35, rue de Belleville, in the 19th Arrondissement.
01 42 49 66 80. 11 a.m.–2 a.m. daily.
I hit Paris bistro saturation last weekend, and found myself in need of some new flavors and a new environment, so I ventured out to Belleville for a taste of their little Chinatown.
Chinese immigrants settled in the Belleville area in the 1920s, and you’ll see their influence up and down rue de Belleville, mixed in with African, Jewish, Greek and Armenian cultures. One of many good spots for ethnic food in the neighborhood, Le Pacifique has been around since 1983 and is still going strong, with good reason.
Walking into the large, multiroom restaurant (it wraps around the block), you might think you’ve already been here or somewhere like it, and you have. The decor is a bit stereotypical, with bright red and gold on the walls and ceiling. Big-eyed fish swim up to greet you in their large tank at the entrance, but you’ll quickly look past them to the meat-carving station, which will hold your attention and help you focus your upcoming order.
The menu is all encompassing, if not overwhelming, but there’s something for everyone on it, and hopefully everyone is game for sharing. You can start with smaller plates of dim sum, then move on to more substantial dishes of meat, fish and noodles, skipping the lifeless soup. Eat an extra serving of legumes at your next meal since the vegetable portion of the menu is a scant four or five entries, all bathed in a less-than-healthy sauce.
We started with some steamed shrimp “ravioli” with homemade dumpling casings, ready to be doused in a spicy nam pla—fish sauce that you can mix yourself from the condiments on the table. With four to an order, plan accordingly, and try them in different flavors.
The Cantonese ribs were meaty in their vinegar-based barbecue sauce. They were the kind that the fork-and-knife-wielding Parisian would simply have to pick up with her fingers to truly enjoy. Even better was the lacquered duck, which was sliced and stacked in two layers. It had a flavorful, slightly crispy skin while retaining mountains of moisture inside.
We also had fried ramen noodles with beef and green pepper in a kickin’ black bean sauce. It’s good to know that someone in Paris still has access to hot peppers. The beef was well cooked and the noodles were indeed fried, but they still retained a nice chewiness. A few bites and my mouth was on fire, but I couldn’t stop. The only thing that helped was an ice-cold Tsingtao beer to bring my palate back to Paris standards.
In a nutshell: For a break from French food in the center of Paris, head to Belleville and Pacifique, where they’re serving up solid Chinese food and dim sum for a good price, all day, every day.
Price check: Menu items range from 5 to 15 euros. You should be able to dine well for less than 20 euros per person, depending on your appetite and drinks.
If you like the sound of Le Pacifique but want to enjoy your chilies closer in, head to the 9th Arrondissement for General Tso’s chicken at L’Orient d’Or. Read the review.
22, rue de Trévise, in the 9th. 01 48 00 07 73.
Lunch and dinner, Tues–Sun.
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