Japan remains desperately closed to tourists, except for organized trips, two years after the start of the pandemic. While waiting to be able to return there, Paris is full of addresses where you can taste the art of Japanese living. Our selection (tested and approved).
Sushi Shunei, the nigiri in majesty
In an alley away from the hustle and bustle of the Abbesses, a door opens onto another world. A graphic and refined piece taking up the aesthetic codes of Japanese tables, with a counter as the centrepiece. Nine guests settle in a monastic atmosphere. All have eyes only for Shunei Kimura, a precise and concentrated itamae, passed by the most popular sushi restaurants in Japan. It is 7 pm, the ceremony begins with a green tea (gyokuro) elongated with sparkling water, the first step in a bold food-tea-sake pairing. The triptych of tartars and sashimi, grilled sea bream and uni rice (sea urchin, cuttlefish, bottarga) set the tempo for this gastronomic ballet, before the long-awaited nigiri festival. Then parade on a black lacquered tray in Tokyo, from the finest to the strongest: turbot, amberjack, cuttlefish, prawns, salmon eggs, red tuna, semi-fat tuna (chutoro), fatty tuna (otoro), grilled fatty tuna, mackerel, sardines and eel, served on warm Nigata rice and coated with soy sauce. The miso soup with prawn dashi refreshes the palate, before a hazelnut-hojicha sorbet from the Alain Ducasse factory. A flawless symphony, with service as discreet as it is delicate.
Sushi Shunei, 3, rue Audran, Paris 18e. Such. : 06 44 66 11 31. Open Tuesday to Saturday, at 7 p.m. or 9:30 p.m., by reservation only. Omakase menu at €180 per person, Nigiri menu at €120.
[Depuis notre visite chez Sushi Shunei, le chef Shunei Kimura est décédé. Nous envoyons toutes nos condoléances à sa famille et à ses proches dans cette épreuve douloureuse.]
Ogata, the art of tea
If lovers of Japanese aesthetics in Paris had a temple, it would be Ogata. Both a boutique, a pastry shop and a freshly starred restaurant, this intimate and elegant address in the Marais inaugurated a new tea ceremony in the spring. In fact, a real meal, two hours long, and built around different beverages. After the obligatory ablutions, one enters, by candlelight, a large room located in the basement. A tea master who looks like a shy lab worker awaits us. In a silence broken only by the singing of the copper pans, the teas follow one another, sometimes herbaceous, sometimes smoked and grilled, accompanied by a variety of delicacies – pigeon with sancho pepper, veal tataki or egg cooked at low temperature and fermented in miso. Tea leaves make an incursion here and there on the plate, steamed then arranged in a salad. For dessert, the pastry chef invites herself in front of the guests to model a kinto, a sort of ball of red bean paste, the sweetness of which ousts the bitterness of the matcha that accompanies it. A suspended moment.
Ogata, 16, Rue Debelleyme, Paris 3e. Two Sundays per month, in groups of eight maximum. From 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. €200 per person. Other formulas around tea from 60 to 70 €. Such. : 01 80 97 76 80. To register: [email protected]
Kei, when Japan fell in love with France
Kei Kobayashi is the most Francophile of Japanese chefs. Falling in love with our gastronomy at the age of fifteen, he left his mountains of Nagano, in northern Japan, to join the kitchens of Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée. Some twenty years later, here is our peroxidized Nippon at the head of his own restaurant, Kei, three-starred since 2020. What do we taste there? Products from there – shiso and wagyu beef – twisted in the style of great French gastronomy and served in a white and light gray room, the color of the Dior house. So classy. Her signature dish is a salad. Yes, but what a salad! Twenty-four ingredients revealed under a white foam and a few flowers. Elegant without being snobbish, Kei’s cuisine is surprisingly easy to access – as is its price (lunch menu €85). Perhaps the hardest part is getting a table: you have to book two months in advance!
Kei, 5, rue Coq-Héron 75001. Lunch menu at €85 (except Saturdays). Tasting menu at €170, Prestige at €240, Horizon at €340.
Toraya, the imperial pastry
Already forty years since the Toraya house settled in Paris, in a Zen setting in blond wood a few meters from the rue Saint-Honoré. But you have to go back five centuries to get a glimpse of its history. Under the reign of Emperor Goyôzei (1586-1611), pastry became the official supplier to the Imperial Court. His specialty: wagashi, traditional Japanese pastries, as opposed to yōgashi, Western pastries. Made with rice and wheat flour, adzuki beans and agar-agar, they are available here in namagashi (fresh seasonal cakes), monaka (rice flour wafers), dorayaki (thick filled pancakes) and crushed ice, served like jewels on bamboo trays. Make no mistake about it, these sweets express all the sensitivity of the Japanese to beauty, to the fragility of nature and to the change of season. On the day of our visit, among four ephemeral namagashi (new menu every two weeks), the delicate Fireflies by the river, made with white azuki and green tea, stood out from the crowd. Served with a sparkling matcha, prepared according to the rules of the art (hot or iced), it is in itself an ode to poetry.
Toraya, 10, rue Saint-Florentin, Paris 1er. Such. : 01 42 60 13 00. Open Monday to Saturday, 11 am to 6.30 pm, reservation recommended. Organic matcha at €7.50, possibility of having an iced version at €8, wagashi at €6.30 and crushed ice at €6.80.