|Moulin de Paris: as Well as Saigon
Heres the scenario: Youre trying to decide on where to go for dinner. You crave French, while your companion has a hankering for Oriental. Add to the mix, the need to pick up pastries and muffins for an important breakfast meeting in the morning. Is there an answer to this riddle, or is someones craving going to be left unquenched?
Lucky for us, the solution to this dilemma can be found in Severna Park. Moulin de Paris is a hidden treasure offering tasty take-out and catering from its impressive French bakery, as well as authentic French and Vietnamese food served in a comfortable restaurant.
Unassumingly tucked in a strip center off Benfield Road near the intersection of Jumpers Hole, Moulin de Paris is full of unexpected surprises. It has been owned and operated for 18 years by the Tsin family, and each member contributes to the restaurants success. Patriarch Chan Tsin learned to bake while living in Paris.
The bakery offers cases and tables full of his craft: mostly sweets, such as muffins, tarts and pound cakes, with baskets of fresh breads. On any given night (except Sunday, when the shop and restaurant are closed) you may be greeted and served by Tsin. His wife, Amyna, is busy preparing the Vietnamese specialties as well as hosting, serving and working the bakery counter. Daughter Aina Tsin, who spent a year in Paris apprenticing in various restaurants, is responsible for the French dishes.
Moulin de Paris has evolved over the years. Until five years ago, it was purely a bakery. Then the Tsins added some tables for café-style dining. When additional space came available three years ago, a more formal dining room was added. Now Moulin de Paris seats up to 50 people in its two dining areas.
First-time visitors may be surprised to find the more formal forest green dining room tucked in the back. With original artwork and comfy chairs, this room has greater character than the more austere front café. Without reservations on a weekend night, you are likely to be seated in the front. Not to worry. The food is just as good.
As you can imagine, the menu has a range of flavors. Appetizers, soups and entrees are divided between the two regions.
Vietnamese dishes are offered in varying degrees of spice at the diners request. A nice selection of vegetarian entrees integrates both French and Vietnamese influences.
To begin your meal, consider a pair of light and fresh Vietnamese garden rolls ($3.95) with steamed shrimp, vermicelli noodles, lettuce and cilantro wrapped in rice paper and served with peanut sauce. A special request eliminating cilantro from just one of the two rolls was easily accommodated. Not as interesting nor flavorful was an order of Vietnamese crispy rolls ($3.95), closely related to an egg roll, its fried and filled with meat, crab and carrots and served with a vinegar-based sauce.
On the French side, you could choose paté de maison ($5.95), country paté served with freshly baked bread, or a lovely salade au chevre chaud ($5.95) with fresh greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and mango tossed in a light vinaigrette and served with a baguette piece topped with warm goat cheese.
For dinner, specialties include the Saigon crepe ($12.95) a crispy rice crepe with shrimp, chicken, bean sprouts and cilantro served with house salad.
The Saigon special platter ($14.95) is a nice sampler of skewered grilled shrimp, beef and chicken with vermicelli noodles, fried rice and house salad. A favorite of mine is the chicken curry ($8.95) with chicken breast and mixed vegetables sautéed in a spicy curry and coconut sauce and served with steamed white rice. This dish is also available with tofu.
A lovely French entree is the canard au cassis ($16.95), boneless duck breast served with black currant sauce and sided with sautéed vegetables and potatoes. If youre looking for something on the lighter side, you may want to try one of the traditional French sandwiches, like the croque madame ($5.95), French ham and gruyere cheese on fresh bread topped with an egg, or the croque au poulet ($5.95) with grilled chicken breast and gruyere cheese served warm on fresh bread. Both sandwiches are served with a side salad.
A refreshing change from the heavier meals, the majority of the dishes Ive sampled at Moulin de Paris have been moderately sized and paired with salad. I would feel good about myself if it werent for the basket of bread and rolls I inevitably munch through and the pastries and desserts I am unable to resist on my way out the door.
Ive never had the endurance to order dessert while still in the restaurant, but I have seen the pastry tray making the rounds. I anticipate my cravings by stocking up on goodies before I say my good-byes.
578 Benfield Rd. Severna Park 410/647-7699
Proprietors: Chan & Amyna Tsin
Reason to go: A refreshing change with some well prepared dishes from France and Vietnam. And the sweets!
Something to think about: Take your time and enjoy yourself. The service is hands-on and oftentimes drags a bit.