Paris is great for many things; cultural heritage, shopping and food. Despite the majority of the Asians living in Paris being ethnically Chinese, finding a truly authentic Chinese restaurant is not as easy as it seems. There are many so-called Chinese restaurants in Paris, where you select your food from the “buffet” window and they reheat it for you. Just as I was about to lose all hope in finding some comfort food from home, I came across Panda Panda: a newly opened Hong Kong-Taiwanese restaurant in the 10th arrondissement.
Why quit a high paying job and open yet another Chinese restaurant in the city?
Both owners used to be bankers but André explained that their overwhelming desire to create an experience more than just food and build a restaurant that is truly authentic but not at all old fashioned overtook them and now they can truly follow their dreams.
The owners have travelled vastly around Asia and having taken inspiration from the bao trends overseas, they are determined to introduce the concept to the French community, whose success I can vouch for having tasted their simple yet encompassing menu.
A huge part of the concept was to create an experience as true to the Chinese style as possible. As a result, a lot of thoughts and consideration were put into the interior designs, reflecting the Hong-kongese style without being painfully stereotypical. I particularly liked the mah jeong tiles at the bar and the open kitchen, which is reminiscent of Hong Kong.
The menu is plain and simple. Four starters, seven mains and two desserts. Unlike other places where you have 20 pages of options to choose from, Panda Panda has carefully extracted the most representative flavours from both Hong Kong and Taiwanese cuisines, which are integrated into aromatic dishes that lend themselves to a European palate without conceding their identities. My favourite was the fried rice, which is technically a side dish but is large and flavoursome enough to be a main. The chilli wontons and the duck wraps are also a must! Instead of ice cream and crepe, treat yourself to one or both of their sweet custard buns. The first one could have been taken straight from Hong Kong, and the other has a western twist to it, incorporating a house chocolate praline filling into the traditional bao. Oh, they also serve traditional Chinese loose leaf teas in the prettiest cups. But should you prefer a cold drink, try one of their six inventive cocktails or their mango shake, which is equally as refreshing! Despite opening at noon, the restaurant quickly fills up and is full by 1pm. During the day, most of the customers come from the nearby neighbourhood but later in the evening, as the place turns into more of a bar, people from all over the city come over for some good food and good vibes.
You have no excuse not to try Panda Panda, especially with their affordable lunch menu during the week. For only 15 euros, you can get three items from the menu: a bao, a main, with either a bowl of rice or a soft drink. Even if you choose à la carte, their mains range from 7 to 12 euros and are very generously served.
You can find Chinese food everywhere in Paris, but it’s rare to come across a place with both good tasting food and wonderful aesthetics. So why settle for less when you can get the full and highly authentic experience at Panda Panda? I believe I have finally found my new go-to place for a home away from home.