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Not your average traiteur: Jin Xin Lou

When I was a young visitor to Paris who barely spoke French donkey years ago, the first time I noticed the sign “traiteur” while walking around town, I wondered out loud “how could a Chinese takeaway be a traitor” (yes, it’s usually outside a Chinese restaurant/ takeaway that you’ll see the sign). My friend chuckled. “Nobody’s a ‘traitor’; the word traditionally stems from giving yourself a treat at home – i.e. dine in but don’t cook. However, today, it simply means a caterer or a takeaway.”

Anyway, I digress.

The recommendation of a friend of a friend brought us to my old neighbourhood of Cité U to check out a restaurant within a restaurant. Or more accurately, a French restaurant within a Chinese traiteur. Tucked away on a street at the edge of 13ème, bordering the 14ème and near the périph, you’d easily walk past without even noticing it. There’s not much to shout home about the decor and this is not a place for a romantic dinner à deux either. Yet, at 7.30pm, on a Saturday night when the streets were eerily quiet in this corner of the city, the place was bustling. If you had not made a reservation ahead, you’d be out of luck.

Jin Xin Lou

Jin Xin Lou

Once seated, ask for the French menu; a small and regularly changed, but not the single-menu variety (like many of the trendy new openings), there are 2-3 options per course. Seasonal ingredients were prominently featured. But, first thing first, a small basket of prawn crackers appeared at the table. I got munching away, and perhaps enjoying too many pieces of them, that F confiscated them away in case I ruined my appetite. As if! :p

Given it’s autumn, we were served some rather “earthy” dishes. For starters, there were boudin (or was it endouille?) encased in light pastry sheet and pumpkin soup with morels. My friend enjoyed her dish very much, and I pretty much mopped up my soup which were full of flavour, silky smooth, and complemented by the bites of bacons, morels and croutons. I couldn’t remember what was the third option on the menu that evening though… [OK, confession time: I did not pay too much attention as I excitingly getting tips about Hong Kong from WL!]

Jin Xin Lou

Jin Xin Lou

Jin Xin Lou

With our plates quickly polished, time for the main dishes. I had a succulent and perfectly cooked magret de canard, served with wild mushrooms (more, please!), julienned courgette and slivers of red onion. Across from me, WL had pan-seared fish (I think it was bream) with more wild mushrooms (hey, it’s the right season for it), and next to me, F was digging through sautéed veal, with similar accompaniments as my dish.

Every single plate were duly cleaned up, as we sauced away with the baguette provided. It did not make sense to leave anything to waste. The boys had ordered a bottle of wine from the modestly priced list of wine, and found the bottle to go very well with the dishes ordered. Again, sorry, I couldn’t tell you which variety they were toasting to, except it was French – WL and I had important Hong Kong restaurant addresses to share!

Jin Xin Lou

Jin Xin Lou

Jin Xin Lou

As we’ve been served generous portions up until now, we debated the wisdom of desserts but decided we could not forwent them. Cue: an apple and salted caramel crumble with ice cream, a mango cheesecake, and a chocolate tart. They capped the meal well, although I wasn’t too big a fan of the mango cheesecake. The crumble was excellent and the chocolate tart hit the right spot too.

With the evening winding up, happy diners were starting to leave. The very proud parents of Chef Wang Gilly cheerfully bade them good night, and then brought over a tablet to show us a TV interview for a Chinese channel. Since it was in Mandarin, only WL and I watched the taped interview while the boys continued to chat among themselves.

Jin Xin Lou

Despite his age, our young chef had been working for years in the business, including a number of trainee years under Chef Pierre Gagnaire. With his parents starting to age and needing an extra pair of hands in the shop, he decided to combine his passion for French cuisine with his filial duty to his parents. This concept of restaurant within a traiteur was his creative solution, allowing him to continue to cook beautiful and delicious food that he has spent years mastering.

The three-course dinner came up to €23 per person, a real bargain considering the quality and the quantity of food that we were served. I believe for lunch service, the three-course meal comes for under €20. I wish I had known this restaurant while I was still living in the Cité U, not years after that!

Jin Xin Lou
63 rue de l’Amiral Mouchez, 75013 Paris
RER: Cité Université
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 80 27 89
French: Closed Sunday; lunch 12.00pm – 2.00pm (except Saturday), dinner 7.00pm – 9.45pm (except Wednesday)
Chinese: Closed Sunday; lunch 12.00pm – 2.30pm, dinner 5.00pm – 10.00pm

Category: Food & Drink, Paris

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2 scribbles & notes

  1. med says:

    Ooooooo….looks like chinese fine dining…a very yummy one too…and in a takeaway kekekek…2 thumbs up!!!

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