I’ve always been intrigued by this place on an uphill corner not far from the Belleville Métro stop. Something about the design of the place has always made me think of Chinese restaurants in L.A. in the forties – or at least the way they’re portrayed in film noir. The fact that they’re open until 1:30 am only reinforces this perception.
The effect is certainly more pronounced late at night, when the neon trim is lit up and you can just imagine the Private Eyes rendez-vous-ing inside. I know this because I’ve walked past here dozens of times, en route to and from Restaurant Raviolis. I admit that’s where we were headed last Saturday for lunch before doing some banana leaf hunting at Paris Store. This being August, though, our regular haunt was closed for vacation, and so, on the strength of a recommendation from Sophie, we found ourselves perusing the dim sum menu at Le Pacifique.
You can learn a lot about an unfamiliar restaurant by observing the other diners. I don’t mean you should be staring, but do check out what’s on their plates, discreetly. I learned this way that Le Pacifique serves pitchers! of iced! tea! Of course it was printed on the menu as well, but now I knew to look for it. And at 4 euros a pitcher, it’s a hell of a bargain, especially when compared to the price of a single glass of iced tea at, say, Le Loir Dans La Théière. Iced tea seems to be something of a rarity outside the United States, but it’s something I like very much, so it’s always exciting to see it outside my apartment.
And it was good, too – not skunky at all, the way iced tea can get when it’s been sitting around too long – flavorful but not overbrewed, nicely chilled and not watered down by the ice.
Enough about the tea, though. What of the food?
Well, on our way in, Nick and I noticed some delicious-looking glazed ribs coming out of the kitchen. We thought we’d order some, but we guessed wrong on the menu. The tiny, pale chunks of travers de porc that arrived in the steamer basket were definitely not what we’d seen. The picture I got of them was so bad I’m not even going to bother posting it (note to self: your phone camera doesn’t do closeups very well), but they were both very fatty and somehow lacking in flavor at the same time. The “sauce haricots noirs” amounted to little more than about four black beans hiding among the bits of fat and gristle. I would not order them again.
Things looked up from there, though.
The pâtes de taro frites (fried taro dumplings) had a lacy, crumbly exterior and a well-seasoned, if slightly pasty, interior. They were not as good as the ones we had at Tricotin several weeks ago, but far from bad.
The raviolis pekinois were quite good: nicely browned on one side, with a savory, juicy filling. Have you ever tried sharing three dumplings, though? It’s not pretty.
This is more like it. These little morsels, called “crêpe de riz au poulet” (rice crêpe with chicken), were not what I was expecting, but may have been my favorite part of the meal. Impossible to pick up gracefully with chopsticks, a thick rice noodle loosely surrounds a filling of chicken and vegetables. Often the fillings of these things can be unpleasantly chewy, but in these the meat wasn’t overworked, so the texture remained light and tender. The flavors of ginger, carrot, and scallion were undoubtedly fresh, and I would have happily eaten all four of these with no problem.
Nick thought we should try a bowl of soup as well, and he chose a noodle soup with lacquered duck. The broth was mouthwateringly meaty, and hidden under the slices of duck (which was fine, save for the lamentably soggy skin) were some delightfully chewy, springy noodles.
At 4.80 euros a basket, the dim sum is a bit on the expensive side, though not outrageous. Still, I’d eat at Le Pacifique again for sure. I only wish I’d taken more advantage of the late-night dining option when I lived just down the street.
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And now, from our Shameless Self-Promotion department: I’ve been interviewed recently not once, but twice! The first was for a feature on alumni in creative fields from the Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon, and the second was for a lifestyle blog called Be@Home.
On this day in 2009: Tea for Two Tarts, the First
Originally published on Croque-Camille.