47 rue de Bretagne, 3rd
M° Arts et Metier
Tel 01 42 72 36 26
Open Monday to Saturday noon – 2:30pm and Monday to Sunday 7pm – 11:30pm
Review and photos by Aileen O’Riordan
If you have a hankering for couscous, I couldn’t recommend Chez Omar more. A veritable institution, it’s regarded as one of the best Moroccan restaurants in Paris. Located north of the bustling Marais, this is the kind of place you might normally walk right by. The facade is drab, but don’t be fooled. When you open the door it’s like you’ve walked onto the set of an old movie, a Paris of long ago.
The staff welcome you warmly, usher you to one of the white linen draped tables and then basically tell you what you’ll have. I tried to order a bottle of red but was informed the Moroccan wine was better with couscous. When I insisted, I was told that the Moroccan wine would be served. The same went for my meal. Relent. Let them tell you what to have, they know their stuff. The wine really did compliment the couscous, which couldn’t be faulted, and if you’re hungry the servings are enormous, a veritable mountain of crumbly couscous will be served up. Also, the staff’s recommendations were some of the cheapest items on the menu, including the wine. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert. A silver platter will arrive and you can take your pick. When our coffees arrived, I remarked that there was no chocolatey delight, and the waiter treated me to a bowl full of dark chocolate buttons to fill the tiny space remaining in my already overstuffed belly.
Get here early as they don’t take reservations or you’ll end up queuing at the bar. Apparently it’s a right of passage to wait, join the throngs along the lovely zinc bar and indulge in the Parisian pastime of people watching. One of the first to arrive, we watched as the place packed with a line of hungry locals by the time we finished our meal. Maybe it’s an urban legend but Sophie Coppola, while filming Marie Antoinette, was supposedly a fan and spent her free time chin wagging with Omar and indulging in the spicy merguez.
Do bring cash as they don’t take cards. If you’re stuck there’s a bank across the road.