We don’t often make the trek up to Belleville, the quartier populaire inhabited by large Chinese, Arabic and African communities. However, the artistic Portes Ouvertes event lured us there on Saturday afternoon, so we decided to settle dinner somewhere in the Chinese part of the neighborhood, home to the 2nd largest of the 3 Parisian Chinatowns.
Here, the businesses and restaurants are dominated by Chinese from the city of Wen Zhou. Better known for their enterprising spirit than their food, the Wenzhou eateries lining Rue de Belleville are nonetheless known for simple hearty food, most of all homemade dumplings. We chose to eat at Salon de thé Wen Zhou, figuring that positive online reviews and the hordes tucking into dozens of dumplings cannot be wrong.
A plate of 10 fried dumplings later, we decided they were “pas grandes choses”, that is to say nothing fantastic. Piping hot, they were definitely a few notches above the reheated specimens languishing in the trays of neighborhood Chinese traiteurs. But compared to the more delicate morsels I’ve eaten in Asia and even NYC, these dumplings had thicker skins, neither enough meat juices, nor sufficient chives to scare vampires away.
A plate of fried aubergines and a bowl of al dente hand-pulled noodles confirmed our suspicion that, while the food was served fresh, hot and appetizing enough, it tasted monotonous and one-note, salty without supporting flavors.
The steamed pork bun, lauded by certain bloggers as very good, was also a disappointment, the dough thick, the meat filling suffering from the same seasoning problems as the other dishes, ending up just salty.
Of course there are some redeeming factors: the service is quick but not unhelpful, and the prices are very economical. But unless you are already in the neighborhood, there’s no real reason to seek out Salon de thé Wenzhou.
Salon de thé Wenzhou: 24 Rue de Belleville 75020 Paris, France