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Sep 2, 2010 05:24 AM

Ethnic Eating in Paris (Better Than Boston)

I still haven't given up hope of more feedback on my Paris dining itinerary. ;)

But on another question: What are some of the worthiest ethnic cuisines to sample in Paris, especially those that are pretty sorry in Boston (where I live)?

In Boston, we have terrific Japanese, sushi, Szechuan Chinese. Pretty darned good Thai, Taiwanese, Chinese-style hotpot, and Indian; ok Vietnamese, Burmese, Ethiopian, etc. Lousy Korean.

Should I be checking out some of the couscous restaurants I've read about on this board? Tunisian? Vietnamese? What?


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    1. Sure to Korean and couscous and Laotian searches.

      1. I doubt the Korean here would be better than what I had in Boston. In fact, I think Boston's Korean food is probably better. (I'm Korean)

        But as John said, I'd bet the couscous and Laotian would be good.

        1. What Paris does well "ethnicwise" is:

          Maghrebi couscous - details below.
          Vietnamese - Laotian - Cambodian
          And that's about it.

          The formerly French part of Southeast Asia is well represented. This is not the case of Thailand (the only really good Thai restaurants are Lao), Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.

          Couscous; depending on whether the owner is Tunisian, Algerian or Moroccan, there will be slight differences (thin or medium grain, tomato in the broth, lots of butter or not, etc.). The basics: couscous royal is a French invention but if you're hungry, why not. There should be no merguez in couscous but they taste good so what the heck. My three favorites are Wally le Saharien (ONLY for couscous), L'Atlas and Chez Hamadi (rue Boutebrie), careful, the last one is a genuine hole in the wall.

          I can add that, if "ethnic" (a rather vague concept) may be extended to "regional", there is a few good Breton crêperies in Paris.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Ptipois

            Oh! What are the Breton creperies? I know Breizh is closed until I leave, but is one of them Pot o Lait by any chance?

            1. re: j.jessica.lee

              Just stroll along the rue du Montparnasse from the boulevard of the same name to the avenue Edgar-Quinet, and there's plenty to pick from. Crêperie de Josselin and Le Petit Josselin are recommended.
              Pot O'Lait is quite good but its opening days are kind of hectic.
              Do not bother with Breizh Café, hype makes no sense when it hits Breton crêpes. Neither does waiting half an hour on a stool for your table. Crêpes and galettes should be simple and plebeian or should not be. The good point though is the amazing cider and poiré menu, which includes (duh) the Eric Bordelet classics.

            2. re: Ptipois

              "There should be no merguez in couscous but they taste good so what the heck."

              Exactly. So much of the food orthodoxy rhetoric is just that: rhetoric.
              The trendiest dish now in Hong Kong is foie gras fried rice, so there.

              1. re: Ptipois

                "I can add that, if "ethnic" (a rather vague concept) may be extended to "regional", there is a few good Breton crêperies in Paris."

                And a very good Corsican place: Terra Corsa, 42 rue des Martyrs.

                1. re: Parigi


                  Talking of things "ethnic". There are two sechuan restaurants on the rue Volta, one next to the sandwich joint and another one across the street. Which is the good one and what should one order?

                  Thank you!

                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                    The one next to the banh mi joint is the real McCoy.
                    Le Lac de l'Ouest 7, Rue Volta
                    Its signature dish has the dumbest name - which is reassuring because it means they don't give a hoot about marketing - called Water-Boiled Beef. I don't remember its French name, could be quite different. You can printout the Chinese name below and show it to them:
                    (Trust me. I didn't play any joke on you; the 4 characters do not say: please take Toutoune to the kitchen and take care of it.)

                    In fact this resto was the first to do these spicy, water-boiled (水煮) dishes in Paris, which have since become a real trend in the Sichuan-leaning restos frequented by Chinese in Paris.
                    Inside the resto, you can see that everyone is ordering it.
                    But you'd better be able to eat spicy. Don't say I didn't warn you.
                    And try to get there early or late. During rush meal hours, the queue outside is impressive. Closes 22:30

                    P.S. Neither the kitchen nor the dishes have that tell-tale MSG stench. Always a good sign…

              2. Since this thread seems to doing the equivalent of a walkabout, I'll throw in the most bizarre fusion combo I've seen: a Greek-Algerian dump at about 70 Barbes (sorry the buss was moving fast.) I betcha don't have that in Somerville.

                4 Replies
                1. re: John Talbott

                  Well, the Mediterranean is all about communication. Culinary traditions tend to mix up there. Spanish-Persian, Arab-Andalucian, Arab-Berber, Algerian-Spanish, Italian-Tunisian, Greek-Egyptian, Greek-Levantine, Greek-Italian, Ottoman-Everything else… Greek-Algerian seems more of a stretch though and I'm curious. What do they serve?

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      Pti, I'll send you a pix of the front, but it has the fungible/banal sign with a souvlaki toasting away and advertises everything on the awning from panini to brik (for breaking Ramadan).

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        Thanks, I saw the pic. It is very simple really. No Greek-Algerian fusion there, only an Algerian kebab joint selling "Greek" sandwiches (which are actually Turkish in origin). Like just about everyone in Paris.