The day after dinner at Q-Tea, my dining partner sent me a heavily-researched dossier of Chinese addresses in Paris (this friend happens to be an academic), mostly culled from this blog, but also from the lengthy list of I’ve-always-wanted-to-try-that places he keeps in his head, one of which, L’Orient d’Or, was praised by the mystery blogger and also, recently, by Alexander Lobrano. Done.
L’Orient d’Or serves Hunanese food, a cuisine known for copious use of chilies. If you didn’t know that before entering the restaurant, the hundreds of plastic red peppers strung from the ceiling, and in the photo of the young, award-winning chef might tip you off.
Pumpkin beignets and shao mai dumplings got the ball rolling. The fritters were puffs of almost pure pumpkin, not greasy, delicious. The dumplings were tough and earthy, not my favorite, but satisfying in the way that dumplings almost always are.
What next? Spicy lamb with cumin and sliced onions, served on a piping hot, cow-shaped platter. I took a bite and the burn spread. I saw sweat beading on my friends’ foreheads. The pure heat was balanced with the aromatic warmth of the cumin and sharp onions. It hurt but I couldn’t stop eating it. Don’t read into that.
The Pork Xiang, morsels of braised belly, deeply glazed, plump with sweet fat and surrounded by tender whole cloves of garlic, was quickly devoured. There were duck pancakes, too, small slices of the meat and skin, crusted with sesame seeds and served the same way as their cousins in the capital. We happily made a concession to a vegetarian at the table by ordering an eggplant dish without the pork it normally came with, though I missed it. The pork, I mean.
The headliner was supposed to be chicken Zuo Zang-tong, aka General Tso’s chicken, a dish which requires advanced reservation at l’Orient d’Or. This did not resemble the well-known, sweet-and-sour sauced version many are familiar with (and which may not be Hunanese at all), but was a dry pile of golden fried pieces of boneless dark meat, very tender, surrounded by a mound of chilies. It was aromatic, flavorful, with (surprise!) only a bare whisper of heat.
We drank bombers of Tsing Tao with all this food, and finished with a few desserts. I had a scoop of coconut ice cream and nibbled on sugary candied ginger. A few others ordered sticky rice balls in rice wine, gluey green rounds that looked like giant peas in a mild, slick soup. Dessert is where my cultural biases really show; the textures in many Chinese sweets simply do not appeal to me.
The total was a reasonable 23€ per head.
I’ll go back to L’Orient D’Or, at least after we’ve gone through the rest of the dossier. I’ll keep you posted.
L’Orient D’Or 22 rue de Trevise, 75009 Paris, +33 (0)1 48 00 07 73 closed Mondays