I am often in the 13th arrondissement these days, where my language school is situated. Incidentally, the largest of Paris’ 3 Chinatowns can be found in the Treizieme, in the triangle bounded by Avenues d’Ivry, de Choisy and Boulevard Massena. The class schedule also coincides with lunchtime, so needless to say, I have been eating out a lot in Chinatown. I’ve tried quite a few places over the past 3 months, but after encountering gristly meat and MSG laden soups at some of the lesser restaurants, I now habitually head to 2 reliable standbys for a no-frills, no-fuss lunch for under 10 euros.
The first is a Vietnamese restaurant called Le Bambou. Given the scarcity of good Vietnamese restaurants in Singapore, pho is something I look forward to devouring often whilst in Paris. After the famous Pho 14, Le Bambou is perhaps the second most popular Vietnamese joint in Chinatown. It is perennially packed, though turnover is brutally quick, and for me, it comes with the added bonus of an expansive menu of Vietnamese goodies versus Pho 14’s abbreviated one. Though the speciality is pho at both Pho 14 and Bambou, the flavors are very distinct. Bambou’s broth is dark and murky, redolent of spices, while Pho 14’s much clearer and lighter. Therefore, if you’re into bombastic flavors, Le Bambou’s pho should be right up your alley. The permutations and combinations of toppings are endless. You can have just raw beef, or add some variety with bouncy beef bowls. Or perhaps tripes and tendons? And for the squeamish, plain cooked beef slices? In any case, the meat is always fresh and portions are constantly huge, where even the small is too big for me. The only regret is that the broth does not arrive scalding hot, because with that much meat bobbing in the soup, it invariably cools quickly. So slurp quickly!
The other place I frequent is a Cambodian-Chinese joint called Tricotin. They have one of those meandering menus serving Chinese, Thai, Cambodian, and Vietnamese dishes, basically covering everything including the kitchen sink. Usually, my sense of skepticism is on high alert whenever I encounter such menus, and true enough, some dishes, like the dim sum we’ve tried have failed to pass muster. These days, I cut to the chase and go straight for their noodles, with your topping of choice, reliably tasty and filling. The picture above is that of the house noodles, topped with a melange of pork parts (innards included), but the Cantonese roasted meats are pretty decent too. You can order the noodles either dry or with soup, and my husband and I always spring for the dry version for twin reasons. He dives straight into the pork-rib filled bowl of soup that accompanies with the noodles, the chunky pieces of meat and tendons pushing him towards a protein overload. And I love tarting up the al-dente noodles with lots of chilli sauce and vinegar, then mixing it well to allow the additional condiments to meld with existing shallot oil and soy sauce dressing before eating. While not perfect, it is a good enough approximate of my favorite Singaporean hawker dish, Mee Pok (more chili and vinegar, Uncle!) to satisfy those rare cravings.
Le Bambou: 70 rue Baudricourt, 75013 Paris, France
Tricotin: 15,avenue de Choisy, 75013 Paris, France