American woman who was dining with her teenaged son was invited to join the dancing lady on the "dance floor" (a small area in front of the bar), and suddenly it became clear that we would have to join her - our desserts were held ransom. Squishy and I looked each other in the eye, and smirks appeared. Yeah, we'll play your games, Mr. Greek, you just hang on to that Baklava!

After an intermidably long song, during which American Woman lost all sense of propriety and rushed out the door to tell passersby what fun she was having, Squishy was attacked by the Dancing Lady. I was about to go back to the table when I noticed they had locked arms and Dancing Lady was motioning me to do the same with Squishy. Uh oh. I know what this means. I locked my other arm with American Woman, and off we went, starting off slowly, and finally increasing with such speed that American Woman had to drop out and I ended up dizzy and sweaty.

We fumbled our way back to our table where I was awarded with my Baklava and Squishy enjoyed her yogurt and honey.

My only complaint about the whole thing is that they were overly reluctant to let us leave. They tried to ply us with more drinks if we'd only dance one more time, but after two hours (which, admittedly, is the normal amount of dining out) we were ready to head on. Though our waiter teased us (Him:"Why won't you stay?" Me: "We have somewhere to go!" Him: "WHERE?!") and the place really was just beginning to rock, we got a little annoyed that it took someone fifteen minutes to come run my card after we'd received the check.

So, yeah, Mythos, Latin Quarter, highly recommended. Oh - and if you live in Paris, I should tell you that I was pleasantly surprised to find a few natives lurking around, so don't be put off by the tourists dominating the Latin Quarter - it can't be that bad if we found a few French eating there!

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