The Hottest Restaurant in Paris

deux fois plus de piment

A lot of us étrangers (and there are some pretty étrange étrangers here..) bemoan the lack of heat and spiciness in the ethnic fare served up, because a good number of the locals have a hard time dealing with the heavily-spiced dishes that our all-American constitutions have no trouble handling. We, The People, have cast-iron stomachs and have become a nation of full-tilt eaters, relishing and exalting things that we can take to the extreme.

One thing I miss sérieusement is la cuisine mexicain, which is so foreign that it isn’t even in my dictionnaire Française. I know, I know. I live in Paris, and can understand perfectly why Mexican cuisine isn’t well-represented here*. (Hint: For the same reason North African cuisine isn’t quite so available back in the states.)

But I met my match at Deux Fois Plus de Piment (Two Times More Pepper). We were walking by recently, looking for a place for dinner, when I noticed this joint that just looked right.


Yes, I have my faults. And many out there seem to take great enjoyment in pointing them out. But I will take credit for having an uncanny ability to tell if a restaurant is a good one just by just looking at it. I don’t know why, and I wish I could transport that unique talent into other areas, like, say, picking stocks, but I spend a lot of time wandering around cities, peering in windows and looking at menus before I go in and sit down for a meal. In fact, I often set out early for lunch, around 10am, because by the time I find just the right place, it’s sometimes hours later, and the restaurant is closing up their shutters by the time I’ve made that important decision.

Deux Fois Plus de Piment

I have a deep dislike of eating—and paying for—badly prepared food. So before I go inside, I like to mentally scope everything out, right down to the last detail. Of course, it drives everyone else crazy, but it’s one of the few things I’m always right about and the reward for their patience is that they get to eat well.

(I have a longer list of things I wasn’t right about…but let’s not share those right now.)

After passing by this place, we went in. I don’t remember what we had (which is why in addition to not having a promising career as a stockbroker, I leave the restaurant reviews to the professionals, too) because everything below the top of my head felt like it had been set on fire. The Szechuan food was spicy beyond belief, my mouth and throat buzzing with the fuzzy heat of Szechuan pepper and an overly generous bounty of those dinky little chili peppers that hide insidiously amongst the meat and vegetables, but may-the-good-lord-take-mercy-on-you if you accidentally pop one in your craw.

The other patrons, mostly Asian teenagers, were eating their dinner as if nothing was wrong, while Romain’s face turned the color of a late-season very-ripe tomato and looking like it was about to burst. I don’t know what I looked like, being blinded by the heat with tears of pain (admittedly, mixed with a little joy) rolling down my cheeks. I believe it was the first time ever that a bottle of beer would be considered a first-aid device.

When you go to an Asian restaurant in Paris, especially one that specializes in spicy food, tell the waiter you want it authentique when you order, rather than épicée or pimentée. That means you don’t want it tamed, as they often will do to appease any less-adventurous locals.

But beware; unless you’re willing to suffer the consequences—and I warn you that behind these red shutters, there will be conséquences, you might want to ask them to go just une fois on les piments. Or maybe I’m just becoming a little more of a local than I thought.

Deux Fois Plus de Piment
33, rue Saint-Sebastien (11th)
Tél: 01 58 30 99 35
(Map)




UPDATE: Another restaurant in Paris that serves spicy-hot Chinese food is L’Orient d’Or (22, rue de Trevise, in the 9th, Tél: 01 48 00 07 73), a Hunan restaurant. It’s very good and recommended.



Related Links

Les Pâtes Vivantes

My Top 10 Chinese Restaurants in Paris (NoTor)

Matsuri Sustainable Sushi

*Mexican Restaurants in Paris (UPDATE)

Tipping in Paris

66 comments

  • Well, it’s a great skill to have. I’m not so good myself! Hubby is better, maybe it’s a man thing, the hunter-gatherer-finder-of good-food-thing for todays world?

    Mexican is a cuisine that I know very little about, primarily because of the chillies (real chilli wimp here!).

  • Sichuan in Paris?! Wow, wow and WOW! I thought it existed only in my dreams. I can’t wait to try this!

