When you up and move yourself from New York to Paris, you tend to get a lot of visitors. Since I moved to Paris in September 2007, I’ve been visited by my parents, both of my mother’s sisters, a handful of friends and even a few people I hadn’t heard from since we played in the sandbox together. Without fail, each and every one of them has the same expectations: they want to climb the Eiffel Tower (which I banned as an option after my seventh or eighth trek—my friends are perfectly capable of climbing the tower themselves and meeting me for a drink afterwards). They want to shop. They want to take pictures from the top of Montmartre. And of course, possibly most of all, they want to eat.
Finding appropriate places to take them for the quintessential Parisian dining experience is extremely difficult, and I end up perusing the same guidebooks they tote along with them and ignore in favor of following me, “the local.” But as far as eating out is concerned, I’m a fairly useless local. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, I do not eat cassoulet every day in a cute café.
If I do treat myself to dinner every once in awhile, it’s definitely not going to be at a place I would take my friends: my favorite restaurant in Paris is decidedly un-French, but maybe that’s why I love it so much.
Directly above the Belleville metro stop is a small, unassuming place called Pho Dong-Huong. This is not the sort of place where you bring out-of-towners. Until recently, the menu was pasted on the wall in a series of pictures, and the tables are more a reminder of plastic cafeteria tables than those in a cute brasserie.
France is not known for its international cuisine, but Paris is, in fact, a multicultural city, and there are Vietnamese and North African restaurants dotting nearly every street here. If you’re willing to step outside the box and take a day off from soupe à l’oignon gratinée and salade niçoise, choose this place as a location to venture forth into the world of Vietnamese food. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you’re the only non-Vietnamese person there—this is the place where immigrants come for a taste of home.
The menu reminds me of diner menus from back in the States: all of the choices are illustrated with photos. The plastified pages are thick and seem unending, but there’s no real reason to turn past the first page, home to an assortment of traditional pho, the Vietnamese rice noodle soup that the restaurant is named for. I don’t even touch the menu anymore: by now, they know me here, and I can quickly order my haricots rouges—a drink made out of gelatin, sweet red beans and condensed milk—and P5—the fifth pho soup on the list, with meatballs and raw beef that slowly cooks in the piping hot broth.
A bowl of soup may not seem like an adequate meal, but the combination of rice noodles, bean sprouts, meatballs and beef that can be dipped into sauce served on the side or slurped from a spoon fills me up every time and is easy on the wallet.
It’s hard to wait for your order to appear: the entire restaurant smells of cilantro and beef broth, so appetizing and wonderful when you come in out of the cold. I arrange my chopsticks and spoon in anticipation, grasping the bright red bottle of Sriacha sauce that I will use to tinge the translucent broth orange, allowing the heat of the traditional chili paste to warm my mouth.
When it finally comes, I savor every spoonful: this may not be the Paris that American tourists expect, but this is the Paris that I call home.
14, rue Louis Bonnet,11th arr.
Phone: +33 01 43 57 42 81
Average Cost: 10-15 euros
Emily Monaco is an American student/expat from New York who has (hopefully permanently) moved to Paris. She spends her time in Paris seeking out artsy movie theaters, eating in amazing restaurants and trying to figure out how to use the Vélib.New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook. First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte’s professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 185 euros per person (about $240)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 3 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.
I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com