Knowing where to go for good food in Belleville, one of three Chinatowns in the city (the others being in the 3rd and 13th arrondissements), can be tricky. But one place that gets it right every time is Mian Guan. It beats most other places that stretch their own noodles (like the popular Pâtes Vivantes, for instance), because there’s a wider choice of dishes and the noodles aren’t as oily.
Slotted in between other Chinese restaurants and bars, push the door open to this small nondescript canteen and wait for the lady (usually wearing a pastel knit waistcoat despite the heat from the kitchens) to show you to your table. Like many of the restaurants in Belleville, people don’t come here for the decor (or the service). They come for the hearty, tangy soups that won’t break the bank.
Slurp on your soup while watching the army of chefs pound, slam, and stretch their noodles in the open kitchen. When you order, make sure to ask the waiting staff which dishes come with fresh noodles as not all soups do. However, everything on the menu is lip-smacking good, and Parisians know it, so get there early and avoid peak times like Sunday evenings. The great thing is that the restaurant doesn’t close between services so you can turn up at any time. It is however closed on Tuesdays, as with most Chinese restaurants in the city.
Which noodles to order:
The duck soup with fondant noodles (‘soupe de nouilles tranchées au couteaux au canard laqué’, 7€) tops our list. And as the prices are so reasonable, throw in garlic fried Chinese cabbage (‘chou Shanghai sauté à l’ail’), crunchy spring rolls (‘nems’, 4.20€ for 4), and steamed dumplings (‘bouchées vapeur’, 3.50€ for 4). Come hungry as the soups are huge.
At a glance:
+ Tasty, fresh food with a wide variety at very reasonable prices.
– Like many Chinese canteens, the décor is on the glum side.
Mian Guan – 34 rue de Belleville, 75020 Paris (open everyday 12pm-12am, closed Tuesdays; no bookings).