The 13th arrondissement of Paris is well-known for being the home of Chinatown, or the Quartier Asiatique, and rightly so. Between rue de Tolbiac and Boulevard Masséna, the streets are filled with Asian restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, tea rooms and even a Chinese McDonald’s. However, the culinary triumphs of the 13th arrondissement are not just limited to the delights of Chinatown. Here are a few restaurants to get you started.
Quite simply the best Laotian restaurant in Paris, and so good that they have restaurants on both sides of the street, Lao Lanxang 1 and 2 are always packed to the rafters and usually have a queue of people waiting outside. The food, a mixture of Lao, Thai and Vietnamese specialties, is unfailingly delicious, and both restaurants have maintained their friendly, family-run feel despite enormous success. Prices are reasonable and portions are generous, while the selection of Asian beers is a rare treat. Reservations are essential to avoid a long queue, but rest assured that it is worth the wait.
In a neighborhood where hundreds of students are constantly battling with Parisian prices, Chez Gladines is a godsend. Huge portions of classic Basque and French dishes are served in a relaxed (and sometimes rowdy) atmosphere, all the more enjoyable because your wallet will come out relatively unscathed. Another favorite in the area, Chez Gladines gets busy extremely quickly, and as reservations aren’t accepted, you should be prepared to wait. But with several great bars nearby, that shouldn’t be a problem. Chez Gladines can also be found at St. Germain, Les Halles, Batignolles and Charonne.
Hidden among the multitude of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, Mondol Kiri offers a delicious and worthwhile alternative to better-known Asian cuisines. In this tiny restaurant with only a dozen or so tables, the chef serves up authentic Cambodian dishes, while the courteous wait staff provide possibly the friendliest welcome and service in Paris. Try the house specialty, amok, a traditional Cambodian dish that consists of steamed curried fish or meat in a banana leaf, and which is served with bai cha rice, for a truly authentic experience.
After a happy hour pint at one of the many surrounding bars, sometimes there is nothing better than a savory-sweet crêpe combo. Like all great crêperies, Des Crêpes et Des Cailles offers a great range of sarrasingalettes and crêpes de froment (savory and sweet, respectively), with much more innovative topping combinations than the usual ham, cheese and egg complet. The restaurant is small and cozy, and the owners are warm, friendly and make you feel at home instantly. Make sure to order a couple of boleés of Breton cider to wash it all down.
There is certainly no shortage of Thai restaurants in the 13th arrondissement, but this is one of the best. The sumptuous decor of plush sofas and silk curtains gives this restaurant an exotic and luxurious feel, while the attentive and efficient service provides an intimate, relaxed atmosphere. The Thai food they serve is light, fresh and delicate with no hint of oil or fat, and is well-presented on porcelain plates or in more traditional banana leaves. Classy and elegant, Thai Royal is the perfect choice for a romantic dinner or a special occasion.
In the heart of the 13th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Parc de Choisy is Le Prétexte, a classic French brasserie with a relaxed, laid-back feel. The menu is made up of traditional French dishes (although fish and chips has recently crept into the menu) while the daily specials are displayed on a blackboard. This is the perfect place to satisfy your steak-frites craving, although the friendly waiting staff are more than happy to help with food and wine recommendations if you fancy something else.
Directly opposite Chez Gladines and almost as popular, Chez Mamane is the ideal place to sample authentic, homemade Algerian couscous. With over twenty years’ experience, Mamane is an undisputed expert in his field and even won the ‘Meilleur Bouillon’ award in the Fooding Guide 2013. Steaming plates and bowls of couscous, meat and vegetables emerge from Mamane’s kitchen and appear on the plastic tablecloths where diners sit elbow to elbow with strangers, bonding over the delicious food and irresistible Moroccan Boulaouane wine.
If there is one thing that seems to be hard to find in Paris, it’s a good curry, and especially at a reasonable price. The Palais de Krishnaa is a great authentic Indian restaurant where the emphasis is all on the quality of the food. All the food is fresh and well-cooked, and there is a wide selection of dishes from both the north and the south of India. The thali – a platter of a variety of smaller dishes – is a great way of trying several different things, and the cheese naan is unmissable.