Shan Gout in the 12th: Best Chinese meal of the year, century, two centuries? Could be.
7.8 Shan Gout, 22, rue Hector Malot in the 12th, 01.43.40.62.14, closed Mondays, a la carte about 30 €, is one terrific place.
Now, I rated yam’Tcha ahead of Shan Gout numerically, despite the fact that I think it is better. What’s up here?
Well, while I think that this is/was the best Chinese meal I’ve ever, ever had, and that counts Hong Kong and Chinese chefs in Sai Gon in the 60’s, China in the ‘70’s, San Francisco and New York since the ‘50’s and Paris more recently, I don’t want certain schmucks going here and ruining it.
It’s a gem; 24 covers, in an area Aurelie Chaigneau, in today’s JDD, calls the [sic] “no man’s land of restaurants,” chef’d by a guy so guileless that when he grabbed his coat to leave before any orders had been taken, my mouth opened with horror, my face fell and I tumbled to the floor: it’s OK, Monsieur, he assured me, I’m just going out for the (fresh) fish, be right back. The whole experience is an experience.
The outside looks like a Chinese antique store, sign in Chinese hanzi, aka in Japanese – kanji, all over, who knows it’s a restaurant (Ans. The neighbors my friends). Enter, cool big-tummied Buddha one can’t resist rubbing for good luck, sit at beautiful/industrial/appropriate tables; incredible menu, a sort of cross between Taillevent’s wine list and the dioramic displays outside Japanese restaurants; when opened it’s a butterfly (as my eating pal noted), had pictures and descriptions in French and English (not always in concordance, for example porc = fish). Oh well.
Amuse bouche: slivered apples with basil – basil? in China, come on guy, get a grip; well, it was great. We order.
My partner has a really, really, sensitive intestine (I knew this, I cannot even leave her my raw veggies when I go away, did my bringing her here reveal some deep-seated hatred of French women my age? – I dunno, ask a Baltimore psychoanalyst.) Judge, judge, I didn’t know many of the dishes were Szechuanese.
OK, she ordered noodles with sesame sauce and cabbage and told them to hold back the peppers (they did); sounds like standard but tasty Broadway in the 80’s food, eh?; un unh; incredible, no sesame sauce like that ever I’ve had. I had what the aforementioned Aurelie Chaigneau in today’s JDD, said was their plat de resistance – slivered cucumbers with peppery oil – ordered medium hot (whew, I don’t want his hot hot) - simple, dumb to order, why am I doing this? Divine, sliced cucumber with hot sauce? Yah.
Then my guest had chicken with chestnuts; now, I do wok’d chicken but it doesn’t taste anything like his tender tiny bits with succulent chestnuts. I now run out of superlatives. My sliced pork Szechuan-style was also without fault.
At some point, I’m talking with Madame and I say this stuff is really good and she says - read the intro to the menu (which I thought I had); no MSG, old recipes, simple approach. Jadis I thought; we may have a new generation that’s going back to the future.
Now the bill; best meal of the year, best Chinese meal of the century, best chef I’ve watched work in years (Sorry, Daniel), 100 € a person, right? or 500 € a couple? Nope. Four dishes, one bottle of Bordeaux, no desserts (they don’t have ‘em), no bottled water or coffee = 46.90 €.
That’s one reason I’m rating it so low.
Don’t go, please, there are no tablecloths, no voituriers, no fortune cookies, please don’t go.