In the 10 years I’ve lived in Paris, I’ve watched locals try their hand at various foreign cuisines. While there have been some successes—you can now get a fantastic hamburger just about anywhere in town—mostly, it has not been great. (My only response when people ask about the growing number of Mexican restaurants here is a face-palm.)
According to many local chefs, this is partially explained by French people’s general dislike of spicy food—an aversion that is starting to change. A surprising new development is taking root in Paris: the arrival of Korean cuisine, not known to go light on the chili.
Where Korean-French chef Pierre Sang Boyer’s first restaurant was fundamentally hybrid, at his second—Pierre Sang on Gambey, which opened last year—he’s bringing in more of his native country’s flavor, including a rocking $8 lunchtime bibimbap.
Ibaji, the one functioning restaurant in the now-busted La Jeune Rue development near République, is an ethically sourced, almost-traditional Korean, with a to-die-for black sesame waffle with maple-glazed pecans for dessert.
People go to Le Mary Celeste in the Marais for the craft cocktails, and they stay for Haan Palcu Chang’s soy marinated deviled eggs, topped with shredded ginger and crispy fried rice. Chang, who is half-Romanian, half-Korean and grew up in Canada, moved on from Le Mary Celeste a few months ago to start Hero (pictured above and below), another casual canteen—this one with all-day service and a bigger focus on creative street food.
At Hero, Korean-style double-fried chicken comes soaked in an assortment of sauces, the gochu jang (fermented soy and chili) so hot it made this Southern California native tear up. There are salads and a proper kimchi course too, but the thing not to miss is the pork bun, a short rib sandwich with shredded cabbage and onions and a whack of tangy cream sauce. Two of those plus a fancy cocktail—the Thug Life, with mezcal and ginger, or the Makolada, a revisited piña with makegeolli rice wine, are both kitschily slurpee-style frozen—and you’re in for the night.