Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
Search for the best cheap eats in Paris and Le Bambou invariably pops up, both in print (e.g., in Alexander Lobrano’s excellent book, “Hungry for Paris”) and in the blogosphere (including a great recommendation by Melbourne’s Gourmet Chick). This Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of Chinatown serves up some of the best pho in town and at prices starting from less than eight Euros a bowl, it’s definitely cheap eats.
I can’t walk past a Vietnamese restaurant without trying their pho. After curry laksa, ramen, and dan dan mien, pho is definitely one of my favourite noodle dishes. A traditional Vietnamese dish, pho is firm part of Vietnam’s street food culture. Pho (derived from the French pot au feu or beef stew) is basically rice noodles in a beef or chicken stock. The dish is served with a plate of fresh Thai basil, mint, bean sprouts, chilli and a wedge of lemon on the side. You can control how much vegetables and extra seasoning you want in your noodles. Pho is usually served with slices of rare beef (the idea is that the hot soup will slowly cook the beef as you eat), beef balls, and even beef tendons.
The service at Le Bambou is no-nonsense indeed, with the restaurant’s sole aim seemingly to get customers in and out of the door as fast as possible. The waiters aren’t rude, just brusquely efficient, and when you’re hungry, it’s much appreciated. My bowl of pho is served within minutes of ordering, and it’s as delicious as my sources have promised. The noodles, while not as silky smooth and delicate as the ones I’m used to in Sydney, are still nothing to complain about. There is more than enough chilli, both fresh and bottled, to keep me satisfied; but best of all, the soup, which always makes or breaks a noodle dish for me, is piping hot and perfectly seasoned.
By some quirk of fate, I find myself there two nights in a row, so the second night, I order the green papaya salad as recommended by Alexander Lobrano. The man is right – this dish is pretty something. The heaping mound of finely sliced green papaya and carrots is topped with some peanuts and dried beef. But what really makes this salad stand out is the tangy, sweet and spicy sauce. At just 7.50 Euros for a portion large enough to be a small main course, this too, falls in the cheap eats bucket.
Tip: If you’re on the hunt for fried spring rolls, go for the nem. The spring roll on the menu actually refers to Vietnamese spring rolls, which means steamed spring rolls wrapped in white rice paper.Le Bambou 70 Rue Baudricourt 75013 Paris, France +33 (0)1 45 70 91 75 Nearest Metro station: Tolbiac on the M7
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