Save the Deli

A Return to Maison David

Ahhh mes amis. Cetait un long temps que nous avons visiter Paris, oui? Presque deux ans, je pense.

Yes friends, my grade school French was recently back in action as I vacationed with Lauren in the city of light. Like the Eiffel Tower, no visit to Paris would be complete without passing by Maison David, the kingdom of Michel Kalifa…butcher, charcuterie artist, wine expert, chef, flirtatious genius and possibly the most talented deli man in the world.

If you don’t know about Monsieur Kalifa, you can read about my previous visit to his small shop here.
Suffice to say that I eagerly awaited a return to the wonderland that is Maison David, this time for the pure pleasure of eating and talking with my friend.

Well, I can say with all certainty that Maison David is as stellar as ever. Kalifa was in fine form, popping a bottle of Champagne as Lauren and I entered the shop, which we shared with his wife Francoise. Introductions between him and Lauren, Francoise and I aside, Kalifa then began opening up the display counter and the taste journey once again began its long ride. Unlike North American delis, where the choice of meats is limited to five or six, Kalifa’s selection is limitless. He has dozens of sausages, dozens of cured cuts of veal, beef, lamb, duck, chicken, and goose. It is a living museum to Ashkenazi cooking, though this is a thoroughly modern museum, more of a Pompidou than a Louvre, and everything here is taken through the gourmet lens of Kalifa’s talented hands.

Each morning he rises at 2 am, heading out to Paris’ grand food terminal to haggle with suppliers for the finest meats, the best vegetables, and the choicest wines. Then he takes these to his workshop, and to his small store, where he’ll toil chopping, spicing, stuffing, curing, smoking, cooking and ageing, often for months, until the desired flavor is perfect.

Everything is seasonal, which means:
a) it’s all fresh
b) each time you go in the selection changes

Again, the sumptuous standing banquet the merry butcher of Marais put out was a feast for both the eyes and the belly. Over two and a half hours we ate and ate and ate, each time surprised by another flavor, texture, or scent.

Some of the highlights:

-thinly sliced dried salami with red peppers from Provence, just spicy enough but with a mellowed sweetness and a gorgeous bright red color

-tiny “needle” sausage, firm, crisp, and oh so deliciously fatty

-dried, shaved salt cured veal…like a more pungent prosciutto

-his famous schmaltz and carmelized onion heavy chopped liver, which was outdone, by the same chopped liver with hunks of fresh foie gras. Diets can kiss my ass.

-a spread of pureed salmon caviar and egg whites, lighter, creamier, and more delectable than anything you’d shmear on a bagel

-a salad topped with chopped liver, and another topped with foie gras. I say this because Kalifa’s salads are just lettuce canvases to deliver even more decadent, fatty meat.

-grilled shoulder of lamb tossed in freshly chopped garlic, oil and lemon juice. When I asked Kalifa where the grilling was done, he led me to the back of his shop, where his kitchen hand had disconnected the gas line to the oven, and was literally blow torching the meat. Oh sweet genius!

-the most sensational entrecote steak I’ve ever eaten. Cooked in a pan without oil, salt, butter or any seasoning. “If the meat is good, it shouldn’t need anything.” I couldn’t agree more.

-perfect squares of creamy, melting, dense cheesecake and chocolate souffle. After all, this is France.

Afterward, we went to the Kalifa household for dinner, where the wine, the food, and the joy lasted well into the late hours of the evening. Again, Michel and I talked about the famed Marais neighborhood and the Jewish infused Rue de Rosiers, which has rapidly been losing its Jewish character. The culprits are the city of Paris, wealthy foreigners buying up the apartments, and a trendy gay nightlife and fashion scene, which is encroaching on the few traditional business left. Compared with the first visit, two years previously, there were certainly fewer Jewish businesses on the street. Sure, the tourists were plentiful, but the delis and barbers were largely empty. To drive the point home, we passed the empty frame of Jo Goldenberg, once the most famous deli in Europe, but now a construction site that would soon be another fancy boutique. Hip hugging pants at 300 euros a pair have replaced chopped liver in Paris.

Besides Maison David there are a few excellent butchers and delicatessens along the Rue de Rosiers. Dimitri Panzer, the Finkelstajn delis (both Florence and Sasha), and the Korcarz and Murciano bakeries are worth a visit. In terms of excellent Jewish food per square foot, it really doesn’t get better than this gorgeous slice of Parisian history.

