Monday, February 26, 2007

Dimsum and firecrackers

Yesterday, Paris had its official Chinese New Year's Day parade in Chinatown, the thirteenth arrondissement. It was a good excuse to head over early to have some dimsum, which was a first for John in Paris. He loved it. Maylin loved it, too. We went to La Chine Massena (18, Ave. de Choisy), which is on the main floor of the big commercial center in the area which also houses the supermarket, Geant. We waited about twenty minutes, but I think it is possible to make a reservation ahead of time. It's a huge restaurant so they'll fit you in somewhere eventually. The service is good, if you can wave them down. And we were in a prime spot for waving, right on the aisle across from the noodle soup kitchen (separate from the regular kitchen). We were also next to the service station, so when we realized there were no forks for Maylin on our table (only chopsticks), John was able to grab one for her without needing to disturb anyone.

La Chine Massena does have the steaming hot rolling carts of dimsum going from table to table as we are familiar with in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, it was usually the same few dishes over and over again for about half an hour (shau-mai, pork ribs, chicken feet, and some other dumplings), but I did eventually see the deep-fried stuffed taro root, turnip cakes, and pan-fried chive dumplings (delicious!). If you want to order regular items (and other dimsum dishes) off the menu, you need to flag down the only person allowed to take orders -- an older gentleman in a dark suit (the other employees wear red vests). He has a handheld electronic device with a stylus that automatically sends your order to your kitchen, so estimated food arrival time is pretty good.

There was one employee who looked really out of place. He was the only non-Asian (very Caucasian) with receding grayish-white hair and what looked like gray sweats. When I first saw him, I thought, what is he doing going through the dishes on the cart? But then we saw him many times later, carrying tall towers of hot dimsum steamers in his barehands to each cart. We realized that he was the muscle behind the restaurant.

Towards the end of our meal, an older French couple was seated next to us. I felt sorry for them because they took forever to decide what they wanted, and then when they were ready, the "suit" wasn't around to take their order. The food did come quickly after they ordered, but what they were eating was completely unrecognizable to me. It could have been lightly deep-fried dumplings. I thought they only did this kind of cruelty to dumplings in the States. If they had asked me or even given me some friendly eye contact, I would have gladly advised them on what to order.

We finished our meal just in time for the parade on Avenue de Choisy. I was relieved it wasn't windy and rainy as it was before we got to the restaurant. For about half an hour, the parade's colorfully-dressed partipants stayed in place, fan dancing, dragon dancing, drumming. Some groups were better prepared than others. I believe San Francisco's version is on a more professional level and much grander in scale. But, it didn't really matter too much to us. It was a lot of fun. Maylin's first viewing of dancing dragons and dogs was precious. We all liked the furry dogs the best.

I had absentmindedly left my camera pack at home (with lenses freshly cleaned and everything), but I think it was just as well. I'm too short and it was too crowded (but not even half as crowded as SF). I'd have to climb on top of someone's car to get a good view. I was having a good time looking at other people's cameras and lenses anyway. Canon DSLRs were in the majority, as were Canon telephoto lenses. I only saw one film camera. Oh, there were many more point-and-shoots of course, but I wasn't looking at those. I only saw one female DSLR owner, so that was disappointing, but not terribly surprising. Woman photographers -- let's get out there! (And not leave our cameras at home!)

I wonder if I'll ever know why they decided to have the parade the weekend AFTER Chinese New Year's??


ColourMeCrazy said...

Yum, dimsum. I haven't had that in ages. Never been to La Chine Massena, I'll have to try it. I hear there are some decent places in Belleville as well.

Anonymous said...

I also have some yum yum Dimsum during the New Year, in Sacramento, while we have Family gather at my uncle's in Davis. They are soooo much better tasting than those in San Diego, and the dishes are more authentic.

Chinese New Year lasts 15 days, and usually the First day (as well as the New Year's Eve) are reserved for visiting families, the elders, so it probably make sense if they want alot more people to participate.