  • Actually, I’m sure it’s not the first time a bottle of beer has been used as first aid. (Hello, hair-of-the-dog). But was the food good? Or just hot?

    Off topic: I love those baguette wrappers that say “tout le plaisir du pain”… I know they’re talking about bread, but it always makes me giggle.

  • “I have a deep dislike of eating—and paying for—badly prepared food.” haha! i deeply empathize. i have an additional reason: not only do i suffer while having to eat shoddy food, I have to suffer burning those kcals off too =| so i end up choosing assurance over adventure on my plate.

    Also, I’ve been on a similar chili trip with an unforgiving dish of ginger-chili tofu of all things. Wont ever be fooled by tofu is all I can say.

  • Braden & Laura have also mentioned this place so I suppose I should get me to the hotterie!

    Love it when you write about restaurants.

  • for your reader who can read chinese, the way the owner of the restaurant play with the chinese character to describe 2 peppers, direct translation will be “Ultimate twin peppers” on the sign board, it is pretty funny.

    It is originated from old chinese idiom of “ultimate twin beauty”

    clever play of word.

    Sichuan food is fantastic.

  • David,
    For Mexican food have you tried Anahuacalli in the 5eme? A friend of mine swears by it. Hope you can give it a try and enjoy!

  • (I have a longer list of things I wasn’t right about…but let’s not share those right now.)

    My god, you are hilarious about the things you were right about. Really can’t wait until the list of wrongs!

  • Love a bit of crazy szechuan heat now and again. It is always good to find a great restaurant.

  • Oh, I need to get to this restaurant, pronto!

  • I just stopped by this place after having wanted to go for some time. The poulet à la sichaunaise and the ma po tofu (called “tofu avec porc haché en sauce pimenté” or something) were both terrific. I think my tongue is still numb!

  • Fantastic! My mum (who lives in France) and I were just talking the fact that we hadn’t yet found a really good Chinese restaurant in Paris. I know where we’ll be heading next time we’re there.
    My dad, who was a huge lover of all things spicy (he had a mouth – and stomach – made of asbestos, I’m sure), hated the way Chinese restaurants in France generally served food as starter, main course, pudding, instead of the more authentic way of sharing lots of dishes. It was one of the few things he didn’t like about living in France (that, and the lack of Indian restaurants – he liked his food, my dad!).

  • I share your dislike of eating and paying for bad food, but sadly not your instincts for good restaurants. It’s worth working on though! :D

    Great article, as usual!

  • Try the szechuan cumin lamb, ma la chicken and ‘water boiled’ fish. It won’t exactly burned a hole in your stomach (it might for some) but it will put you on the next level of chilli pepper nirvana.

  • We, The People. I love it. My husband, who is not yet an American citizen, pokes fun at that statement on my passport every time he sees it.

  • A great skill indeed, and seems to the “gut feeling” I get when I see a place that that I just “know” is going to be good….or not!

    Adding this one to your list of places to eat in Paris, planning our trip there for 2013!

    =:~)

  • I’m a huge fan of chilli heat, but it’s been awhile since I’ve tested myself at a restaurant known for its heat levels. The inner competitor in me is crying out for the opportunity, though :D

  • David, for Mexican I recommend Casa Palenque. They used to be on my street in the 11th but they moved late last year to a new location in Montparnasse. I haven’t been to the new location yet, but their food is really excellent:
    http://www.casapalenque.com/

  • it’s intersting to note the similarities in the palates of the greeks and the french – when a greek tells you that a dish is picantiko, which means spicy, it is hardly likely to be hot – chili-hot food is indeed not a greek thing either

  • David, if you haven’t found good mexican food in Paris is because you haven’t tried Anahuacalli, it’s located in the 5th arrondissement and it is as authentic as it gets. If you decide to give it a try, make sure to make a reservation, or bring a Mexican friend who can sweet-talk his/her way in!

  • I dream of someday moving to France, and my half-Mexican husband and I have talked about opening a Mexican restaurant when we do. He has lived without easy access to Mexican food a couple times, and he wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again! I think we should call it “The Roach Coach”, but that’s just the perverse Angeleno in me.

