I realise that this could upset some residents of the 20th arrondisement but I’ve never been good at keeping foodie secrets. Saturday night I dined at Cyclo, a tiny Vietnamese restaurant on rue de Belleville, and soon discovered why it’s one of the neighbourhood’s best kept secrets. The place was full to the brim, with most of the patrons on a first-name basis with the owner – a charmingly flamboyant Vietnamese native who takes the utmost pride in each dish that comes out of his kitchen.
There was a 50 minute wait for a table, so we left our names and trotted down the hill for un p’tit verre and some live folk music at Culture Rapide. By 10 p.m. we were soothing our grumbling bellies with 2 entrées of gỏi cuốn rice paper rolls filled with rice noodles, prawns and slices of pork, and deep fried pork nem rolls wrapped in fresh mint and lettuce leaves – each had its own bowl of sweet vinegary dipping sauce with grated carrots.
Next came a round of bún bò and phở bò. The first is a cold noodle salad topped with succulent beef, peanuts, nems and fresh coriander. It’s a close call but I think this is slightly better than the bò bún at Hanoi in the 11th. The second is a soup dish of rice noodles and thin slices of raw flank steak that cook in the steaming hot shrimp-paste-chilli-lemongrass-flavoured broth. It’s served with a wedge of lime, bean sprouts, fresh onion and a little pot of thick Hoisin sauce.
Once our ransacked bowls had been cleared away, there was talk of the D-word…dessert! I tried to graciously bow out of this round, until Mr Cyclo passed by with a tantalising tower of crispy coconut crêpes and ice cream. He paused to waft it under our noses, knowing full well that the slightest taunt would throw me over the edge, and of course I fell hook, line and sinker. We ordered the Délice de Banane, and out came a flat slice of steamed banana cake with a brown sugar crust. Just as we were about to tuck in, our man cried “halt” and began spooning over the pool of sweet coconut milk it was swimming in. He explained that this would enhance the flavour and was, of course, spot on. I could have eaten the entire cake tin just drenched in the stuff.
Entrées & Desserts: €5-6
What’s playing today?
I recently read a Life + Times of Scott post about Frank Ocean and loved two things, i) redefiniing the term ‘discovering music’ and ii) defending the illustrious love song a.k.a. “sappy singing”.
This is Whip Appeal by Mr Ocean