Citronnelle et Galanga
15, rue d’Aboukir, in the 2nd Arrondissement.
Mon–Fri, lunch and dinner. 01 42 21 05 62.
If I’m in the mood for Vietnamese food in Paris, I head to Song Heng on the rue Volta and wait my turn for a place in the cramped dining room, where there are only two things on the menu: bo bun and pho. Getting in and out of a seat here can be a gymnastic feat and always necessitates a string of apologies. It’s not comfortable, but it’s comforting all the same. Noodles are like that.
There is much more to Vietnamese cooking than pho and bo bun, of course, and Paris is not a bad place to be if this is a cuisine you enjoy. Citronnelle et Galanga, a new address from the family behind Au Coin des Gourmets, on the left bank, offers varied and refined Vietnamese dishes, with visits to Cambodia and Laos, too, in a comfortable, good-looking space.
We started with the spring rolls with 12 vegetables, fresh and flavorful. I had an addictively bracing tamarind soup swimming with tender duck meat. A salad of thinly sliced beef was dressed with the classic mix of mint, cilantro, chilies, onion and lime, refreshing and piquant.
Rare beef salad.
For mains, one friend tried the Laotian sausage, slightly spicy, served with greens. I had the natin—a Cambodian dish of ground pork cooked in coconut milk, fragrant with kaffir lime, served playfully with pillars of sticky rice and also crisp clusters of puffed rice. The showstopper was fish cooked in banana leaves. The green package arrived on the plate, unadorned, then opened to release a lemongrass-scented cloud and reveal delicate filets of cod in a bath of coconut milk.
I often drink beer with this kind of food, but the wine list here is substantial; that, plus white tablecloths and professional service, makes this a polished restaurant experience. At noon, expect to see plenty of local suits in for the 15 euro lunch. Dinner is a bit more calm, and more expensive, though still, I think, reasonable.
In a nutshell: Citronnelle et Galanga serves thoughtful, elegant Vietnamese food in Paris in a sleek room.
Price check: Lunch menu, 15 euros; dinner, 22 euros for two courses, 28 euros for three.
If Citronnelle et Galanga sounds good but you want more cheap and cheerful, try Pho 14. Read the full review.
129, ave de Choisy, in the 13th.
01 45 83 61 15. Open daily, 9 a.m.–11 p.m.