http://www.exki.fr/default/fr-fr.aspx (see website for other locations in Paris)
Exki is another restaurant that is not Kosher but that carries a great deal of vegetarian and organic options. I frequently ate lunch at the restaurant on Boulevard Montparnasse is the 14th arrondissement while I was studying French language nearby at the Sorbonne for during my first 3 months living in Paris. Discovering Exki was another breath of fresh air, much like my experience discovering Paradis du Fruit
Exki resembles a what I would imagine as a West Coast lunch cafe for its modern decor and crisp presentation. It is a self serve eatery, which happens to be a novel concept for French restaurants. In the vast majority of French restaurants, one is seated at a table, waited on by a server, and takes his time eating at a slow pace. Exki gets most crowed during the lunch hours (between 12-2 usually). People leave their offices to grab a quick lunch, pay a la carte at the register, and either take their lunch to go or sit down at a table of choice. The “to go” concept is also only recently being introduced to restaurants in Paris. I would often stop at Exki before class to get a coffee to go (actually in a to go cup! yay!). Lucky for me, there is a Starbucks right next door to the Exki on Blvd Montparnasse, so I was able to switch off between the two- those were the days!
One of my favorite things about the restaurant is the layout and presentation of the food. When you walk in, along the wall on the right is a refigerator section with packaged sandwhiches, wraps, salads, yogurts, desserts and drinks. Some examples of salads are quinoa, lentil, caprese, taboule, carrot, and of course classic green salad. The salads come in fairly small containers so customers normally take a variety of dishes for lunch. I find that most Parisians take several savory mains (for example a salad and a piece of quiche/wrap) as well as a dessert (a yogurt or piece of cake).
My favorite dessert is a yogurt parfait of sorts. It is a cup of plain yogurt topped with raspberries, fruit compote, granola, and honey. They also have a make your own (sour) yogurt station (such that you would find at a hotel breakfast buffet), where one can fill a bowl with yogurt, pinnapples, strawberries, etc. Their cups of chocolate mousse and verrine (almost a mixture of vanilla flavored pudding and mouse) are very popular. They even have mini gluten free brownies at the register!! As you know by now from reading my blog, anything GF is almost impossible to come by at a restaurant in Paris.
The lattes are good and customers can choose to add a flavored syrup (vanilla, caramel, hazelnut) to their drinks. As is typical of hot drinks at restaurants in Paris, the cups are very small and never filled to the top. The only place that actually fills the cup all the way to the top is Starbucks. Contrary to their healthy bio slogan, they don’t offer skim milk either. Thus, the lattes are very creamy and thick and the espresso is not strong at all. The first time I drank a latte at Exki, I felt kind of like I was drinking a hot coffee flavored milkshake due to the creamy texture and weakness of the coffee. I also love their drinks. For example, they have a water that is naturally flavored with hints of flowers and fruits and is extremely refreshing. In the summer, they have a drink with chunks of bananas and oranges, and another with chunks of strawberries and mint, that they blend in front of you to make for a delicious kine of smoothie.
Along the left wall is a buffet of hot food. The soup is at the beginning and there is always a vegetarian option. The soup changes every day and each bowl of soup comes with a choice of bread (including whole wheat rolls!!) There are various types of quiches, sweet and savory pies, pastas, lasagnas, etc. Everything vegetarian is marked with a green V and all of the food is organic.
There was just one time that I really disliked my choice. I ordered a vegetarian spinach and mushroom quiche to go. Not only was it so oily that the bag turned transparent, but when I took a bite into the quiche I thought that it tasted like ground beef and creamy mayonnaise. It tasted quite the opposite of healthy and I actually ran back to the restaurant in order to ensure that I had in fact not taken a non-vegetarian beef. I confirmed that the quiche was only made with spinach and mushrooms, and that the mushrooms gave it that beef texture, but I would not order it again because it was too dense and oily.
If you eat vegetarian at non-Kosher restaurants, there is something for everyone to eat at Exki. They also have locations at both Charles De Gaule and Orly Aiport! I was at the airport at 6am waiting for a flight to meet my parents in Budapest over the summer and the brand new Exki and CDG airport was a site for soar (and tired) eyes! It was really beautifully designed and had plenty of tables. I grabbed a capuccino and a peice of apple crisp (sweet and quite delicious!) and read by book while eating breakfast.