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Top Choices for Restaurants that aren't French...

foodiemermaid Aug 4, 2013 11:35 AM

My husband and I are going on a second honeymoon to Paris in October and while we are big-time foodies, we would love some recommendations for serious gastronome in other kinds of cuisines besides French, particularly Asian.

We're from Toronto so we can get excellent authentic Chinese. We're looking for more of a "dining" experience, not the "hole-in-the-wall" kind of places we go to here at home. Are there any nice Vietnamese or Cambodian places we should look at in addition to Chinese?

Thanks for your help!

  1. Parnassien Aug 5, 2013 01:00 PM

    If you mean trad French cuisine, I get tired of it too. But modern French cooking rarely bores me enough to inspire a side-step into non-French cuisine. I do like ethnic cuisine for the variety and cultural adventure (and value!) but it's hardly a necessity.

    Toronto has a fab variety of ethnic eateries but not an abundance of modern French restaurants. It would be somewhat of a wasted opportunity to follow the Asian trail if you are only in Paris for a week.

    Fine dining Asian is pretty rare in Paris. I can only think of Shang Palace in the Shangri-La Hotel on the avenue d'Iéna/ 16th. There's also the used-to-be fab but now pretty disappointing and over-priced Vietnamese fancy-pants resto Tan Dinh on the rue Verneuil in the 7th.

    Le Cambodge on the avenue Richerand in the Canal Saint-Martin quartier is good (not a wow ) but the setting and cadre are lovely.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Parnassien
      souphie Aug 5, 2013 01:10 PM

      "Fine dining Asian is pretty rare in Paris." Dude, I just listed ten, and I'm sure there's more. No one ever goes to Chen and then they say there's no interesting Chinese in Paris...

      1. re: souphie
        Parnassien Aug 5, 2013 02:48 PM

        Ten out of 8,000 restos= pretty rare, mon pote. I was just adding to yours... and expressing my negative opinion on your included Tan Dinh.

        1. re: souphie
          Ptipois Aug 5, 2013 05:13 PM

          Especially when Shang Palace (good with many serious flaws) and Le Cambodge (hectic, overhyped and not as good as it used to be) are given as examples.

          Ten decent bourgeois-chinois (at least) out of 8,000 is not such a bad deal unless the other 8,000 are all Chinese.
          ('Fine dining' is not really a concept that would apply to Chinese restaurants.)

          1. re: Ptipois
            Parnassien Aug 5, 2013 05:34 PM

            " 'Fine dining' is not really a concept that would apply to Chinese restaurants."


            And another upmarket Asian that hasn't been mentioned: that expensive "coloniale" Indochinois place near Opéra (haven't been in years and can't remember name.) Any good these days?

            As a non-purist, I quite like Le Cambodge... and still a very pleasant dining experience mid-week.

            1. re: Parnassien
              Ptipois Aug 6, 2013 04:16 AM

              Yes, mid-week is OK, and I suppose August would be less crowded. But I think the quality of the food has sunk in recent years.

              Colonial indochinois near the Opéra? Can't see that clearly. Are you referring to Le Santal? I have never been there, having never met or found anything that could inspire me to. The few reviews I've read weren't enthusiastic.

              Also near the Opéra, another hidden restaurant, Cantonese this one: Mandarin Opéra, which used to have very good dim sum. I went there again a few months ago and the dim sum were just meh.

              I tend to relinquish these old 'colonial' places fallen into a state of decline since there is so much better food now in the 13e or between Saint-Lazare and the Canal. Pity, in a way, since there is something to be said for 'postcolonial' Asian cooking. After all pho, banh mi, stuffed crabs and nem chua are products of that culture.

            2. re: Ptipois
              Rio Yeti Aug 6, 2013 01:45 AM

              "Le Cambodge (hectic, overhyped and not as good as it used to be)"

              Yes I have to agree... not only that, but it used to be really cheap. You would get a huge bowl of Bobun for 6.50€ I think at the time. It slowly raised its price, and was around 11€ last time I went...
              Their "Natin" was pretty good too.

              The only reason to still visit is the nostalgia of hearing that high-pitched waiter taking your order...

          2. re: Parnassien
            John Talbott Aug 5, 2013 06:02 PM

            "Fine dining Asian is pretty rare in Paris. I can only think of Shang Palace in the Shangri-La Hotel on the avenue d'Iéna/ 16th. There's also the used-to-be fab but now pretty disappointing and over-priced Vietnamese fancy-pants resto Tan Dinh on the rue Verneuil in the 7th. "
            I dunno, granted I've only eaten at the Shang once and Tan Dinh twice and only been stationed in Viet Nam 365 days but if forced to set the helicopter down, I'd rather it be in Vancouver or Toronto than Paris.
            Tired of "trad French cuisine"?, not yet.

