Monday, July 6, 2009

How to Eat Spectacularly in Nice for 6€

There’s something about Indian food that sets off a craving in me every three weeks or so, like clockwork. One night last week at about midnight, my girl Ceci and I were chatting on MSN about Indian food, and it made us so hungry that we decided to get together for lunch the very next day. Although basically satisfying, it wasn’t drop-dead-amazing, but it called to mind fond memories of Nice, where I was living in very glamourous poverty – glamourous because I lived right by the Mediterranean where there were palm trees everywhere, and in poverty because, vacation-spot prices aside, a euro converted to over a dollar sixty Canadian at the time.

Because there was a three-month-long strike at my school (striking is a national sport in France, you know), I took to taking daily walks by the sea and into Vieux Nice. There was so much to see, and you just can’t do the same thing here in suburban Toronto because you can’t get anywhere without a car! It was during one of those explorations that I stumbled across Shiva Snack*, this tiny restaurant, literally a hole in the wall, right on the edge of the Old Town.

I’d walked past it several times, intrigued by the much lower prices for Indian food than other restaurants, but for some reason, I never went in until about a month before I was to leave the country. I was ravenous that day and nearly desperate for Indian food, which I hadn’t had in a while because I was so poor – a dish and naan or rice at other restaurants cost about 14€ on average. I ordered outside and was promptly showed to the entrance of the place, which I never even noticed because it was so inconspicuous.

When I took my girl Maggie there, she described it perfectly when she said that it looked like they found a hole in the wall and tried to make it as homey as possible. The back wall is a mirror to make the area look bigger, and all the other walls are draped in gorgeous textiles, no doubt from India. The tables are small but pretty, with colourful mosaic surfaces, and the most tantalizing aromas emanate from the open chicken. But the most trustworthy indication that this place is awesome is the fact that almost every time I walk past it, there are Indian people sitting on the seats outside, chatting with the people who work there, just eating and watching the world pass by. It’s a family-run restaurant, and they often have their children with them there. Their adorable little girl sometimes helps wait the tables there, and she’s so sweet, so attentive, alert and eager to please.

I have a soft spot for this restaurant because it was the only food I could afford to eat out and really enjoyed; my only other options were fast food (ew!), sandwiches (which get old fast) and paper-thin pizza, which I don’t love. There's nowhere else in the city that you can buy a full meal for an adult for just six euro - not even McDonalds! And the quality for price of their Menu à 6.00 is just out of this world.

For six euro, you get a complete meal: your choice of a tandoori chicken leg or a scoop of chicken tikka (hunks of perfectly-spiced, roasted chicken breast in the most delicious, savoury tomato sauce, like, ever) with a serving of fluffy basmati rice and a small portion of salad with delicious sesame dressing and a cannette (canned soft drink) – and you can pick Orangina without paying more! After a month of pitifully subpar home-cooking, it was a little taste of nirvana. During my last month in France, when I wasn’t in Paris, I went there probably around twice a week.

Because I’m a big eater, to say the least, the combo isn’t quite enough for me, but it’s perfectly satisfying for my friends with normal appetites. But then I discovered their naan (1.50€), which is excellent, and an order of that combined with the combo is just right for me. I love their naan because it’s even all around – I don’t like it when naan is thick on one side and thin on the other. They also make a tasty cheese naan (2€) that is more filling and flavourful and tastes good even on its own.

Apart from my girls Amra and Raissa, this restaurant and their combo are what I miss most about Nice. If I am lucky enough to go on exchange to Europe again in three years, like I want to, I hope I’ll get to visit them, and I hope their business would have grown by then, because they’re fantastic!

*A note about “snack” restaurants in France: They refer to grab-and-go establishments, sort of their alternative to fast-food restaurants, and they usually sell hot and cold sandwiches (baguettes and croque monsieurs, hello!), cold pizza slices, or kebab sandwiches. In Nice, most Middle-East restaurants sell kebabs (as opposed to doners or shawarmas). Shiva Snack piqued my interest because they have a variety if kebabs that are Indian-style cooked meat wrapped in naan – sadly, I never did try them, because I already fell in love with their Menu à 6.00 combo and once I like something, I can pretty much eat it forever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mmmmmm... so delish. Would go back to Nice *just* for the Menu à 6euros. Thanks for the memories,and introducing me to the best lunch spot ever! - Maggie