Sharing is a good idea at Shan Goût. Photo by John Talbott
This pocket-sized Chinese restaurant, lost in a little side street near the Gare de Lyon, is definitely worth a detour from your usual gastronomic route.
The dining room has a view of the open kitchen, so you can watch the white-hatted chef, who has put in time at some top Chinese restaurants in Paris, as he cooks up fresh dishes. Unfortunately, because of the size of the place, you might be taking some of those delicious food smells home with you. There are a few scrolls and lanterns on the walls to remind you that you’re in an Asian restaurant, but the decor is mostly modern and understated
Start by reading the intriguing handwritten menu on the wall to find out what such dishes as mo yu, xie, dan dan and pin guo really are. There are about 10 starters and main courses to choose from.
While you’re making up your mind, you’ll be brought an unusual and refreshing amuse-bouche of marinated green-apple sticks with chopped cilantro.
My friend and I decided to share dishes, which is a nice way of organizing your own tasting menu. We started with the coquille Saint Jacques vapeur avec chair de crabe de tourteau (steamed scallop with crab) and the boeuf mijoté et épicé au piment rouge (slow-cooked beef with red chili). The scallop – yes, that’s singular – was served in its shell with a delicate broth and tender bits of crab. There wasn’t that much to go around, but it was still worth splitting. The thinly sliced spicy beef was very flavorful and lived up to its name. It had us gulping our white wine as if it were water. Beware of anything that says “épicé” on this menu if you’re not into burning tongues and watery eyes – unlike many foreign restaurants in France, they mean it here.
For our second courses, we chose poulet cuit à l’étouffée et châtaignes au caramel (braised chicken with caramelized chestnuts), which was fine, but not quite as exciting as our other choice, aubergines sechuanaise avec des crevettes à l’aigre doux (Sichuan-style eggplant with sweet-and-sour shrimp). Even though I didn’t actually find the shrimp in the mix, the enticing smell and taste of the rich sweet-and-sour sauce and the melt-in-your-mouth aubergines were enough to keep my taste buds very happy (and occasionally inflamed). The dishes come with a bowl of plain rice.
Because I like to try new things, I decided to have the odd-sounding boules de riz gluant for dessert, but I have to say that the pommes verte caramélisée (caramelized green apple) had me hesitating. The crispy little golden balls were filled with a bland white paste (the sticky rice, I guess), which was brought to life when rolled in the sugar and sesame seeds scattered on the plate. My friend wasn’t a fan, but I enjoyed three of them before deciding I was being greedy and throwing in my napkin.
We accompanied our meal with a bottle of Crozes Hermitage Blanc 2008, Les Gravières, from Jean-Luc Colombo (€28). Surprisingly light, it was great with the mild dishes, but not so good with the spicy ones. The wine selection is large for a Chinese restaurant, and all choices are offered by the glass, 50-centiliter carafe or bottle.
Shan Goût: 22, rue Hector Malot, 75012 Paris. Tel.: 01 43 40 62 14. Métro: Gare de Lyon. Nearest Vélib’ station: 15, rue Hector Malot. Open Tuesday-Sunday. A la carte: around €30.Favorite