Samsar, Rue des Bourdonnais

Scores out of 5: Veggie friendly : 4/5; Vegan-options available: Yes; Value for money: 3/5, Quality of cooking : 3/5; Ambience : 3/5; Service: 4/5 ;Atmosphere: 2/5

Samsar is an Indian restaurant based a short walk down a quiet street not far from the hustle and bustle of Les Halles' concrete shopping megaplex. The menu includes both veggie and omnivorous items, so there could be some cross contamination; but the owner, who speaks English is veggie-friendly and more than willing to fry your food in non-meat-ified oil, if you request.

On our first visit, we tried the vegetarian biryani, which is traditionally a rice delicacy from Northern India and is a dish that was originally brought to India by Persian travellers. Ours was similar to a pilau rice, but stewed in more varied spices. It was accompanied by a curry sauce. The rice was a bit over-spiced for me and tasted to me like supermarket-quality takeaway food in London, which is not necessarily always a bad thing. My partner R enjoyed it tremendously, but I thought it was a bit heavy on a single spice (turmeric ) that really drowned out any other flavour. The curry sauce accompaniment - which was a tomato and fenugreek based puree - was quite tasty but rather plain.

On the second visit, I tried the set meal. When we placed our order, we asked the owner if they do chips (for the boyfriend who is a chip-fiend). Despite not having it on the menu, she willingly and very pleasantly offered to make up a plate for us. The chips were fresh and perfectly cooked and the boyfriend licked his plate clean. (And to our surprise, we found later that the kindly owner thought it was too small a dish to charge for, and had given it to us for free).

For my set meal starter I had a "pakora", which I should point out was actually a bhajiya . Pedantic of me, I know, considering that both pakoras and bhajiyas are fritters, but I was a bit surprised that the Indian owners had mislabelled the dish (it's akin to an Oriental restaurant mis-labelling a spring roll as a tempura). The bhajiyas were served piping hot and with a really delicious, green coriander dip. They really hit the spot. For my main course, I had plain basmati rice and a chana masala (chick peas in gravy). The chana masala was ok, but prepared in exactly the same sauce as the curry sauce from the previous day, which I suspect is their staple underlying gravy. It tasted fine, but wasn't particularly memorable this time around either.

For pudding I had gaajar halva which is a carrot-based traditional Indian dessert. It was flecked through with nuts and was spiced gently with cardamom - authentic and fairly decent taste-wise

On both the occasions that we visited, the restaurant was very quiet. However, it was July (when Parisians tend to head out of Paris) and was quite likely not a reflection on the food, which was fairly reasonable in terms of quality.

The service at Samsar is homely and very friendly without being intrusive. On weekdays you can get a 3-course formule (set) menu like the one I had, for 11 euros, which is very good value for central Paris.

So Samsar is a restaurant that I'd recommend for a quick curry-stop if you are looking for reasonably-priced, simple, very passable Indian food in a family-run restaurant whose key selling point is good service.

Samsar Restaurant,
Rue des Bourdonnais,

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