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Quality Asian Restaurants in France
Will "Quality Asia" Labels Make a Difference?

Silk & Spice

The first "Qualité Asie" or "Quality Asia" labels were given to Asian restaurants in France in mid-December 2005 by the Union of Asian Cafés, Hotels and Restaurants (UCHRA). Their idea is to clean up the image of Asian restaurants, which was sullied last year by reports on the widespread use of contaminated products discovered by health authorities.

This new label will identify those establishments that satisfy the Union’s charter, whose mission is to educate consumers on hygienic conditions, transparency and traceability of dishes offered by Asian restaurants in France. The label will be awarded to those members of the UCHRA that have successfully passed 142 tests including reception of customers, products, hygiene and security. The UCHRA hopes that in time such measures will lead to the upgrading of at least a thousand Asian restaurants in France—a reasonable objective according to the Union.

Reasonable it may be, but the initiators of the “Quality Asia” label will inevitably be confronted with French regulations that impose certain conditions such as regular inspections and ministerial consent. It is therefore not certain that this initiative will succeed. Another problem involves the turn-over of Asian chefs, rarely associated for long periods of time with the same establishment. Moreover, the UCHRA charter does not address the important debate over the use of monosodium glutamate, otherwise known as MSG, used in Asian cooking to accentuate flavors but also responsible for causing neck pains, headaches and sometimes even heart palpitations.

For quality Asian cuisine in France, the following suggestions are sure not to disappoint:

Silk & Spice
6, rue Mandar
75002 Paris
01 44 88 21 91

The trendy dark décor obliges the customer to concentrate on sophisticated Thai dishes such as white rice sautéed with vegetables (kao pad kar) and green papaya salad (som tam), served with chicken satay and sticky rice. Chef Siripark Nopporn works hard at making greaseless shrimp fritters and a delicious grapefruit salad (yum nai suan). Prix-fixe menus for 19 euro (lunch only) and 45 euro. Count on 40 euro à la carte. Open daily.

Chen-Soleil d'Est
15, rue du Théâtre
75015 Paris
01 45 79 34 34

The cooking of Fung-ching Chen, the modest yet gifted late chef from the Chinese region of Wenzhou, continues to be brilliantly executed by his kitchen brigade under the direction of his widow. The five fundamental flavors of Taoist equilibrium are represented here by five exotic spices such as star anis, fennel, Szechuan pepper, Chinese cinnamon and ground cloves. Exceptional Peking duck. Truly professional service. Prix-fixe menus for 40 euro (lunch) or 75 euro. A la carte around 80 to 100 euro. Closed Sunday.

Du Côté de Chez Xane
26, quai Saint-Antoine, passage Mercière
69002 Lyon
04 78 37 93 51

The modesty of this restaurant, originally a "bouchon Lyonnais," with its open kitchen and distinctive bar, doesn’t stop Xane and Florence from proposing well-spiced authentic Thai cooking such as stuffed chicken wings and shrimp sautéed with basil. A la carte around 30 euro. Closed Sunday.

Le Siam
25, promenade du Grand-Large
13008 Marseille
04 91 73 91 08

During the time when Marseille was the gateway to the Orient, Siam wasn’t yet Thailand. While nostalgia is not on the menu here, this loveable restaurant located near the Ponte Rouge offers subtly flavored dishes including crab fritters and authentic shrimp curry. Count on 25 to 30 euro à la carte. Closed Monday.

(Updated: 09/18/12 DL)

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