When we talk about the 13th, we are using the shorthand for the Chinatown of Paris (which itself is a bit of a misnomer because almost every Asian ethnicity is represented here).  Specifically, we are referring to the abundance of food choices in this arrondissement, most of which could be had for a real bargain when compared with the prices in the central part of town.  More than just cost, however, one can find here the authenticity that is often lacking elsewhere.  While some people may not think of eating anything but “French” food when they visit, by doing so, they would be mistaken and selling themselves short of the multicultural experience that is this modern-day capital.

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Three Baguettes
   
Au Bonheur d’Asie
44, avenue de Choisy
01.45.82.18.81
M° Maison Blanche

 
Euro - 9 to 16
All-you-can-eat places prey on those thin in wallets and thick in appetite, namely our Parisian incarnations.  Though, some might think of it more positively, as in, all-you-can-eat places are a blessing for that same group of people.  We vacillate between the two school of thoughts but eat our own shares, and then more, all the same.

It was the weekend of the Chinese New Year’s parade in the 13th when we made our way here.  We had missed the festivities but none of its remnants.  Outside the neon-lit, two-storey-tall glass wall (what better way to lure in hungry would-be diners than to show similarly-situated people gorging in bliss?), sanitary workers were busy with their leaf blowers.  Except this was winter and there were no leaves, just a massive amount of firecracker remains.  One guy took particular joy in using the blower by the front doors and even more joy seeing a cloud of dust blasting inward through the crack.  (He must have had a bad case of buffet envy.)  The staff and diners were visibly upset but there was no point in coming out to confront the perpetrator.  That would only bring in more dust and debris.
 
 
 
 
 
  A slow but steady start:  Riot loved this coconut-base soup with a smattering of minced crab meat.
 
 

 
 
 
Into this lose-lose situation we stepped and Riot made us instant personae non gratae by pulling the doors open.  All of the voracious eaters tore themselves from their plates long enough to give us that universal look of displeasure.  We kept our heads down to avoid the hateful eyes as we were led to our table.  Perhaps because we were trying to be as invisible as possible we missed all of the posted signs declaring that one must pay for the meals before eating.  Riot was already visiting the buffet counters when the proprietor confronted Nez:  “You pay now!”

For a pay-first place, the selections of food were rather extensive and pleasing.  From the photos – and we did not shoot every plate we took back to our table – we could tell we at least had the following:  chicken salad, sushi rolls, soup, mussels, chow mein, sweet and sour something, egg rolls, dumplings, skewers of meat, spare ribs, rice, and deep fried pork.  The coconut-base soup with minced crab meat was the stand out, although Riot appeared to be the only one eating it by itself; everyone else added noodles.  Memories of the painful walk afterward to the métro station strongly suggest that we had more, much more.  We were not alone; everyone there ate until they were overstuffed.  If anyone is still hung up on that half-truth that French women don’t get fat, just take a trip to one of these places and he will happily confirm that people exist in all shapes and sizes anywhere.
 
 
 
 
 
  They make money off the light eaters:  A view of Nez’s sparse plate.
 
 

 
 
 
At 14.50€ (12.50€ weeknights) a person, this meal will certainly give you your money’s worth.  How you’ll pay in health terms, however, for this gut-busting hedonistic experience remains to be seen.
 
 
 
 
 
 
  This would be a whole meal anywhere else:  Here, it was just one of the many visits to the buffet counters.
 
 
 
 
 
  Notice the same background as the photo above?  That is because it was; a shot from Riot’s side of the table of his second full plate.
 
 
 
 
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