Metro Station: Châtelet (Lines 1, 4, 7, 11, 14)
Type of cuisine: African
Days & hours of operation: Open every day Noon – 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard, Amex
Located just steps away from Duc des Lombards jazz club, Le Palanka has been serving African cuisine in Les Halles quarter since 2008.
Gray walls and carpet, offset by black chairs, white table cloths, and red table covers give a subdued tone to the dining room. The room is long and narrow, but the tables are arranged in a way that provides ample space to diners. The décor is an eclectic mix of kitchy chandeliers, African art, cascading faux flower arrangements, and crimson curtains.
After we were seated, we ordered apéritifs, a Mongozo beer flavored with banana for me and a Rhum arrangé flavored with ginger for my partner. I am always delighted when I find Mongozo served in restaurants, as it is a delicious, sweet, and refreshing beverage. And my partner enjoys the Rhum arrangé. It is sometimes difficult to find this beverage in restaurants, as the fruit requires several weeks of maceration. Generally, one finds rum punch instead.
The restaurant offers a 35€ menu (with no choice of dishes), which I decided to order. The first course was a Rafraîchi de papaye verte épicée and Accras de morue served in a wide-brimmed bowl. I enjoyed a mixed-green salad covered with a layer of shredded green papaya, all topped with eighteen small, deep-fried, ball-shaped cod fish cakes. These had a firm, dark-brown crust and a soft interior, and did not taste fishy at all. The shredded papaya and mixed salad were flavored with a mildly spicy dressing.
My partner ordered à la carte and also chose the Rafraîchi de papaye verte épicée as a starter. However, her à la carte dish did not come with Accras de morue, which, in fact, pleased her since she does not like seafood. She enjoyed the shredded, green papaya salad, and appreciated the hint of chili in the dressing.
My main course was an assiette de dégustation, a wide, narrow, three-part dish comprised of Sanglier au chocolat indigène odika, Poelée de crevettes abégane, and Confit de volaille sauce yassa. While the first portion was translated on the menu as “beef meat with brown almonds [sic] sauce,” a more correct translation would be “wild boar with indigenous chocolate.” In any event, I found the meat to be fork-tender and sweet. It did not taste gamey as wild boar would taste. The Poelée de crevettes abégane were plump, sautéed shrimp served with sliced zucchini that had been cooked in a butter sauce with crushed egussi almonds. And the third dish, Confit de volaille sauce yassa, was a moist and tender cut of roasted thigh of chicken. The chicken was supposed to be cooked in and served with a sauce yassa (a fricassee of onions), but the waitress told us that the kitchen was out of it. This was a disappointment, as poulet yassa is a prized dish in Senegal.
Upon learning that the kitchen could not prepare chicken with yassa, my partner requested the Pantade grillée à la béninoise sauce moyo. She was served half of a roasted guinea hen that had been dusted with a pale-yellow crumbly substance. She found the meat to be quite tender, which is unusual for guinea fowl. The bird was served with a small tumbler containing a spicy sauce of onions and tomato.
Along with our main courses, we were each served a generous mound of white rice and a slice of pan-fried plantain. A plantain is a variety of banana, and when pan-fried, it makes for a sweet, delicious dish.
Fresh, thick-cut baguette was served alongside in a basket. The bread had a crunchy crust, a chewy crumb, and large alveoli throughout. We noticed that the waitress left the restaurant to purchase this delicious bread. Her selection was excellent!
My partner forewent dessert. My dessert came with the menu and I had no choice but to proceed to eat a warm, dense, very moist, chocolate cake, which was named L’envie au chocolat. It was served atop a stripe of caramelized sugar syrup with three dollops of whipped cream. A nice European finish to a good African meal!
The bill for two, including two beers, two rhums arrangés, a starter, a main course, and one 35€ menu, came to 80€.
Though the waitress was a bit inexperienced, the service was friendly and helpful.
We believe that Le Palanka may be experiencing difficulties in staying open for service. We were the sole diners during lunchtime on Tuesday, January 4. We also recently learned that the original chef, Chef Christian Abégan, is no longer there. When we arrived for a lunchtime appointment to interview the new chef, we found the door closed and locked. A man came to the door and reluctantly opened it. In response to our insistance that we had an appointment, he told us that the chef was not there. If Le Palanka closes, this will be the end of a brief era of fine African cuisine on rue des Lombards! We advise diners to call the restaurant before making plans to eat there.
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first traveled to France in 1975. A native of northern California, he moved to France permanently in 1992. Reeves’ love of French language and culture inspired him to create Discover Paris!, a travel planning service that caters to Americans interested in cultural travel to Paris. His book, Paris Insights – An Anthology, has been called “the kind of insider’s view of the French capital…that first or even second time visitors pine for.” He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Paris Insights about history, culture, and contemporary life in the City of Light, and posts daily information about the French capital on Facebook.