A Local’s Guide to the Best Restaurants in Belleville
Mensae | Courtesy of Mensae
From a small street-side restaurant selling some of the most delicious homemade Chinese dumplings in Paris to trendy neo-bistros full of young creatives, these are some of the best places to eat in Belleville.
Home to Paris’s bustling Chinatown, young, dynamic residents, graffiti-covered streets, and a multicultural population; Belleville is an artistic, energetic and colourful neighbourhood. A predominantly working class, immigrant population translates to democratic dining prices and a wealth of authentic Chinese and other international restaurants, while its creative scene attracts young, innovative chefs looking for open-minded diners.
“The neighbourhood is a big mix,” says David Flynn, an American who started his successful coffee roaster Brûlerie de Belleville in the area, and operates café Le 50 on rue de Belleville. “We’ve always felt a connection to Belleville. It has a history of industrial arts that we felt meshed well with what we were doing.” The vibe is laid-back, he says, and caters not to tourists – don’t look for mini Eiffel Tower souvenirs here – but to people from the local community. There are no grand boulevards or picturesque Haussmann-style buildings here.
Located in eastern Paris, Belleville is far from the tourist crowds. “It’s on a hill, set off from the rest of Paris, and gives you a feeling of being on the edge of the city.” says Flynn. When it comes to dining, Belleville is also distinct from the rest of the city, with an eclectic mix of international restaurants to choose from. Here, local resident Vivian Song lets you in on the best restaurants in Belleville.
Le Grand Bain
Bistro, Restaurant, French, $$$
Le Grand Bain | Courtesy of Le Grand Bain
Located on rue Dénoyez, known for being one of the best strips for street art in Paris, Le Grand Bain is a buzzy, dynamic dining spot for small plates and natural wines. Helmed by ex-Au Passage chefs Edward Delling-Williams and Edouard Lax, the kitchen serves up neo-bistro-style plates like smoked eel arancini and beurre blanc; lamb, mint and ricotta tortellini; and brown crab and Salicornia on focaccia. The stunning, solid wooden bar is solo traveller-friendly, so if you’re travelling by yourself, grab a stool, order a glass of wine and a few small plates to savour on your own and engage in the very Parisian sport of people-watching. On the flip side, the bigger your dinner party, the more plates you can sample.
For a taste of Parisian bistronomie, visit local institution Le Baratin
Restaurant, French, $$$
Open for more than 30 years, Le Baratin has become a local institution in Belleville for serving hearty bistro fare such as beef steak with chanterelle mushrooms or duck breast, beetroot and gooseberry tartare. “Le Baratin should definitely be on the list,” says Flynn, who highly recommends the French restaurant. Much ink has been spilled extolling the virtues of Le Baratin chef Raquel Carena’s bistrology cookery, which changes frequently, and the restaurant received a major boost after being featured on Anthony Bourdain’s travelogue The Layover. But visitors should prepare themselves for an uphill climb, as the restaurant on rue Jouye-Rouve is perched high above Belleville. The exquisite food makes up for the occasionally brusque service, and top chefs can regularly be found eating here. Note that Le Baratin is a little old-school and has no official website, but this is all part of its charm.
When the craving for a comforting bowl of pho or a filling bo bun (a traditional Vietnamese rice noodle and beef soup) strikes, head to Dong Huong, which has earned a reputation as one of the best spots for authentic and affordable Vietnamese food in Paris over the last 25 years. Though there are no shortage of Vietnamese restaurants in Belleville (Cô My Cantine and Rouleau du Printemps are also good alternatives), Dong Huong boasts a base of loyal patrons in the neighbourhood for its flavourful pho broths and crispy nems (spring rolls).
With its exposed brick walls, leather banquette and long wooden dining table for family-style dinners, Il Posto’s interior is designed to evoke the vibe of an American-style pizzeria in Paris. But the rest of the restaurant is all-Italian: locals come for their Neapolitan pizzas cooked in a custom-made wood-fired oven. The secret is in the crust, which is prepared by the restaurant’s Naples-born chefs: made with Italian yeast, the dough is left to rest for 72 hours to ensure a light and chewy crust. Pasta is also fresh and homemade. Choose from linguine in tomato sauce with stracciatella cheese, or ravioli stuffed with mascarpone and truffles.
As a newcomer to the Belleville block (technically it sits a little outside the neighbourhood, but within easy striking distance), Panda Panda has generated no small amount of hype in the neighbourhood, for its trendy, décor – neon lights, indoor vegetation, exposed concrete and sleek wooden tables – and Taiwanese and Hong Kong cuisine. Think fresh Xiao long bao (soup dumplings), Gua bao (pork belly buns) and other classic Chinese dishes like Peking duck and Cantonese beef Chow Fun noodles. Main dishes are designed to be shared. Diners can also pair their meal with one of several cocktails on offer, be it the HK Mule made with French vodka, ginger juice and Yuzushu (yuzu liqueur) or the Crazy Rich Asian, created with sake, elderberry liqueur and lemon juice.
Restaurant Wenzhou serves authentic Chinese food at its best
Many of the Chinese community of Belleville hail from the industrial port city of Wenzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, and it’s this area that gives this restaurant its name. Founded in 1992 by Jinda Xu, the second-generation restaurant is now helmed by son Alexandre Xu. Regulars go for their dumplings, smoked duck, sautéed eggplants and ground beef, and their crab with chives and ginger.
A favourite among the city’s top tastemakers for its neo-bistro fare, the kitchen at Mensae is run by two young chefs who competed on the French version of Top Chef:Thibault Sombardier and Kevin d’Andrea. In 2018, the restaurant was named the best bistro in the 19th arrondissement by one of the city’s leading dining guides, Lebey. Past dishes have included tomato-lime soup with broad beans and feta; guinea fowl served in a mushroom consommé; deconstructed bouillabaisse (a traditional fish stew from Marseille); and spiced lamb shoulder served with sweet potato gnocchi. And the best part: dining at Mensae won’t break the bank. A two-course lunch menu is €20 (£18) while a three-course dinner is €36 (£32).
For some of the best Chinese dumplings in Paris, try Ravioli Nord-Est
Just steps from the Belleville metro station on a small sidestreet, you’ll find this authentic little restaurant that specialises in one thing: homemade Chinese dumplings. Misshapen sizes, plump and chewy dumpling wrappers and savoury fillings confirm that every one of the dumplings served at the restaurant has been made by hand. For €6 (£5) you get 10 dumplings, steamed or fried. Fillings include pork, shrimp and chives, beef and radish; chicken and white cabbage; and for vegetarians, tofu, black mushrooms and white cabbage. To round out your meal, order the Liangpi salad made with clear noodles and cucumbers. It’s the perfect spot for a quick €10 lunch or mid-afternoon snack. Going for dinner? Double up on the dumplings and add a Tsingtao beer.
If you’re on the western edge of Belleville and crave a good old-fashioned pizza, join the trendy crowd at Tripletta Pizza, sibling restaurant to Triplettes, one of the busiest and most popular bars in the neighbourhood. Like Il Posto, at the other end of Belleville, pizzas at Tripletta are authentic Neapolitan-style, and are topped with premium ingredients that are D.O.P. certified (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or Protected Designation of Origin), for an authentic taste of Italy. That means San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fior di latte from Agerola and spicy spianata calabra sausage.