Culture, food, views and more at the Arab World Institute (l'Institut du Monde Arabe)

Finding a good restaurant that's open on Sunday isn't an easy feat. I know because we try it often enough and are foiled in most of our attempts. Last Sunday, we decided to think outside of the box and find a place that wouldn't be closed because of religious beliefs or French cultural constraints. Our first burst of inspiration was the Marais, but since the historic Jewish quarter is our standard "go to" spot and we've already tried quite a few of the restaurants there, we scratched our heads and thought some more. Then, voila, the sun shining through the window provided us with the answer -- Le Zyriab, a Lebanese restaurant situated atop the Arab World Institute (AWI). With spectacular views of the city and supposedly delicious food, we had a destination.

As the AWI is ideally located right next to the Seine, I've walked past it on many occasions and have always been struck by the dazzling facade that merges geometric shapes reminiscent of the East with a contemporary Western design. With interesting architectural features, a museum, exhibition areas, a massive library and a restaurant, the AWI merits a visit in its own right. But since it was getting late and I was hungry, we only took a few minutes to study the outside of the building before passing through the security check.

Once inside, we noticed that the 30,000 light-sensitive diaphragms that control the light levels cast a mystical play of reflections on the walls giving the place a magical feel.

Stephane and I decided to go to Noura's full service restaurant, Le Zyriab, since we wanted to linger and enjoy the views of the city. If you would prefer a faster, less expensive meal, there is also a self-service restaurant on the same floor. While savoring each bite of our moujaddara (lentils and rice decorated with fried onions), Oriental salad seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil and lamb kebabs with a subtle hint of cinnamon, we decided that we didn't mind that all of the restaurants that we had originally wanted to go to were closed.

Lunch, anyone? You can't beat the view of the Notre Dame and the Seine. It's possible to visit the terrace of the Arab World Institute without dining in the restaurant. After the security check, turn immediately to the right and take the elevator to the 9th floor.

Le Zyriab
Arab World Institute/l'Institute du Monde Arabe (9th floor)
1 rue des Fosses St Bernard
75005 Paris
tel: 01 55 42 55 42
Open daily from 11:00 am - 11:00 pm with the exception of Sunday evening.


  1. Yummy choices. I'm just on my way to lunch now but the view will be lacking by comparison.

    This building was one of Chirac's Grand Something or other, right? May be the only one that's been embraced by the residents.

  2. I'm not sure about that, Joseph. There are some stunning views in Chicago, too.

    You asked a question that I had to google to find the answer. The AWI was part of Mitterand's "Grand Projects". Something else that you prompted me to discover is that the architect of Chirac's project, the Quai Branly Museum, was Jean Nouvel. He's the architect that designed the AWI. Thanks for asking - I love learning about things this way! And it continues...I just read that Jean Nouvel also designed the Cartier Foundation building. I went there for a voodoo exhibition.

  3. Yes, Mitterand, that's right. I did later in the day think up "Grand Projects" but the correct President didn't come to mind.

    Oh a side note, I used to have close members of the Pompidou family as guests in NYC when I worked there--just slightly intimidating.

  4. That would have been intimidating to have close members of the Pompidou family as guests. Did you serve them your caramelized apples? I ask because I noticed on your blog that you mentioned making them while working in NYC.

    And speaking of apples, I just heard about a restaurant called Pomze (pommes=apples) in Paris. They have an interesting concept that revolves around apples. I hope to check it out on Saturday.


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