Remember when all Asian restaurants had overwhelming menus with pages and pages and pages of dishes? To avoid confusion, you had to order by the number assigned to each dish. Those restaurants still exist (I ate at one in Paris the other day), but their days are numbered, thank goodness – obviously, they serve mostly frozen food; there is no other way a kitchen could keep so many ingredients in stock. The future lies in places like La Thith Cantine, a little Vietnamese/Laotian restaurant that recently opened in the Batignolles area.
For full transparency, the kitchen at La Thith is set right in the middle of the dining room. The selection of dishes is limited, and customers can see what everything looks like before they order, with guidance from the owner, who helpfully explains each dish and the rather complicated “formulas”: with or without drinks, with or without desserts, etc.
We kept it simple, ordering a selection of vegetable and meat nems (spring rolls) and samosas to start. They were all sparkling fresh and delicious. Somehow (probably thanks to good sourcing), even the lettuce and mint leaves seemed fresher and more flavorful than usual.
Then we all had different versions of bo bun, the popular Vietnamese cold dish, usually made with marinated grilled beef plus vermicelli noodles, chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, lettuce, lemongrass, mint, coriander, pickled carrots and nuoc cham (a sauce made with fish sauce, sugar, lemon, garlic, and chiles), often topped with mini-nems.
La Thith Cantine, however, goes off the beaten bo bun track a bit, and we each tried a different version.
Mine was chicken with lemongrass, and I found it delicious. Special mention for the noodles here, which are thicker than the usual vermicelli and were much more satisfying and flavorful. The owner doesn’t make them on-site, but she shopped around until she found a supplier she liked.
For dessert (all of which are organic), we were tempted by the fantastic-looking chocolate cake, but instead we tried the tapioca with coconut milk, chunks of butternut squash and sesame seeds. We were a bit dubious about the squash at first, but the sweet vegetable worked perfectly, while the fresh sesame seeds added just the right extra touch of flavor and texture.
The menu changes every day at La Thith, where organic meat and bread (banh mi sandwiches are also available) are used. The seasonal fruits and vegetables come from cooperatives “that respect biodiversity and the environment.”
For the moment, this new place is very casual, with no alcohol on the menu (you can bring your own or buy some at the supermarket around the corner). The food is served on nice cardboard dishes, but why not real ones? – the quality of the offering here fully merits it. If you’re in the neighborhood, do drop in for lunch or an early dinner (they close at nine). If you like Vietnamese food, you’ll love this place.