As some of you may know, we have a shared office in Paris. This means on Wednesdays and Thursdays, a chunk of the team works at Place d’Italie. For those of you who don’t know the area, Place d’Italie is on the fringe of Paris’ Chinatown. Two members of the team live (or have been living) in the area, meaning that we developed quite a flair for good Chinese restaurants (see the (incomplete) map of the places I have tried out for instance).
We thus happily present our list of favorite restaurants. These are not classy, well-designed, western-looking restaurants. They’re rather the obscure, hidden, ridiculously small restaurants filled with Chinese people and where the waitresses barely speak French and the chef shouts orders in Chinese from the kitchen. Most of these restaurants serve one of the eight major Chinese cuisine styles, and have relatively small menus. In case you’re visiting us, or just want to try out any of these, we hope that the list may be useful!
Please note that the list also contains other, non-Chinese, south-east Asian restaurants, since the area is not limited to the Chinese community.
As for the price tag, Asian restaurants in Chinatown are not expensive – sensibly less than good French cuisine restaurants. You can expect a full meal between €15 and €20, with even cheaper lunch options.
This one is our current winner. The mere evocation of the lamb dumplings has us all watering our mouths, and it’s conveniently located 30 meters away from the office. It’s a very small restaurant, and they serve typical cuisine from the Yangtze basin. They have a card with specialties that they renew quite often, so picking dishes that are listed on the black board is generally a good idea. We’ve had tremendous success with the following (where « ravioli » is dumpling): « raviolis de mouton, raviolis vapeur (their specialty: homemade, they’re delicious!), poulet impérial, aubergines ». I’m a huge fan of dumplings, and this is the only decent place I know in Paris that serves homemade, proper Xiaolongbao (southern-style dumplings). If you check the map of the restaurants I’ve tried out, you know I’ve been searching.
This one is a little further away, but has many unique features, such as being open until late at night and having two, not advertised, karaoke rooms downstairs, where you’ll hear Chinese pop sung until late. The cuisine is typical Sichuan cuisine, meaning spicy, flavourful dishes. Their absolute specialty is the mutton skewers, you should get a lot of them to start with. Some winner dishes include: « aubergines à la sauce yu xiang, tofu froid avec les œufs de cent ans, porc avec crêpes, brochettes de mouton ».
(The Google Street View imagery is wrong, the restaurant now has a terrible, pink logo that you can’t possibly miss.)
This small outlet opened recently. Being a big dumpling fan, and after seeing them prepare the dumplings themselves every night when going from the metro to my place, I finally decided to give it a try. I’ve taken all of my friends there, and I’ve been going on average at least once a week since. When I was on exchange living in Singapore, I would benchmark all the dumpling places to find the best ones, and last time I was in Beijing, I tried out several dumpling restaurants. I can guarantee that these people prepare Jiaozi (northern-style ravioli) to absolute perfection. Their cuisine is from the Liaoning region, and I think the chef is from Dalian.
A Vietnamese one, which serves, in my humble opinion, the best Bo Bun in the 13th arrondissement. The people are real nice; the restaurant is just downstairs from my place, and has been my “cantina” for quite a while. The Bo Bun is dirt cheap, but some other excellent dishes include « poulet croustillant, bun sun » as well as their milk-shakes which I can’t stop raving about.
Here are two additional recommendations by Gabriel.
An excellent thai restaurant. The two-persons menus are huge (it’s not at all unreasonable for a third guest to take just a starter, and share the menu), and the shrimp soup a memorable starter. Some dishes can be spicy/hot, so you should ask the waiters if you’re not comfortable with it. They also have nice deserts, which is not that common in asian restaurants: their Durian ice-cream is probably the gentlest way to discover this mighty fruit.
This vietnamese restaurant doesn’t look like much, but it has various fairly authentic dishes. The raw beef salad in lemon juice is refreshing, and I’m always amused by the taro soup’s vibrant violet colour.
While I (Jonathan) am all happy writing about my favorite restaurants, allow me to mention a few others that are really outstanding but possibly a little bit further away.
This one serves cuisine from the Shandong region. It’s been quite a while since I last went, but it definitely stands above the average in terms of quality and consistency of the dishes.
I still can’t decide whether this one or « Autour du Yangtze » is my favorite Chinese restaurant in Paris. Also ridiculously small, it serves cuisine from the Xi’an region (the chef is from there). They have delicious bread loafs with meat inside, which is a local specialty. More original dishes include platycodon roots, jellyfish salad, all of which are excellent. Their noodles are also exceptional.
This one serves cuisine from the Yunnan region, and features traditional dishes such as crossing the bridge noodles. You get a big hotpot with meat, vegetables and a quail egg that you cook yourself. Quite the experience.