Maison David
6, rue des Ecouffes;
Paris, France
33 1 4278-1576.

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Book your ticket now.

23 Responses to “A Return to Maison David”

  1. Herman Bressel Says:

    All I can say is WoW! I haven’t been to the Marais
    in at least 7 years. It has certainly changed for the better in my view. Don’t know how long Maison David has been there but I would certainly like to visit it. Great review. Thanks, Herman Bressel

  2. Caplansky Says:

    Now that I’m no longer running out of food, I’m working loooong hours trying to keep up with my customers. Thinking of a vacation is like a forbidden dream. Your article makes me long to visit Paris and Maison David in particular and until I can get there, I have your pics and words to transport me. Thanks!

  3. Stu Shiffman Says:

    Dimitri Panzer is the cousin of my brother’s brother-in-law Ray Panzer and the families have visited in Florida and France.

  4. Serge Says:

    It is important to point out for those who don’t know that Maison David is different from all the other delis reviewed on this site in another respect. It is kosher! And therefore accessible to many Jews who will never eat at Schwartz’s, Caplansky, Pancers, Centre St Deli, etc.

    (On which note, soon Markys will be joined by Hakotel, the excellent shawarma, shishlik, etc. joint near Bathurst-Steeles. Apparently they have now decided to venture into Ashkenazi food and are promising to add deli sandwiches to their kosher menu. Good news!

    That said, I don’t know that they will do a wonderful job. The days of Ashkenazi immigrants founding snack-bar style restaurants are long gone — they’ve been replaced by Israelis so that it is all pizza, falafel, shawarma now. Still, we shall see how it is!)

  5. Silverbrow Says:

    Is Maison David kosher? I’m guessing from your description it’s not. Last time I was in Paris If had some great pate from Finkelstajn

  6. Serge Says:

    Yes Boucherie David is kosher. (What part of the description suggests not?!)

  7. Silverbrow Says:

    @Serge – it was the combination of meat products and what read like milk based products e.g. patisserie. Clearly they are parve, which surprises me as it seems like the type of place where they wouldn’t readily use substitutes.

  8. David Sax Says:

    This is the first time I’ve commented on my own site, but this requires clarification.

    Maison David is kosher style, though the meat is kosher, and nothing in the preparation is treyf. The milk and meat never mix, though yes, his cheesecake is dairy, but it rests in a separate case within the deli and he uses separate tools to bake and cut it. It’s certified as kosher, but you must understand that the glatt kosher certification in the USA doesn’t really exist in Europe.

    but in short, no, it’s not black hat kosher. It’s more like 2nd Ave Deli kosher.

  9. t. Says:

    hi there,

    I met Michel when i visited in Paris last February. I had rented an apartment up the street. (much better than staying at a hotel as it allows you to cook up the delicious produce). He was incredibly warm, friendly and full of generosity and clearly takes immense pride in his art. My favourite were his fig salamis. yum! I also had the good fortune of being invited to share s Sabbath dinner with him, his wife and their daughter. Who says Parisians are unfriendly? Dang I so owe them a letter! Thanks for keeping the torch lit.

  10. Save The Deli » Blog Archive » Schwartz’s in France (kinda) Says:

    [...] for disappointment, and I really don’t see the need for an American style deli in Paris. The city has some of the finest Jewish food, deli meats, and charcuterie I’ve ever tasted, with a culinary tradition that’s unique [...]

  11. Karla Wilkerson Says:

    Hi there. I stumbled across your web page by accidental and was happy that I did. My father and some others have begun doing a ton of internet research about apartments in Italy and where to stay and other stuff. Finally, thanks for the info – glad I found it by accident and will share with my friend. After the research I started compiling information about Tuscany apartments for my blog.

  12. Phil Pancer Says:

    I am also related to the Panzer’s and would like to know the address of his deli in Paris because a friend of mine’s son is going next week and I asked to drop by and give my regards and take a picture for me.
    Thanx,Phil Pancer

  13. Sandrine Panzer Says:

    I am the daughter of Dimitri Panzer, we have the store on 26 rue des Rosiers.

    I would be happy to answer your questions about our delicious kosher beth din deli cold cuts, but we are closing for the summer holidays from July 17th until August 25th.

    The deli is located in the 4th arrondissement, near from the subway St Paul (line 1) or Pont Marie (line 7) or Rambuteau (line 11).
    Please visit our website!

    @Phil: So nice to find relatives!! would you know if you have some of your family coming from Galicia? or Lemberg?

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