Despite France’s colonial past, Paris hasn’t always been the place for great Vietnamese food. Recently, that’s started to change, and it’s now possible to find a world-class bowl of pho, as well as other Southeast Asian specialties, at a number of restaurants around the city.
The culinary exchange between Asia and Paris over the past decade or so has been very fruitful, with famed chefs like Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon establishing outposts in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan and Paris experiencing an influx of Southeast Asian chefs.
This has resulted in a much more diverse food city than you would have found in Paris as recently as the late 20th century, when you’d have been ill advised to walk into many of the Chinese or even Vietnamese restaurants scattered around the arrondissements. Here’s a guide to the best Asian food in Paris.
Easily the best pho spot in Paris and possibly one of the best in the world, Song Heng serves only two items, pho and bo bun, and they do both very well. It’s a tiny shop tucked away in an alley in the upper Marais, where fans line up around the corner to snag a table. Once inside, guests are quickly approached by a friendly Cambodian woman (the restaurant is owned and operated by Cambodians) and asked two questions: “Soupe ou bo bun? Petit ou grand?” (“Pho or bo bun? Small or large?) Order a bowl of pho for yourself and a bo bun to share.
Song Heng 3 Rue Volta, 75003 Paris, France; +33 1 42 78 31 70
At his pocket-sized restaurant, chef Katsuaki Okiyama (Robuchon, Taillevent and l’Agapé) typically serves French dishes inspired by Japanese ingredients. However, for lunch on Mondays and Saturdays only, chef Okiyama serves an epic Katsu Sando piled high with a crispy pork cutlet, a cloud-like yet perfectly dense vegetable omelet, cabbage slaw, homemade mayo, Dijon mustard, Mimolette cheese and tonkatsu sauce on toast. For 13€ (about $15, including a beverage and dessert), it’s one of the most satisfying sandwiches in all of Paris.
Abri 92 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, 75010 Paris, France; +33 1 83 97 00 00
A hip, fun and lively Korean restaurant run by the team behind Candeleria, Glass and Mary Celeste, Hero is a great find in Paris for crunchy, juicy, saucy and spicy Korean fried chicken and inventive cocktails. The spot also serves pork belly buns, assorted ban chan and ddukbokki (spicy Korean rice cakes). Don’t be afraid to get messy — there’s a sink in the middle of the dining room for washing up after the meal.
Hero 289 Rue St Denis, 75002 Paris, France