Print Send via e-mail GPS Facebook Twitter
Get directions from | to | via this address
Tan Dinh (Paris): when Vietnamese cuisine combines with wine...
Tan Dinh is one of the most famous Vietnamese restaurants in Paris. Its cuisine is subtle and, more amazingly, the dish-wine pairings are heavenly!
Did you say Asian?
In Paris, Vietnamese cuisine stands out like a flowery and fragrant island which, for more than a century, has been striving to exist amid a multitude of 'Asian' restaurants where you find, on the same menu, nems, pineapple duck, chicken with green curry and sashimi… In the face of this melting pot of Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine, aficionados of Pho*, crab imperial rolls, soup with tamarind, thinly sliced beef salad with lime, and nuoc-mam**, know that there aren't many genuine Vietnamese restaurants... Three addresses can be recommended in Paris: Kim Anh (in the 15th district), Cô Ba Saigon (in the 8th) and of course Tan Dinh (in the 7th).
Tan Dinh, literally 'the new city'
The latter is perhaps the most unusual of them all! Located on Rue de Verneuil, behind Musée d’Orsay, it has been owned by the brothers Robert and Freddy Vifian since 1978. Their mother had already created her restaurant on Rue de Navarre, opposite the Arènes de Lutèce, in 1968.
Robert and Freddy were born in Saigon just after the Second World War and had a traditional Vietnamese upbringing but bathed in French culture. Contrary to the saying according to which the four virtues of a good Vietnamese wife are, in order, 'cong, dung, ngôn and kanh', in other words culinary knowhow, then natural beauty followed by refined language and fidelity – at Tan Dinh, it's men who do the cooking!
The peacefulness and understated decor of this restaurant that has not fallen prey to fashion allow you to concentrate on the unchanging specialities of the Vifian brothers, like the delicious duck roll with kumquat, Vietnamese raviolis with smoked goose, and mango salad with chicken...
Apart from the freshness of the products, the sauces invented by Robert and Freddy also play a crucial role throughout the meal, like the marvellous lime sauce with sugar, salt and pepper accompanying prawns with garlic and breadcrumbs.
'If Asian cuisine were combined with wine it would be the world's best!'
Tan Dinh does more however than simply serve up subtle and masterfully spiced Vietnamese food. Like Alice in wonderland, be curious and look behind the mirror! Attached to the menu, the short wine list, at first sight insignificant, rather makes you feel like having a jasmine tea instead. But more is in store! In actual fact, the connoisseur wine cellar built up since the beginning of the 1970s by Robert Vifian is one of the capital's finest.
Introduced to wine at his earliest age by his grandfather who poured a drop of Volnay into his glass of water, Robert Vifian is a self-trained wine buff who has tasted everything over a 40 year period, from the most legendary Bordeaux to the most modern Australian wines. Who other can pride himself on having tasted 30 times Château Pétrus 1947? In France, with his friend Alain Dutournier (chef at Carré des Feuillants), he is one of the chefs with the best knowledge of wine. On the subject of the relations between wine and Vietnamese cuisine, Robert Vifian could talk for ever.
When in 1968 I read Curnonsky's remark: 'If Asian cuisine were combined with wine it would be the world's best!', that triggered something in my mind. 'I said to myself that there was unchartered territory to be explored! Well, after 40 years of experimentation, I have arrived at the conclusion that the pairing of dishes and wines is more complicated for western than for Asian cuisine! In Vietnam, in particular, there is a different approach to taste. To remove a lemon's acidity, for instance, instead of sprinkling it with sugar, as in France, we sprinkle it with salt which, in a dish, allows an interesting match with wines that are somewhat sweet (such as Riesling Moenchbergs by Marc Kreydenweiss).
Above all, all the ingredients of a dish are cooked together whereas, in European cuisine, foods are generally prepared separately. Take for example cock in wine, a classic of bourguignon cuisine. There are several ingredients in this dish: cock, carrots, mushrooms, diced bacon, etc. However each of these ingredients does not combine with wine in the same way!
On each mouthful you have different flavours. In Vietnamese cuisine, each dish has a unity, a harmony, there is an exchange of flavours between all the ingredients, so the marriage with wine is easier! I also feel that rice is easier to combine with wine than bread which has several levels of flavour between the crust and the inside. As for cheeses, they are very difficult to pair with wines unlike a generally accepted idea!'
Robert Vifian feels that cuisine must be as uncluttered as possible: 'The less ingredients you have in a dish, the easier it is to pair it with a wine!'
The restaurant's star dish is therefore 'tan dinh': slivers of beef fillet marinated in a lemon sauce, with spices and honey, and grilled very rapidly. A very simple but extraordinarily tasty dish that seems to have been made for red wine! An aficionado of suave and silky wines displaying intense fruit, Robert Vifian recommends with this dish the sumptuous Château Tertre Roteboeuf by François Mijatvile at Saint-Emillion. For my part I would recommend the easier on the pocket Pomerol Château Bourgneuf-Vayron full of body and personality.
* Pho is the Vietnamese national soup: beef stock seasoned with nuoc-mam, ginger, onions or shallots, and spices and with a few added slivers of beef or poultry.
** This savoury and fermented fish sauce sauce is the true characteristic of Vietnamese cuisine, distinguishing it in particular from Chinese cooking.
60, rue de Verneuil 75007 Paris
01 45 44 04 84
46 € à la carte.
So as not to frighten the clientele having come mainly for the cuisine, the 'connoisseur' wine menu is not imposed. Merely ask for it. Featuring all the greatest French vine growers, this magnificent menu drawn up by Robert Vifian unfortunately has prices typical of 3-star restaurants! We would therefore liked to have seen an intermediary, more accessible wine menu...