    There’s certainly lots of Mexican food that isn’t too spicy, and you can control the heat in salsas and moles easily … ah well, it’s a dream.

    Seriously, though, I don’t even know where to find good Sichuan food in L.A. – so lucky you for finding such a great place!

  • You are very funny, clever and self deprecating. 3 of my favorite attributes in a person. And I can’t stand eating or paying for bad food either. I am actually starting to feel sorry for the people who go to new restaurants with me because I’m constantly “grading” the quality of the food. They probably wish I would just shut up and eat so they could enjoy their food. I live in an area with a fairly high hispanic population, and can find just about any kind of Mexican type food around. I would be happy to send some your way if you are ever in the mood to cook the Mexican way for your friends in Paris.

  • My husband claims that it sounds like they were using Thai chilis (which aren’t used in Szechuan cooking normally) instead of Chinese chilis (ie facing heaving chilis). Chinese chilis are much more gentle than the Thai chilis. Or maybe they did use Chinese chilis and your palate is getting more French? :)

  • Whoops, “facing heaven chilis.” Although “heaving chilis” sounds awesome.

  • Tamara and Paola: That place is on my list, but I haven’t been yet. Maybe it’s time to organize a fiesta?!

    Jennifer: I went there a few months back. We emptied their margarita machine….by 9pm!

    maria: I think some cultures have stronger constitutions that others. When I was in Tunisia, many of the French folks were asking the servers frequently, before ordering, if the food was spicy. I think perhaps is the French (and maybe Greek) palate is more subtle, preferring softer flavors and not heavy-duty seasonings. But that’s just a guess…

  • YUM! Spicy food in Paris – what a treat!

    I’m like you in that I wander around for hours reading menus and scoping out cafes and restaurants because I just really hate to waste not only my money, but my time and one of the meals of my life on not so great food. It drives my friends crazy.

    I’ve put this is on my list for my next visit.

  • Yeah for authentique! I get so tired of Italianized foreign food. It’s only good for an occasional laugh.

  • I’m going! Love Szechuan cuisine and can’t wait for a big chile-induced sweat.

  • Noted in my little black book. Cant wait! JH

  • Thanks for the tip about saying “authentique” and not “épicée or pimentée”! I’ve been in Paris 20 years and never knew that…

    And if you find a good Mexican place, be sure to let your readers know. My favorite place (The Ay Carumba!, near the parc des Buttes Chaumont) closed a while back and I’ve been looking for a suitable replacement ever since.

    Thanks again!

  • David, I totally am with you on scoping it out. When I go to a new restaurant, I excuse myself and walk around and see what everyone is eating, and then I order what looks fresh or interesting. I get SO annoyed when I have to pay for a bad meal.

  • Your story gives new meaning to “once burned..” What is it about a pepper’s heat (in the U.S.or is it everywhere) that seems to define manliness in the realm of food? Give a group of men three choices of salsa; mild, hot and extreme, and they will turn it into a virility contest. Any insight? Just kidding..(not really)

  • I’ve been looking for real Szechuan food in Paris for ages and had given up, particularly after Ann Mah admitted at a signing of her book “Kitchen Chinese” that there wasn’t any. She thought it was probably because most Chinese immigrants in Paris are from provinces not known for their cuisine. Thanks for the tip; it will make a cold Paris winter much warmer!

    And I will add my recommendation for Anahuacalli in the 5th for authentic Mexican food. It was recommended to me by an expatriate Mexican woman. It seems to be a family operation and they’re keepin’ it real.

  • Wonderful name…boy, if you don’t get their message…..

  • Anahuacalli is outstanding. It combines the best of two worlds….the finest French chocolate (love their mole) and fresh foods with wonderful Mexican standard (and not so standard) cuisine. Hope you get there soon, David.

  • Will definitely try it when I am in Paris next spring. I am picky with my Chinese restaurants, or any restaurants for that matter – I am like you, walking for hours scrutinizing every menu and reading between the lines whether the chef is any good by the way he pairs the greens and carbos, and finally agonizing over which one I am willing to part my money with! Sound anal, but like you said, the patient shall be rewarded with a memorable meal!

    If you are in the San Francisco/Bay Area, there is a very authentic Szechuan restaurant in Redwood City called Crouching Tiger on Broadway Boulevard. Their “water boiled lamb, beef or fish” served in a wooden bucket will send tingles up your sweaty skull! Their “twice-cooked pork” with fatty pork belly (you have to specially request this) is to die-for, and their tea-smoked duck is fragrant and moist. All their dishes are featured in a slide show on small flat-screened TVs on the dining room walls. You do get what you see! After all that hot spicy food, you can wash it down with great German beer on tap across the street at the Gourmet Haus Staudt Beer Garden!

  • David, I would be interested in hearing your comments about Chez Vong, if you’ve ever been there. We went there over Christmas when we had first arrived in Paris. It was a holiday celebration with three families. I don’t know much about Chinese food, so I don’t know if it was authentic. I will say it was a fantastic meal, though pricey. Any thoughts?

  • could it be that very hot chiles contain neurotoxins, or at least milk of amnesia?

    I can almost remember an incident involving a meal with friends at a vietnamese restaurant. we ordered hot, and we got hot. the meal arrived and we happily tucked in, chatting away. it was indeed hot, but our mouths seemed to handle it ok, so we carried on. minutes passed, more eating and maybe less chatting, then less and less chatting, then no chatting whatsoever and a lot of wide-open glassy eyes.

    we were all flying, you know, totally high. my head felt like a balloon floating somewhere around ceiling level, tethered only by the finest of strings. I think beer may have been applied medicinally but I can’t say for sure. I have absolutely no recollection of the dishes in question, even though we’d spent a long time arguing over what to order. I’m not even sure how we got home, truly a miracle considering that the trip involved the LIRR.

    I wish I could remember where that restaurant was.

  • You may be delighted to know that, through desperate experimentation, we found that the cure for putting out the fire of too much chili heat is —-chocolate! It’s the fat in chocolate, I think, but whatever the reason, it works. My sister-in-law had the misfortune of crumbling little red chilis onto her pasta with her fingers in Florence to make it more “arrabiata,” as suggested by our Italian friend. She then wiped her fingers on her napkin, then a few minutes later touched her napkin to her lips. This resulted in a burning mouth, nose and eyes that would not quit. Bread was no help. Water didn’t work. A coke was ordered. No relief. A chocolate bar worked.
    My brother suggested repeating the ordeal in the name of science to see if it really was the chocolate that relieved the burning, but she declined.

  • Szechuan chillies really numb the tongue so much that I can’t taste the dishes’ other flavours. I’m now wiser and take small bites of the food at a time.

  • Not being a fan of chilli, I just can’t understand why someone would want to eat anything that causes tears of pain!
    Where’s the fun in that?

  • I always believed that twice as much piment is a way of hiding a not first class standard of the food itself. Let alone Chinese restaurants never fare well with the kitchen inspections by the Parisian health authorities. And take very good care when buying small take away dishes from the many Chinese traiteurs all over Paris. What looks very appetizing may contain the most extraordinary bacterias due to poor hand hygiene according to laboratory tested samples shown in a number of French television programmes.

  • love this piece david, so fun. and since i am probably the biggest wimp (with spices, that is) you might ever meet, i think my mouth would be on fire just at the sight of those red doors. i’ll pass on this one, merci.

  • …great advice about using the phrase “authentique” instead of “epicee”. When in Paris, I was advised to use “relevee”, which sometimes brought success. However, the only way I ever succeeded in being served a truly spicy Indian meal, was to use phrases like “comme Bradford” when ordering! Glad to say that, having returned to old Blighty, we no longer have to suffer that adaptation of world cuisines to the French palate! Still wish we had known about that little gem of a restaurant when we were there.

  • WHY NOT PUBLISH A BOOK OR LIST OF YOUR FAVORITE BE EME,AND PRICE CATEGORY AS WELL AS WHAT THE DO BEST.. IF SUCH EXISTS OOOPS I MISSED IT
    ARI

  • David I don’t like spicy food or Mexican but that’s what great about you and your humor, your blog–that was a damn funny read anyway!

  • Oh my goodness, it looks a completely different kind of establishment all painted red and windowless. The sign is just a cover-up. I do tend to love dumpy looking places that sell great food, went to one a few days ago between mechanic shops and construction sites. Good, cheap and delicious food.

  • David – Good thing that your next stop wasn’t a wine-tasting….maybe that is part of the reason that the French don’t embrace les plats trés épicés – numb taste buds are no good for appreciating a good wine. But in the Basque country, you can have highly spiced dishes washed down with light Irouleguy wine – or cider, followed by a chocolate dessert. Okay, the Basque/Spanish border ways are an exception. Anyway…enjoyed the spicy post.

  • Oh, how I wish I had that skill. And I must say, in your shoes, I’d be sorely tempted to open up a taco shop. I would be very unhappy in a Mexican-less food environment.

  • I had 10 people over for dinner tonight and last night I made the almond cake recipe you featured on your blog and month or so ago. It came out beautifully. I am not a baker but this cake was sensational. Everyone just loved it. I am really enjoying your blog.

    Donald Albert
    Washington, DC

  • I went there last night to try it out. Called first to make sure it was open as it had been closed when I went at lunchtime a few days before. The young lady I spoke to on the phone told me that, yes they were open and no, reservations were not necessary. When I arrived 40 minutes later I was told that there were no tables available that evening. An American (or Canadian) couple standing outside had just had the same thing happen to them after calling earlier in the day (they had read your blog too as I asked – hi there!). When asked why this hadn’t been explained on the phone earlier the girl in the restaurant just looked at me like I was an idiot.

    So as a spicy food lover I’m disappointed that I won’t get to try out the food but there are too many other cool places to eat here in Paris for me to give this place another try after this fiasco. We ended up at a fantastic, very spicy, Thai restaurant in the 20th with the best food and worst seating I’ve ever experienced at a Thai restaurant.

    Love the blog. Please keep the local restaurant recommendations coming as it’s only through people like yourself that we can find hidden gems.

    Cheers

    Shep

  • I’ve just had a look at a forum page that the restaurant started or contributes to. One of the entries contains a list of the dishes available on their menu and they appear rather typical Sichuanese. A few of the dishes also have me craving for Sichuanese food, like “water-boiled beef”, chilli chicken and twice cooked pork. But the dish on their menu that some foreigners would be more exposed to would probably be “gong bao chicken”. However, an “authentic” Sichuanese “gong bao chicken” looks and tastes nothing like those served in your typical Chinese restaurant. The mildly numbing spiciness of an “authentic” one slowly creeps up on you and heats up your mouth, but only just so (unless you’ve bitten into a Sichuan peppercorn, in which case, order lots of beer at once), leaving you craving for more.

  • I’m really please that you enjoy “Deux Fois Plus de Piment” as much as I did !
    I discovered it by a friend, and made a post about it just a few weeks ago.
    If you like to have a look at my pictures, here there are:
    http://chicstyle.canalblog.com/archives/2010/05/11/17863061.html#comments
    And thank you for your blog, I’m a fan.

  • Love reading that you guys found great spicy success at “Deux Fois Plus de Piment.” I too would rather have meals at home than pay for mediocre or poor meals out. Glad you enjoyed your experience and found it before they closed for lunch. Love that exterior….the red reflecting the heat inside, non??

  • I absolutely ADORE Deux Fois Plus de Piedment!! I frequented it mainly because I lived extremely close and it was the best cheap meal I could find in a 5 minute radius. I discovered it in March when my art history professor took me there, and it was absolutely amazing! Ofcourse, being Chinese, I told them to turn up the spicyness a couple notches and it was superb. I’m so glad to see it here on your blog!

    Next time you go try the cold spicy noodles, the sicpy beef soup (not sure what the actual name is), the spicy szechuan chicken – and the spicy cold cucumbers add the perfect cooling sensation to your hot spicy meal!

  • David, your posts always make me smile. You have such a gift for putting people in the moment…..Thank you.

  • Not a bad psychic skill to have- I’m pretty good that way with the restaurants, but my husband always manages to pick the best dish once we’re inside- go figure.

    I CAN do that with books in a bookstore; walk up to the shelf, scan the spines and put my finger on the one that’s the “best”. I tend to buy more books for information these days than novels, and it’s very useful to be able to i.d. the one book that will actually have the info you’re looking for, and have it be presented in a way that works for you.

    My husband doesn’t quite trust in it though, and usually spends 45 minutes going through every book on the subject the store has anyway. Before buying the one or two I pulled out at the very beginning. ;)

  • Sounds fantastic – Have to check with my mate living in Paris to see if they know about this place. And beer may sound like a good idea to go with spicy food, but when it’s used as a first aid device, the frothy bubbles seem to stimulate the heat agitated tongue so much more. I prefer cold ice tea for chilli emergencies!

  • “I believe it was the first time ever that a bottle of beer would be considered a first-aid device.” … words to consider whenever faced with extra spice. At least I do anyway.

    The hottest food I’ve ever eaten was Ethiopian food in Denver (the restaurant name escapes me). Since then I’ve looked for something just as hot (or good) to no avail. Guess I need to visit Paris for that (or Ethiopia:)

  • David, I have just returned from a cooking class on chile peppers at the Sante Fe Cooking School. Our chef/instructor said at the outset that water, beer, etc. is useless in soothing the heat after eating spicy dishes. A swish of milk or a dab or sour cream will do the trick.

  • Oh there was a Mexican restaurant we went to en Republique once… Mostly for the novelty of going to a mexican restaurant in paris. If memory serves me, it was really a French take on Mexican food. I don’t think it was very spicy…. but it was fun and I had some sort of margarita something for dessert. :)

  • So happy to hear I am not alone in my quest for heartily spiced food in France! It’s even worse out in lower Normandy & my significant other’s entire family looks at me like I have two heads as add red pepper, paprika, black pepper, & other spices to almost every dish they produce.
    In the US my friends & I are working our way up the “star” system at our fave Thai place, & when I was single I used to test all my dates to see how they handled my preferred level of spicy foods. Few were able to bear the heat…

    Thanks everyone for the tips on what restos crank up the heat & how to ask for authentique!

  • Might anyone know of a French version of OpenTable? I’m visiting Paris this Fall and my French is er, rusty, so I’m petrified of jumping in with both feet on the phone. Has anyone booked reservations online?

  • Meredith: Sites like Open Table haven’t had success in Paris because restaurants don’t like giving up control of their reservation book (at least that’s what the folks at Open Table told me). Most restaurants in France haven’t embraced an online presence: in spite of the fact some have websites, most don’t respond to e-mail or take reservations that way.

    (There is a site called The Fork, which does take online reservations and offers discounts at various restaurants if booked via their site, but I’ve not heard of many of the restaurants in their listings.)

    Even if your French isn’t good, many places in Paris are used to English speakers and/or have English-speaking staff. So you can call and speak slowly and avoid calling during mealtimes when they’re busy.

    If you’re still concerned, ask the person at your hotel to call, or use a service like Edible Paris, which will make reservations for you for a small fee.

  • Regarding your craving for Mexican food: Try Mexi&Co, 10 Rue Dante
    75005. Its not the Americanized version of Mexican food that we know and love, but the burritos are good and they make a mean margarita. Its a tiny little place with a few Mexican slash Colombians in the kitchen, nice and kitsch just the way a Mexican restaurant should be.

  • Ended up checking this place out based on this recommendation and I can say that it succeeds in the spice department (love spicy, and this certainly wins), but completely fails on the quality department. For 15-16 euros I expect quality cuts of meats. Instead, I was served extremely low grade bits of chicken leg with nearly zero meat, plenty of bone and connective tissue. The pork “soup” was tolerable but certainly not even a C grade cuts, random chunks held together with fat. And, the oil level was just off the charts. The first 1/2″ of the soup was pure chili oil, and it wasn’t even seasoned well, loaded with that strong MSG after taste. I have to say that the noodle appetizer was nice. Simple noodles with a soy sauce base, some ground chinese chili in chili oil.