22 November 2010

savant chinois: q-tea, 75009

Instead of offering a straight informative review of Q-Tea, a criminally unassuming Chinese restaurant in the 9ème, I'd like to sketch a blurb of a pop-academic article I'd like to write someday, on the subject of selective aesthetic blindness.

(When greatly moved by something, I get the instinctive urge to produce a response commensurate, in ambition, to whatever it was first moved me - in this case, the greatest Chinese food I've ever tasted.)

As introduction, I'd cite the strange dissonance between Q-Tea's storefront design and what Q-Tea actually offers. It purports to be a bubble-tea-and-take-out place, which, on the most basic level, it is.

There are even bubbles painted onto the plastic banquette furniture. Nothing about the decor would have you believe that Q-Tea serves actual heavenly northern Cantonese / Shanghai Chinese cuisine.

Lotus root with pine nuts, mushrooms, and mustard greens. 
Fried chicken with chili and coriander. Half the dish was gone before I remembered to take a pic.

(The centerpiece of a recent meal there was a goat stew, into which was added tableside a particular Chinese bitter green and a bowlful of delightful tofu bows, which, while sopping up the stew liquid, also brilliantly mimicked the texture of goat meat itself, chewy and layered.)

The chef is a lanky serious-minded fellow called Ye who does everything solo. He takes great care with each dish and they all arrive one by one - once things get going, the meal flows in the sort of rhythm it takes larger, grander restaurants years to perfect. Then, when the meal is over, the chef saunters out and answers your questions about each dish with the kind of bemused humility common to prodigies for whom excelling at something is just the normal way to go about it, the only way they've ever known.

What is it about these people, who have such sharp sensibilities in one field, and seemingly no sensitivity to others, such as restaurant design? Business planning? Wine? Q-Tea is BYOB, the only such place I know of in Paris. There is, for the moment, no corkage fee. In thanks we tried to offer the chef a glass of 2004 Binner "Kaefferkopf" Gewürztraminer*. But he doesn't drink.

I assume there are certain cultural differences. Or that the current owners of Q-Tea purchased the place as-is from previous tenants who had, in fact, mostly just served bubble tea. Whatever happens, I wish them tremendous roaring success. They have everything it takes, except, seemingly, the knowledge that they have everything it takes.

*Which, by the by, was truly majestic. Overwhelming and balanced all at once. Secondary flavors in abundance - kerosene, smoke - along with a grand sort of pineapple-kiwi tropicality. Like a presidential palace in the Carribean. 

19, rue Notre Dame de Lorette
75009 PARIS
Metro: Notre Dame de Lorette
Tel: 01 55 32 04 68

The 2004 Binner "Kaefferkopf" Gewürztraminer is available at:

Caves du Marais
64, rue François Miron
74004 PARIS
Metro: Saint Paul
Tel: 01 42 78 54 64

Related Links:

Drinking the 2007 Binner "Kaefferkopf" Gewürztraminer at Quedubon, 75019
Realizing I had overlooked Caves du Marais, 75004

Another stunned review of Q-Tea @ John Talbott's Paris (which blog is useful and informative, once you digest the fact that the author is plainly kind of bonkers)


  1. Glad you like Q-Tea.

    It is not Northern Chinese cuisine though, by far. The chef is from Shanghai and the lady is from Guangzhou (Canton). I described it on my blog as a successful fusion of Cantonese and Shanghai cuisines, leaning toward the Cantonese, with a little Hunan thrown in (Hunan means, among other things, covered with a thick layer of chopped red chilli, which happens sometimes at Q-Tea).

    Some of the deliciousness comes from a direct connection with the motherland: I'd never have hoped to taste, in Paris, steamed slices (over rice) of the best Guangzhou duck-liver sausage, artfully smuggled in by the chef's wife's sister, and served at a friends' birthday party.
    Another important reason for the deliciousness is that Q-Tea serves Chinese home-style cooking, not an easy find in Paris.

    If you want Northern Chinese food in Paris, you've got Chez Yong (rue de la Colonie) and Traiteur Shan Dong (Les Délices de Shandong) boulevard de l'Hôpital. Both cooking in the Dongbei/Shandong style, and both excellent.

  2. Forgot to add: your blog is great and the quality of your writing is admirable.

  3. thanks for the correction! you seem to really know your chinese cuisine, unlike me. not sure where i got the idea it was northern chinese; it probably was some miscommunication between myself and Ye or Dan (sp? sp?). are either of those other two places you mention BYOB, by chance? i'll definitely check them out, regardless. in the meantime, thanks for reading!