            1. re: John Talbott
              Ptipois Aug 6, 2013 04:25 AM

              Vietnamese restaurants in Paris, in the late 80s and 90s, served outstanding food. Before that, the 'quartier vietnamien' around Maubert had many gems. There are only a few remains of that left since more recent waves of immigration from other Asian countries have replaced most of the Vietnamese offering. But you can still go to Pho 67 near Notre-Dame to have a slight idea of what it used to be like.

              The thing about Vietnamese food in France is that it was never toned down, or the portion size modified for North American standards, or based on inferior ingredients. The emphasis was always on the delicacy of tastes and subtlety of aromas, as Vietnamese cooks were accustomed to do for the French of the colonial era. Serving raw beef in pho is quite unique in Asia; it was originally required by French diners. Some would order it served in the broth, some would order it on the side and dip it in the broth as they ate. As I've heard, even Vietnamese food in Vietnam is no longer what it was thirty years ago.

            2. re: Parnassien
              foodiemermaid Aug 6, 2013 10:35 AM

              I guess I should provide more details - my husband doesn't eat fish at all and I am lactose intolerant, issues that make it difficult to walk into any restaurant and just have the daily carte. We can really only go to places that offer multiple choices for each course, eliminating what sounds like many of the best new restaurants with the most exciting chefs in Paris. Very frustrating.

              But we ARE foodies - my husband works in a lovely high end restaurant as a waiter here in Toronto and has been a server for almost 30 years. I am a fairly accomplished home cook. It's just the thought of having to dodge fish and dairy for 3 meals a day is exhausting, no matter how delicious, which is what brought me to request help seeking out great food that's not necessarily French. We would love to experience the service and quality of food that Paris is famous for and some of these Chinese and Vietnamese suggestions sound perfect.

              If anyone has recommendations for trad French or modern French that have larger menus, that would be hugely appreciated as well. I've been through many past threads and lots of the ones focusing on ethnic foods are quite old, and many of the ones suggesting places to tourists don't discuss the number of items on the menu. I agree with Parnassien - Toronto doesn't have many modern French restaurants and we would love to find some on our trip that could accommodate our (admittedly) self-imposed restrictions.

              Any ideas? Or should I start a new thread?

              1. re: foodiemermaid
                John Talbott Aug 6, 2013 10:49 AM

                "Any ideas? Or should I start a new thread?"
                Yes to both, otherwise people will focus on the non-French emphasis and miss your new query. There are lots of exciting places with many items on the cartes.

                1. re: John Talbott
                  foodiemermaid Aug 6, 2013 02:14 PM

                  Thanks, I will do that.

            3. r
              Ray2 Aug 5, 2013 02:34 AM

              According to a Paris friend I have, the Vietnamese food is to die for. No idea about specific restaurants and he's hiking somewhere in SE Asia at the moment. But, worth looking into.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Ray2
                Ptipois Aug 5, 2013 02:49 AM

                It is indeed to die for, though it used to be better than it is now (older generations who started the Vietnamese restaurants back in the 80s have now retired and their children do not always choose to take over). Now there is more Cambodian and Laotian presence, which is also to be praised.

                Great addresses have disappeared in the last few years, but you still have a few good ones that you'll locate in the various threads on this board.

                1. re: Ptipois
                  jock Aug 5, 2013 05:57 AM

                  Recently I have become particularly fond of Cambodian. Any specific recommendations?

                  1. re: jock
                    Ptipois Aug 5, 2013 07:17 AM

                    Yes. Tricotin (the big glass case in the lower part of avenue de Choisy) is run by a Cambodian family and they do have excellent Cambodian "dry soups" (ask for the "soupe de nouilles maison"). Best dim sum in Paris too.
                    Right next door to it, Hao Hao is smaller but same origins. Walk past Tricotin into the small square mall, all the restaurants are Cambodian there.
                    Basically most restaurants in that lower-Choisy area are run by Chinese-Cambodians.
                    A friend of mine (ex-chef at Le Pré Verre) recommends Melinda, same avenue, as you walk closer to the Périphérique.

