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For decades, Chinese restaurants in Paris have toned down their cuisine to suit delicate French palates, but lately this has been changing thanks to a handful of regional restaurants that make no compromises on ingredients. Probably none is as courageous in confronting the French fear of chili as L’Orient d’Or, run by a young chef from Hunan province. The birthplace of Chairman Mao, this revolutionary region is also home to one of the country’s boldest cuisines – even more so than Sichuan with its tongue-tingling peppercorns. Here the hot red chili is king, often appearing by the dozen in a dish.
At L’Orient d’Or, the chili rating really means something: dishes with two chilis are not fooling around, and those with three chilis will blast your head off (in a good way, if you like that sort of thing). We started fairly conservatively with home made, juicy, deeply flavoured steamed prawn dumplings, the more original mushroom and pine nut dumplings, and ravioli filled with morsels of grilled chicken.
Some of the more complex Hunan dishes must be ordered a day or more in advance, but we still had plenty to choose from: two of the best dishes we tried were the crisp-skinned duck to be rolled in thin pancakes with tender leek leaves and hoisin sauce, and the smoked pork sautéed with spring onions and handfuls of gleaming chilis. Most challenging were the green beans with minced pork, a three-chili dish only suitable for true chili enthusiasts, interspersed with mouthfuls of rice.
We drank Tsing Tao beer and noticed some French wines on offer, but next time we'll try the chrysanthemum and goji tea favoured by the Chinese diners. Be sure to reserve as this reasonably priced restaurant, with most main courses costing between €8 and €14, is understandably popular.
22 rue de Trevise, 9e
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sun 12noon-2.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm|