The Asians Are Coming, the Asians Are Coming

The Asians Are Coming, the Asians Are Coming

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japanese foodWhen I first began frequently visiting France, I was peculiar about eating: I only ate in French restaurants (except the occasional Viet place near the Sorbonne) and tended (as I still do) to order offal and classic bistro fare.

When I became serious about living in Paris, I adhered to the same rule. When we lived in New York, where we’d lived the longest, we ate predominately in ethnic restaurants: Italian, Chinese, Brazilian and Japanese ones. We didn’t stick to French cuisine.

After living in Paris for about three months during my first sabbatical year here, I found my stomach getting restless. I ventured into a Japanese place (long since gone) on the rue du Louvre just north of the rue de Rivoli where I had a pretty fine meal among an almost exclusively Asian clientele. I’m sure there were other Japanese restaurants, but that one and another in the 17th were the ones where I ate.

Over the years, pizza shops bloomed all over, along with other Italian places as well as the ubiquitous Chinese traiteurs, all pushing the same rather mediocre stuff. But, there was no influx of sushi and other Japanese parlors, that is, until relatively recently.

In my neighborhood, I can count three places to which I can easily walk. There are another three Japanese restaurants just one Metro stop away. In the old days, they were lower-cost alternatives to French restos. Now, they’re competing for the high price ceiling range.

In September 2008, famed chef Eiichi Edakuni opened Guilo-Guilo on the Mont and with a 48 € menu. Ordering beer and not wine, it was hard for the two of us to get out for less 127 €. The food was good but did it merit all the hype? Indeed, as we walked home, Colette and I debated prix-qualité of Guilo versus other places.

A few months before, I’d passed a place on the bus and after reading Caroline Mignot’s review of Enishi, we reserved and ate there. Not nearly as fancy nor hyped nor pretentious as Guilo, it was the kind of solid Japanese cuisine I’d enjoyed in Japan, the West Coast and New York and one can easily exit for 30 € pp.

Likewise, Shan Gout in the 12th, chef’d by the amiable Shan Yi, who looks like he’s 15 but cooks like he’s 55, represents the sort of solid but really delicious Chinese food one doesn’t get often in Paris.

A slight detour here. Starting if memory serves me around 1989, another phenomenon occurred in Paris: the opening of fusion (Japanese-French) restaurants or French places chef’d by Japanese cooks – places such as Carte Postal, Stella Maris and most recently Hide. They were usually staffed front room and back by folks trained in the French system, not imported directly from the Far East.

Probably the newest of these is the Concert de Cuisine in the 15th, where the talented Naoto Masumoto, ex-Nikko, holds forth and serves up wonderful food for less than 100 € a couple.

In an ironic but perhaps inevitable twist of fate, one of the hottest places serving Asian or Asianesque food today is Yam’Tcha, where Adeline Grattard, who trained in Hong Kong and married to a Chinese tea-expert, runs a tasty and tight ship. She just got a Michelin star to boot. Is this the start of an increase in the exchange flow back to France (a la MBC and Ze)?

Mentioned and endorsed:

Le Concert de Cuisine

14, rue Nelaton in the 15th, (Metro: Bir-Hakeim)

T: 01.40.58.10.15

Closed Sundays and Saturday and Monday lunch

Lunch menus = 24 & 29, dinner 40 & 57 €.

Shan Gout

22, rue Hector Malo, 12th (Metro: Gare de Lyon)

T: 01.43.40.62.14

Closed Mondays

A la carte about 30 €

Enishi

67, rue Labat, 18th, (Metro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt)

T: 01 42 57 32 14

Closed Wednesdays

Menus = 10-20 €.

yam’Tcha

4, rue Sauval in the 1st, (Metro: Les Halles, Sentier)

T: 01 40 26 08 07

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Lunch menu at 30 €, tasting menu 65 and dinner 45 €.

©by John Talbott 2010

 

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