After an early morning flight from Malaga, I landed around noon in Paris where I met up with my mom who was coming from Nice. It was an unusually warm day – around 30C – so we went straight to our hotel in the 6th arrondissement and rested a bit before an early dinner.
We had a booking at Le Dome in Montparnasse but since my mom had just spent the weekend in Cannes eating French food for lunch and dinner she was craving an Asian food fix so I cancelled our dinner reservation at Le Dome and made a new one at a little Vietnamese restaurant in the 5th arrondissment – Au Coin des Gourmets.
We were the first to arrive and settled into a table close to the window to try and catch a bit of a breeze but we had no luck as the night was warm and humid. Au Coin des Gourmets is a small family-run restaurant that is also a traiteur (loosely translated as a takeaway joint). I had heard that the place was a bit drab but it seems that they had gone through a slight renovation and paintjob recently as the restaurant, although tiny, looked quite modern. The cuisine is labeled Saveurs de Indochine (flavors of Indochine) and is predominantly Vietnamese although there are also Laotian and Cambodian dishes. We flipped through the menu and settled on one starter and two items from their specials with some tea and cold water.
Our cha gio (spring rolls) arrived crisp and hot. The rice-paper wrapped spring rolls were filled with noodles, shrimp and ground pork and were delicious wrapped in the accompanying letuce and mint leaves and dipped in the sweet nuoc nam (fish sauce thinned with water, lemon and sweetened with sugar). The plate of four spring rolls were gone in an instant. I guess we were both really hungry and just gobbled them up really quickly.
Next up was the Bánh xèo (sizzling cake a.k.a. Vietnamese omelet) which is actually a crepe made of rice flour and pan-fried. This was also served with a mond of lettuce and mint leaves and the ubiquitous nuoc nam. I had seen this ordered many times in other Vietnamese restaurants and never got a chance to try it. This version was crisp and fluffy and came stuffed with the traditional filling of bean sprouts, ground pork and prawns.
Our main course was the Cambodian Amok – a national dish of steamed curried fish wrapped in banana leaves. It was served not unlike a large banana leaf parcel which we unwrapped to allow the steam of the aromatic lime-leaf and ginger flavored curry escape its’ package. We had this with some sticky rice – cooked in a metal container and served in a pretty basket with a lid. The cod was flaky and was served on a bed of thinly-sliced potatoes and cabbage and topped with lime leaves and peppers. Another new dish that neither my mom or I had tried before – it was light and delicious yet full flavor from the turmeric-based curry paste.
At this point, the restaurant was about half-full and starting to get pretty warm so we finished off our dinner with some more cold water and two scoops of ice cream to share – lychee for my mom and coconut for me. A perfect palate cleanser and something to cool us down before we stepped out into the humid evening and headed back to our hotel for the night.
Au Coin des Gourmets
5, rue Dante, 75005 (Tel: +33 1 43 26 12 92)
*A branch on the Right Bank with better interiors and slightly higher prices to match on 38, rue du Mont Thabor 75001 (Tel:+33 1 42 60 79 79)