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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Two Baguettes
Mai Lam
130, rue de Tolbiac
M° Tolbiac

Euro - 8 or less
Unable to keep straight the opening and closing routines of all of the restaurants, a common theme in our dining adventure is that we would head out with the intention of going to one place and then end up at another place altogether when the first is closed for whatever reason.  This particular evening, the former was Comme au Vietnam and the latter Mai Lam.  Sometimes, this sort of non-planning leads to a great new find, at other times, it results in a forgettable meal.  This evening unfortunately proved to be the second of the two.

Perusing the posted menu outside, we spotted all the usual suspects and so we thought we could not go wrong.  We were not expecting anything grand, just a solid meal.  What we got was surely not grand and at times not even average.  For starter, we selected the pork cha gio (4.50€), or nem as they are typically known in the vernacular here.  The small imperial rolls tasted fine enough though it is hard to go wrong with all things fried.  But the same could not be said for Nez’s banh xeo (9€), which more than lacking the requisite crispiness was actually leaning on the soggy end.  Riot fared no better with his bun bo cha gio (7.50€), vermicelli with beef and imperial rolls (yes, inexplicably again!).  The rolls were the same but the unusually small accompaniment of beef was uninspiring.  After a meal like this, we almost feel that perhaps going hungry would have been more satisfying option.
  A typical starter need not be ordinary:  The plump and ordinary pork cha gio (4.50€).

  Swing and a miss:  The bun bo cha gio (7.50€) that was uninspiring both look and taste wise.
  But only so-so:  The lackluster banh xeo (9€).
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