Despite spending the bulk of my twenties in cities that encounter way more snowfall than Paris, I’ve never really gotten used to the cold. No, I’m not a quintessential sun-loving tropical person who spends all her weekends on the beach. In fact, I’m not even that fond of the humid climes of Singapore. But the grass is greener on the other side, especially when this side is grey, dreary and damp. Oh well, at least there’s hot pot to keep me warm.
In Paris, there are a number of chinese restaurants specializing in hot pot (aka steamboat or in French, fondue chinoise), though information about them are somewhat sparse if one did the research in English or even French. I however found Le Mileno and a treasure trove of information on certain Chinese forums, where expat students waxed lyrical about the foods they missed and the restaurants that most closely resemble those from home.
Steps away from the Belleville metro station, the restaurant is an inviting space, and the modern red and black decor is one of the nicest I’ve encountered in a Chinese restaurant here in Paris. The menu is focused on hot pot, with several soup bases on offer, from mild herbal chicken soup, to fiery red soups that numb you with spice, and even wackier ones that involve congealed pig’s blood and fish head. One can pick from the many packaged menus or go ala carte and order the soup and ingredients separately. To supplement one’s hot pot, there are also some standard Chinese dishes on the menu. We went for a plate of cumin lamb kebabs that were decent enough, though they could be improved with fattier meat and a drier seasoning paste.
Amongst the many soup options, we played safe by going for the fondue amoureux. The literal English translation for the Chinese name 鸳鸯火锅 is “lovebird hot pot”, a lyrical description of the 2 different broths that share a pot. In me and the husband’s case, it also keeps the harmony in our relationship, as he can sip his herbal stock while I dunk my food in its spicy, chili laden counterpart.
Along with our friend D, we spent the evening repeating the cook, search, eat motions. Between dropping ingredients (thin slices of clean tasting beef, meat balls, tofu, vegetables and the like) into the simmering broths, fishing them out and delivering them into our mouths, we barely had time to talk except when waiting for our food to cook. Le Mileno offers several dipping sauces too, and we had fun tasting a couple, and even mixing them to create our own unique sauces. We of course did not forget to add noodles into the pot at the end of the meal, so that we could savor the bean threads that soaked up all that flavorful broth, now enhanced with the tasty goodness of the ingredients. Ahhh….
With the plate of lamb skewers and a couple of add-ons to our hot pot menu, we paid about $70, or ~$23 per person. Not as dirt cheap as some grungier looking Chinese joints are, but still relatively good value for money. Guess where I’ll be planning Chinese New Year dinner?
Le Mileno (万家灯火）
27 Boulevard Villette 75010 Paris