I like a challenge. I like the satisfaction of a new and unusual discovery. In Paris, the wine is free-flowing and there are more palate pleasing French bistros than I can manage. And, while I’m a serious fan of both, some of my favorite consumables are a bit more elusive here: cocktails and Mexican food.
As if they intuited my unfulfilled cravings, enter duo Carina Soto Velasquez (previously of Experimental Cocktail Club) and Josh Fontaine (previously of Curio Parlor) and their new venture, Candalaria – Paris’ first taqeuria/cocktail bar combo! I’d been impatiently waiting for this opening for awhile and just to guild the lily on my first visit, I had the pleasure of sharing the table with some of Paris’ finest and funnest of residents and writers, Heather, David, Zeva, Meg, Phyllis, Lisa and Barbra.
We were lucky enough to score the only available table in this authentically bright and buzzing taqueria. The rest of the tiny taco joint was busting with hungry locals lined along the counter and partaking in spicy snacks. The friendly staff manage to maintain their cool through the mayhem to cook and serve a selection of tacos, tostados and Mexican beer. In short: Candelaria is delivering fun, festive and freakin’ good food.
After appeasing our appetites, we squeezed through the throngs to the unmarked door at the back: the door of juxtaposition. Here patrons pass from the fast and festive dining area into a nocturnal cocktail hideaway for sophisticated lounge lovers. At first glance of the menu (at 11 to 12 Euros/cocktail), you already know that there is serious cocktail intent behind it with special creations featured from the likes of Toby Cecchini and Joaquin Simo of the NYC’s Death & Co.
Being familiar with both Josh and Carina’s work behind the bar, I skipped my usual martini to experience something that they hadn’t mixed for me previously. Carina graciously indulged us with a requested round of tall and tasty margaritas (even though they are not on the menu or normally available in the taqueria.) My second sampling was La Gueppe Verte (pepper infused tequila, cucumber, coriander, agave, lavender and lime.) I loved it. The balance of the pepper heat and cucumber refreshment was spot on. If it hadn’t been so busy, I may have showed less restraint and stayed on to try some of their other ten promising cocktails on offer. But we’d already had a full evening of food, beers and spirits, so I called it a night but was already planning a return for some serious cocktail exploration at the bar.
Josh, Carina and their crew have more than met my challenge of finding super Mexican nosh and superlative cocktails. So, now maybe I’ll find some other unusual nibbles to hunt for in Paris. But, in the meantime, I’ll definitely be indulging my taco and tipple cravings at Candelaria.
For more pictures and another take on our evening, you can check out Heather Stimmler-Hall’s post over at Secrets of Paris.