China Town in Paris Town: Le Bambou

Is it wrong that the knowledge of an impending visit to the grand city of Paris evoked within me an uncontrollable excitement to visit its China Town?
We initially scoped out this Chinese "delicatessen"
at Hoa Nam on Avenue d'Irvy

No. It’s not wrong.

Let me tell you why: Asian food is stupidly excellent.
For the sake of parameters, let’s say that I associate China Town mostly with Chinese and Vietnamese food (no offense to other flavors). And within these cooking cultures lie flavor complexities that—I’ll be the first to admit—do not overarchingly seem to vary immensely from dish to dish. In fact, most of the time I tend to just combine everything on the table because the flavors are complimentary enough that all the food items just meet up and start high-fiving each other. So, one would think that this is not an example of complexity; that perhaps it almost makes a food seem…boring.

But the thing is, Asian food is anything but boring. Sure, you can combine everything and it will probably still be great, if not better than before. But what you can’t do is replicate the flavors.  Maybe there’s some intangible cultural barrier to understanding the beautiful nuances of Asian cooking. 
What is that? Your China town face?
Whatever it is, I am hooked, because you always crave what you can’t have, and for the life of me, I cannot replicate Asian cooking at home. No matter how simple-seeming, it brings me to my knees every time. And maybe later it brings me to the bathroom, but that’s neither here nor there.

So as John and I stepped off the Olympia subway station and made our way over to the main drag, Avenue d’Ivry, where I learned a lesson: get to China Town before bakeries close and find an egg tart. Do it and maybe buy 20. Send me some.

Now to choose a restaurant. The general idea is that you should just find a restaurant with a lot of Asians in it. This rule is good—do not stray. This would be our second and final dining out experience in Paris, so it had to be good. Le Bambou caught our eye at first, but the intimidating line caused us to keep looking. We walked around, back and forth between restaurants, hypothesizing, doubting, drooling...and finally a bout of rain brought us right back to the place that had been beckoning all along. Le Bambou. 
vietnamese paris
This time, follow the masses
The line moved fast, and the waiters do the same (they will not be adopting the slow-dining aspect of French culture any time soon), and after five minutes we had a table. A waiter came up and yelled (?) something, we asked what a certain drink was, he yelled or answered some words and quickly walked away (wasn’t quite so yielding on the questions front). He came back, we asked another menu-related question he kind-of yelled/answered and stormed off again. We couldn’t tell if he was actually annoyed, or just busy.
le bambou paris
"Survey says....!"

At any rate, by the time he came back, we were too fearful to ask any more questions, so we quickly chose our dishes.
#2. Phó tái- There was a full page
 devoted to the well-praised Pho variations, 
so John ordered this with perfectly-cooked 
slices of rare steak (but eat quickly, because 
the hot broth quickly cooks them).
3. Bún thit bí nem chua- Grilled pork, “acided” pork (I don't know that this means either), and shredded pork on vermicelli.  I added lime, two mystery sauces, mint, sriracha, and even some Pho broth, and at that point, I couldn’t stop eating it. Beforehand, it was only so-so and a bit dry.
#1. Bánh cuón-  unlike any "dumpling" I’ve had before (oh la la!), as the skin was very glutinous and transparent. They were the type of texture that causes me to want to quickly stuff all of it into my mouth. Good filling (minced pork), good sauce, and a huge leg-up from the  crispy onions atop of everything.
vietnamese dessert
#4. Dan do bánh lot- Red beans, shredded rice pasta, and coconut cream-I wasn’t expecting this iced dessert to look as unnatural and gross as it did, but man was it good. Once you get over the first bite of the strange gummywormyslimy “noodles,” you just might get hooked. Even the mushy beans were surprisingly enjoyable. The gold goes to the coconut cream, though, without which the dish would’ve been inedible. If you wanna get limy and try this out on your own, I found a nice pictorial on this blog, but I'll mention that I think the recipe would be better if the beans were mashed.
All of the food came out so fast it was questionable, but whatever. I’d love a peek behind the scenes to see how they do it. Probably robots or magic, if I could guess.

Also be forewarned that French people are rather sensitive to spicy foods, so most spicy dishes are tragically unsatisfying to spice-loving palates. Even the Sriracha is watered down (sob!)

But yes, go to this restaurant. If you’re alone or with only one other person, skip to the head of the line to ask if there are any open tables, because it works that way. Don’t be intimidated by the mildly rude waiters (or the ostentatious bling that one of them wears on his fingers…weird?). They will bring you your food whether you ask too many questions or not. And even though they want you out of there quickly, just eat how you want to eat. And hold on to your bowl, because if there is only a bit left, they may well seize it from the table before you have time to slam down your cutlery, grab their wrist, jerk them back, and publicly shame them. Just sayin’.
Yeah...six items, 35 euros...
Fishin' for gelatinous green "rice noodles"

The place to go in China town for midnight meat cravings?
china town shrine
Shrine time
We finished the night with a stroll along the Siene, notably by Square Tino Rossi, where hundreds of people were out dancing. This sounds like a dream, right? But really, after seven o’clock every night people come out with their picnics and “innocent beverages” and start playing or listening to music, dancing, eating, socializing, or just watching people look either cool or silly (there are no other options, I’m sorry).
Notre Dame along the Seine at night
Dancing at Square Tino Rossi along the Seine
Thank you Paris, for my little bit of Vietnam.

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