I was buzzing with excitement as we passed in front of the Double Dragon sign, painted by hand in gorgeous green and gold on the restaurant’s crisp, clean glass window. We had rushed from Montparnasse, getting lost during our transfer in Châtelet (which is more like an escape room than a metro station) and fumbled through a hasty check-in process at our hotel in the 11ème. A quick sprint to Rue Saint-Maur and we were at DD, pushing through the double-door vestibule meant to keep out the frost of a January evening. Inside, it’s warm. The kitchen counter on the left is alive with energy. An effortlessly chic and young but slightly retro vibe riegns in the dining room.
Double Dragon is named after a popular, now retro Japanese video game from the 80’s, but I’m sure it’s also meant to make reference to the two badass dragonesses behind the operation: Katia and Tatiana Levha. With a Polish father, Filipino mother, French nationality and international upbringing, the sister duo set about building a resto that would reflect their intercontinental experience. In 2014 they opened Le Servan, which was met with immediate success. Four years later, their reptilian second baby breathed its first fiery breath. Today, Double Dragon offers an exciting menu which brings together pan-Asian (but mostly Filipino) flavors with locally sourced, superb French products. Korean fried chicken (KFC) are made with poulet jaune de Landes and their smoky endives are prepared in a Philippine tortang omelet. Kare kare is transformed into a vinaigrette and jangajji is served with a beef tartar. All these ingredients are incorporated with charm and creativity, bringing another layer to the classic French ingredients.
Paired with the food is a well-curated list of mostly French natural wines, along with cocktails and digestifs that feature Asian spirits. To start, I chose a glass of Thierry Puzelat Clos du Tue Boeuf “Pineau de Loire” 2021 VDF, a deep gold Chenin with hay and withered flower aromas and an unctuous, voluptuous mouthfeel. I ended up ordering two glasses more, so well did it fit with the entire meal.
First to arrive was their signature dish, my story of which received several very enthusiastic DM’s and thumbs up from my “fololos”. From their Pica-Pica list, their crispy fried siopao (a Philippine bao) is stuffed with Comté cheese and XO sauce (made with dried shrimp, scallops and aged ham), and comes served with a creamy mayonnaise seasoned with more XO and Phu Quoc black pepper. I honestly could’ve eaten like a dozen more of these. The texture is a bit like a fried brioche, sandy and crunchy and blistered on the exterior with a chewy, delicately doughy interior. Bite into one and a mess of gooey Comté oozes out, its nutty, smoky, fruity flavor vibing perfectly with the funky umami and spice of the XO. The XO (more of a relish in texture than a sauce, really) is also present in the peppery, cool mayo served on the side. I loved this dish, which brought me back to my time in Hong Kong, where everything – from noodles to chicken wings – is served with a spoonful of luxurious XO.
Like a delicate, bare Aphrodite, raw slices of scallop were served on the half shell, covered with paper-thin slices of seaweed that seemed to melt on, along with some pickled cucumbers, whose sweet touch reminded me of bread and butter pickles. The mix was seasoned with tosazu, a Japanese dressing made with vinegar, soy sauce, mirin and bonito dashi stock, which added an exquisite smoked fish umami to the dish.
Lumpy little Jerusalem artichokes were roasted to perfection and dressed in a sticky sweet caramel sauce seasoned with 5-spice powder. The tubers had a texture similar to that of a roasted tomato, but a sweeter, nuttier, earthier flavor, which was complemented beautifully by the cinnamon, clove and pepper in the sauce.
We ordered some red rice, which came topped with fried anchovies, fried garlic, fried shallots, fresh spring onions, pickled radish, and raw yolk. When mixed up, the gooey yolk bound all the other ingredients, making it easy to scoop up hearty mouthfuls. An excellent mix of different textures and flavors, from the crispy fried shallots to the earthy umami of the anchovies, the tang of the pickle and the sober heat of the garlic.
Double Dragon’s chicken wings are marinated in a Thai chili sauce called prik pao, then thrown on the barbecue and topped with a generous sprinkle of thinly sliced fried garlic and some crushed peanuts before serving. The sauce in which the meat is marinated and which also coats the wings is made with charred chilis, shallots, garlic, dried shrimp, fish sauce and tamarind paste, imbuing the chicken with a heavenly mix of sweet, salty, spicy and umami flavors. These flavors become even more intense as they are activated by the heat of the grill, which also adds its own smoky touch to the ensemble. The sauce caramelizes and thickens over the chicken into a flavor-packed paste to lick off one’s fingers. Garlic adds sweetness and a touch of bitter, while the peanuts bring a sweet, nutty touch.
And for dessert? A Pinoy doughnut called bicho-bicho, coated in cinnamon sugar and served with an sticky-sweet caramel sauce and a scoop of coconut sorbet over the top. The bicho was slightly doughier and denser (even eggier?) than I expected but still quite light and still warm, causing the sweet coconut ice cream to melt over it beautifully. The cinnamon coat had a pleasant sandy texture and melted against the warm caramel at the base of the pastry, imbuing every bite with a cozy cinnamon flavor. We enjoyed this dessert with a glass of chilled Umeshu Niwa No Uguisu “Tomeri” plum wine made with Ume plums, which offered a fresh acidity and a very rich mouthfeel to complement this hearty, comfort food dessert.
An excellent, exciting meal from start to finish and the service was great too. My only negative sentiment is the pang! of regret I still feel deep in my chest for not having ordered their fabulous crispy pata, the deep-fried whole pork trotter we oohed and aahed at as it passed our table more than once. Big mistake, but at least we have a(nother) reason to return.