07 January 2016

the evolution of: ô divin épicerie, 75020

It took me over a year to get around to visiting restaurateur Naoufel Zaïm's miniscule gourmet shop in the high nothingsphere of Jourdain. I arrived to find that Ô Divin Epicerie - indeed, Zaïm's business overall - has undergone a few shake-ups since it opened in summer 2014.

Contrary to prior reports, Ô Divin Epicerie is not a bar, one can't show up and drink. Its take-out sandwiches have scaled down in complexity since the departure of the former chef. The bad news - or, news to me, at least - is that Zaïm shut his excellent nearby restaurant Ô Divin, and now uses the space and its kitchen only for private parties upon demand.

Hot prepared dishes are no longer regularly available at Ô Divin Epicerie, but many will be soon - from a new space just down the road, where Zaïm and his new chef Paul Houet will shortly open Ô Divin Traiteur. The epicerie, installed in a former tripe shop, will remain just what it is today: a destination for well-sourced sandwiches, cheeses, occasional vegetables, a range of Houet's house-prepared meats, and the best natural wine selection in Belleville. The latter is really an embarrassment of riches, for a neighborhood deli.

The former clothes shop that will soon house Ô Divin Traiteur. I bet the former tenant regretted the name when business began to go south. 

I happened to run upon the épicerie quite literally, having recently moved back into my old Parmentier neighborhood, from which the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is the most proximate place for pleasant jogging. I showed up panting and began to browse wine.

Zaïm's selection has, if anything, improved since he shut his restaurant. In what other Paris épicerie can one find the wines of Dominique Belluard, Yvon Métras, Jules Métras, and Thierry Puzelat? For excellent prices, no less. On my first visit I availed myself of a bottle of a cuvée of blanc de blancs dedicated for Ô Divin by none other than Manu Lassaigne.

I suspect that, unlike Lassaigne's classic cuvée, "Les Vignes de Montgueux," the Ô Divin bottling sees a light dosage. I can't profess to liking it more, as it contains shades less electricity and mineral thrust than the former cuvée. But at 29€ / bottle, it's 6-7€ cheaper than "Les Vignes de Montgueux," and it notably retains Lassaigne's characteristically fine, slow-fermented bubble structure.

I picked up a sandwich of merguez de cochon the other day and, upon returning chez moi, promptly fell down a rabbit hole of circuitous, speculative internet research about the possible cultural significance of an Algerian-born, wine-loving restaurateur in Paris proposing a merguez made of pork.

Traditionally merguez is beef and mutton-based, a halal meat, a staple of North African cuisine, thought to derive from Muslim Andalucia. In theory, a merguez de cochon is like gefilte lobster, or beef vindaloo. In light of contemporary French cultural divisions, my sandwich was a lightning rod.

Whatever. We're all citizens of the world. I eat almost everything and Zaïm's a great guy.

Ô Divin Epicerie
130, rue de Belleville
75020 PARIS
Métro: Jourdain
Tel: 01 43 66 62 63

Related Links:

Telerama cited Ô Divin Epicerie as the best place to get sandwiches during the continuing financial crisis. As if the best way to ride this thing out is to devote one's energies to finding the best sandwich.

Husband: "Sorry honey, it'll be sandwiches again this year. But I have at last found the best sandwiches."

Wife: "I'm leaving you. "

An enthusiastic July 2014 piece about the opening of Ô Divin Epicerie at The Paris Kitchen.

A somewhat misleading piece on Ô Divin Epicerie at Le Fooding, who seem to imply that one might be inspired to just hang there until the shop's 9pm closing time. It would be a very cramped experience.

A La Guide du Gout, a lengthy piece on Ô Divin Epicerie that, oddly, glosses over Naoufel Zaïm's involvement almost completely. Incidentally, I can't look at this website's name without thinking, involuntarily, that it concerns a 'guide dugout,' like where guides idle when they're not in the field, guiding.

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