              2. souphie Aug 5, 2013 02:02 AM

                A few non-French, worthy, dining experiences I heartily recommend:
                - Lac Hong, Vietnames on rue Lauriston
                - Pasta e Basta, Enoteca in the middle of Chinatown (don't miss their tasting menus and exceptional wines)
                - Chen Soleil d'Est is a wonderful, expensive restaurant in a Blade-Runner like, yet very bourgeois, location. Don't miss their Turbot with the fried bones on the side
                - There is (Parisian?) tradition of high end Chinese or Vietnamese with exceptional wine lists: Tang, rue de la Tour and Tanh Dinh, rue de Verneuil among them
                - Vong, rue de la Grande Truanderie, for their Pecking Duck -- or Poularde on order, also for an unexpected setting (70s setup inside a historical building)
                - Sormani, rue du Général Lanrezac is a high end Italian restaurant that is run by a French chef and feels like a high end bordello -- it's awesome, lots of wonderful pasta, lots of truffle in season, wonderfully generous
                - Awesome "Champs Elysées/Cotton Club" experience at Tse Yang, on rue Pierre 1er de Serbie (they also have a place in Midtown NYC)
                - Wally le Saharien is still one of my favourite restaurants in town the dry couscous, the méchoui, etc;
                - Aida (Japanese) on rue Pierre Leroux is one of handful of recommendable Japanese restaurants (160€ Omakase, though), along with Isami and Benkay
                - Passy Mandarins (one on rue Bois le Vent and one on rue d'Antin) does very fine Chinese, Parisian style (superb fried dim sums)
                - Tong Yen, rue Jean Mermoz, is a see and be seen, 70s high end Chinese

                I know some will turn their nose up at all or most of those. I'll just say: they're very good, they have many sophisticated regulars, they're consistent. And maybe, I'll make fun of those who consider that Toronto (or SF, or Vancouver, or NYC...) Chinese cuisine is somehow more authentic than the one in Paris.

                4 Replies
                1. re: souphie
                  Delucacheesemonger Aug 5, 2013 02:17 AM

                  From my experience to put Paris and Vancouver on the same Chinese grid is very pushing the issue.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                    Ptipois Aug 5, 2013 02:50 AM

                    From my experience, the superiority of Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants on the American continent is largely an urban legend.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                      jock Aug 5, 2013 05:59 AM

                      Have to agree with Pti here. Sorry.

                    2. re: souphie
                      Ptipois Aug 5, 2013 02:25 AM

                      "I'll just say: they're very good, they have many sophisticated regulars, they're consistent. And maybe, I'll make fun of those who consider that Toronto (or SF, or Vancouver, or NYC...) Chinese cuisine is somehow more authentic than the one in Paris."

                      I'll join the fun if you allow me. I think you're absolutely right on these points.
                      I am not such a fan of the big bourgeois-chinois places you're mentioning, but I do agree that they are sound and high-quality. They certainly have updated their fare since the 1980s. There are now many affluent Chinese visitors and even residents in Paris and they now cater to them too. So you may have perfectly good whole steamed turbot and seaweed-seafood soup.

                      Besides, these chinois-bourgeois restaurants (a little-known fact) have played their part in the evolution of Chinese cuisine during the 80s and 90s: some dishes that were developed there later inspired new creations on an international level. For instance foie gras cooked with Sichuan pepper was invented at one of these places; I think it was at Diep, rue Pierre-Charron.

                      For the same reasons, during the last ten years, some more modest but excellent Chinese restaurants have been opened by natives of Shandong, Zhejiang, Yunnan, Hubei, etc., — offering more northernly and easterly fare than the usual Cantonese (which was hitherto offered through the medium of Cambodian-Chinese or Vietnamese-Chinese families, which is not to say that their food was not perfectly good and authentic, far from it. But it was only Cantonese).

                    3. John Talbott Aug 4, 2013 03:20 PM

                      As I said in a prior post, there have been a host of threads on non-French cuisine in Paris; just recently ones on sub-Saharan food, Japanese places that are not hole-in-the-wall but great (Abri, Sola, Concert de Cuisine, Passage 53, etc) and many Chinese, Thai, Lao & Cambodian as well as Korean ones (largely in the 13th Chinatown). I'd start by putting Vietnamese, Cambodian & Chinese in the search box and pay attention especially to the comments by Parigi and Ptipois who know these places/cuisines best.
                      Also since many of us have fled Paris for August you may get fewer responses than usual until the rentree.

                      1. Delucacheesemonger Aug 4, 2013 02:02 PM

                        Just behind Palais Concorde is Rue Saint-Anne with many Japanese restaurants with okonomiyaki, ramen, udon noodles, etc. There mostly small, quite authentic and very inexpensive.
                        Kunitoraya is an udon noodle place that is always packed just like the ones in Japan. Gracious dining no, but spot on noodles. There is also Kunitoraya II, much more gracious dining with larger menu and also great noodles.
                        Compared to Vietnam, l have found the places not close to the original and all the phos and bahn mi's to miss, sorry Parigi.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                          jock Aug 4, 2013 02:21 PM

                          I think you mean Palais Royale. I also think the Kunitoraya on rue St Anne has closed. There was a new name on the place in April.

                          1. re: jock
                            Delucacheesemonger Aug 4, 2013 09:56 PM

                            And this is without alcohol, thanks.

                          2. re: Delucacheesemonger
                            John Talbott Aug 4, 2013 04:07 PM

                            "Compared to Vietnam, l have found the places not close to the original and all the phos and bahn mi's to miss,"
                            Agreed, at least compared to Viet Nam circa 1967-8 and even Paris Viet Namese food in the 1950's.

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