07 September 2016
When I spoke to Ô Divin Epicerie proprietor Naoufel Zaïm last January, he mentioned he'd soon be turning a nearby defunct clothing shop into a take-out stand offering hot meals.
A transition to take-out cuisine would seem a timely move in the gold-rush era of Deliveroo, UberEats, Take Eat Easy, Foodora, Allo Resto, etc. If I myself have yet to employ any of those delivery services, it's because in Paris the food they deliver tends to derive from one of two, rather stunted categories of establishment: bad take-out stands offering office-lunch fare, or decent restaurants that nonetheless perceptibly deprioritize take-out cuisine. The Parisian attachment to dining-out is such that there are almost no excellent establishments devoted to take-out dinners in the city.
Traiteur Ô Divin, in an amusing bait-and-switch, is not poised to change this situation - for, despite the name, Traiteur Ô Divin both resembles and functions very much like a wine bar.* Instead of the heaps of pre-prepped cuisine and the fortified cash-register one might expect from a take-out stand, there's a long, spacious bar and seating along the walls. There's an keen selection of natural wines familiar from Zaïm's previous establishments. The cuisine - which ranges from roast chicken to middle-eastern-inflected salads - is available to take-away or to consume on-site. The result is kind of a category unto itself - an odd cross between rue de la Roquette's Chez Aline and rue Sainte Marthe's La Cave à Michel. In short, the new traiteur is a splendid place for an apéro when one is tasked with bringing dinner home.
Wine-bar business in the interior is, for now, almost non-existent, due to poor ventilation, and the fact that a big rotisserie obscures the entrance. I expect these problems will go away as soon as fall weather arrives, and people become aware of the address. For now, one two-top table perches on busy rue de Belleville outside; I've occupied it twice over the past few weeks.
On the first night I visited, a plate of sausage slivers, capers, and olives triaged over from Ô Divin Epicerie was positively scintillating, of a quality to equal any of the city's fine full-service restaurants.
The gargantuan portion-size of marinated octopus salad belied the cilantro-toned, vaguely southeast-Asian nuances of the marinade, and the meat's faultless succulence.
Of the three room-temp salads I tried, the roasted peppers stood out vividly, at once smokey and lush. But the white beans lacked nuance, evoking canned food, while nothing about the quinoa did anything to soften the grudge I hold against the component, which rarely rises above a state of flavourless health-dupe dandruff.
It seems appropriate to consider that Traiteur Ô Divin's cuisine is, at least in theory, intended for the home, which setting seems to call for less bells, less whistles. The room-temp salads are accompaniments to the twenty-week aged roast Perigord chickens on offer; and like any big, shareable side plates, their destiny is to be pepper-dashed, salt-flecked, and mopped up by the diverse tastes of any family, couple, or gang of friends.
The chicken available on-site, on the second night I visited, was enlivened by a Moroccan salad bursting with sultanas and pine nuts - a refreshing change from the usual grated carrots and roast potatoes of other Paris rotisseries.
Traiteur Ô Divin's wine list makes another personal statement, being significantly longer on whites than reds. (Naoufel Zaïm confided the other day that it's a dream of his to vinify some chenin someday.)
Of the reds, a healthy selection of excellent Beaujolais is a sure match for the aforementioned poulets. (In Paris I know of only one other address - Chez Plume on rue des Martyrs - where one can find both great take-out chicken and natural Beaujolais. Traiteur Ô Divin holds the trump card: Yvon Métras' "Ultime" Fleurie, for the ultimate night-in.)
Traiteur Ô Divin brings the number of shopfronts owned by Naoufel and his brother Redha Zaïm on rue de Belleville to three, including the nearby épicerie and a recently-opened vegetable stand beside it. If it were up to me I'd hand them the keys to half the quartier. The Zaïms' improvisational, tasteful, and unfailingly sincere business style improves east Paris with each new venture.
* Zaïm has a knack for misdirection of this sort. When Ô Divin Epicerie opened, Le Fooding announced it was a wine bar. (It is not. It is a shop.)
Ô Divin Traiteur
116 rue de Belleville
Ô Divin Epicerie, 75019
The original incarnation of the Ô Divin bistrot, which is now available to book as a table d'hôte