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Apr 16, 2007 07:00 PM

Paris Chinatown?

i was reading rosa parks' restaurant column and she alludes to a parisian chinatown? is there good chinese food or similar ethnic asian food to be had in paris? we're gong to be visiting for 8 days and we would love an asian meal. she mentioned laotian.

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  1. Yes there is a Chinatown it is in the 13eme around "avenue d'Ivry". It is a good place to buy Asian ingredients especially chlli, ginger etc which are not common in most French vegetable shops. It is out near the "Periphique" (the ring road that circles Paris), quite a lot of high rises and no architecture to recommend it.

    I would debate whether you can get good Chinese or other Asian food there. There are plenty of people who do enjoy eating there but I tried a number of times and at best I found it average. Generally Asian food in France is "de-tuned" for the French palette thus cuisines that are highly spiced (Thai, Vietnamese, Schezuan etc) are quite tepid.

    I expect it depends what you are used to. I have had far better Asian food in London, but I have lived in both Sydney and Hong Kong so maybe I have been spoilt and have high expectations.

    5 Replies
    1. re: PhilD

      There are at least two smaller Chinatowns in Paris proper: one on rue de Belleville (11th-19th) and another in La Chapelle, around place de Torcy in the northeast of the 18th arrondissement. There are a couple of others in the suburbs.

      I've been to places in Belleville where most of the clientele is East or South-East Asian (mostly from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos - former French Indochina). Can't think of any recommendations straight off, but I've certainly had decent food.

      Obviously French Asian food becomes French, just as it is adapted to the local palate in North or South America or elsewhere.

      Tang frères at Porte de Choisy (the largest Paris Chinatown) is the best known East Asian food market.

      1. re: lagatta

        Not certain I accept the "adapted to local palate" comment as a reason to expect or accept lower culinary standards.

        I have eaten very good Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Schezuan, and Korean food in both London and Sydney. Generally the restaurants have compared very well to the food I have eaten in those countries.

        I, and many of my friends (who had also lived in Asia), found Asian food to be very disappointing in Paris. I often feel there is an inaccurate assumption that all food is good in Paris and thus I would always advise visitors to stick with what the French do well - their own dishes and avoid most other cuisines.

        I would even go as far to say this advice applies to Italian, Spanish, and North African restaurants. OK there are a few (very few) good ones, but in my opinion they are very pale imitations of the true culinary styles of those countries.

        The French are highly conservative, which is good because it preserves French food traditions which we all love. But it does result in restaurants representing other culinary traditions having to adapt in order to appeal to the local population.

        Obviously how much you enjoy a meal or a type of cuisine will depend on your experiences. If you are new to these cuisines Paris can be a reasonable introduction. But if you have travelled and eaten widely they can disappoint.

        It was quite a disappointment for us when we arrived in Paris as we had been looking forward to great food from the French colonial past - Vietnamese, Laotian, North African etc. We did keep trying but unfortunately always failed to find memorable food.

        1. re: PhilD

          Phil, I have no doubt that there is better East and South Asian food in Sydney - and for us in Vancouver (yum!), also in London if price is no object.

          But when I'm eating out in Paris it is usually with friends or colleagues who are either French by origin or who have lived and worked in France for many years. They do not necessarily want to eat at a "French" restaurant, indeed they are looking for something else.

          Moreover, although I'm not a vegetarian, I'd find eating French food constantly simply too meat-centred for my tastes and stomach - and I'm from Québec - our "traditional" food is even heavier due to the bitter winters and relative lack of fresh produce for much of the year. The people I know in both Québec and France tend to eat in a somewhat lighter vein (but not the dreaded, overpriced for nothing, "nouvelle cuisine") and look to cuisines from other parts of the world.

          So often when one is eating out with an other or a group, it is essential to take into account what the others want to do, and find the best possible options acceptable to all.

          It is true that the best Maghrebi food I've had in Paris was in the homes of friends from those countries, whether their families are of Arabo-Muslim or Sephardic-Jewish origin. But I also love the French food people cook at home - far more vegetables and not always as meat-centred as in the restos.

          1. re: lagatta

            I think we are saying similar things but from different perspectives.

            I do agree entirely that you you need variety and that you soon get over traditional French food if you eat it every day. What I wanted to do was to try and put Asian (and other cuisines) in perspective for a visitor on a short trip to Paris.

            I often read glowing recommendations for non-French restaurants in Paris on this board and whilst I may not have been to them I suspect they will be similar to ones I have tried i.e. OK for variety but not necessarily good/great examples of the genre.

            If someone is desperate to try non-French food whilst on a short trip it is useful, and helpful to give guidance.

            But I hope people don't try Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, North African or other food in Paris; have a less than great experience; assume that they have sampled the true potential of some of these foods, and then don't try them again.

            1. re: PhilD

              i'm a new yorker and we eat a variety of asian here...from just ok to omg amazing. i just can't see 8 days of nonstop french - even with regional differences. i need some crunchy veggies on some rice or a great platter of steaming pan-fried noodles and some chili-paste. sort of palate refresher. but i enjoy food in whatever city i'm in.

    2. There must be some good Vietnamese restaurants in Paris. A few years ago, I went to Tan Dinh, which serves upscale French-Vietnamese fusion, and loved it. And I know you can get good Pho - I just don't know where.

      Check out this new book: The Ethnic Paris Cookbook. It's not intended as a guidebook, but the authors list many ethnic shops and restaurants, and it's a really good read. Most of the book focuses on North African and Middle Eastern food, but the middle chapter covers Asian restaurants in Paris. See this review on superchefblog:

      I plan to use this book as a guide the next time I'm in Paris!


      1 Reply
      1. re: AnneInMpls

        Oh, what an interesting book - I have of course perused many a book - in French - on le Paris multiculturel, ou mondial, ou que voulez-vous, but that one seems full of stories about how foods and cooking evolve with migration and cultural shocks. (Sorry, I have a background in social and migration history).

        I have also had excellent Vietnamese food in Paris, but it was before the Internet became so ubiquitous and I didn't bother to note the places, which of course may have disappeared or fell on hard times over a decade or two. But unlike Phil, I haven't been to Southeast Asia, and my experience with anywhere in the Pacific Rim is pretty much limited to Vancouver, and San Francisco decades ago when I was a teen - and of course thought the Chinatown was wonderful.

        As far as I know Couscous Royal is a Parisian invention, like the Balti dishes from Birmingham or the New York or Buenos Aires contributions to Italian food...