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Paris: Japanese/French fusion: where would you go?

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Hello again Paris hounds,
I'm back to Paris in January, this time with my 21 year old daughter in tow for part of the trip. She's been to Paris once (when she was 13) and is looking forward to accompanying me to my favorite Parisian haunts. She loves French food and is an adventurous eater so I know she'll be happy with my choices..but, she is also a big fan of all things Japanese, especially Japanese food. I really don't want to go the sushi route when I'm in Paris (even though it would make HER very happy) but, since this trip is also a birthday gift to her, I was hoping that you could suggest a place that had the best of both worlds: French food for me with a Japanese flair for her. I'm on somewhat of a budget so somewhere like Kei is a bit out of my budget. Thanks in advance!

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  1. There's no shortage of that sort of food in Paris, Japanese chefs cooking French food with a Japanese flair are literally all over the place.

    First that comes to mind is Toyo, who used to be designer Kenzo's personal chef, very interesting but not cheap.

    Then you've got oodles of them, from the rather elaborate sit-down tasting menu to the hastier lunch menu served in thimble-sized rooms. Results do vary in quality but the Japanese talent for cooking everything to the exact point is always there: La Table d'Aki, Sola, Saké Bar (ex-Youlin), Vivant Table, Abri, Passage 53, Kunitoraya 2 (this one is Japanese cooking with French touches), and I'm sure there's two or three more that opened while I was writing this.

    1. Figaroscope and Elle both recently had listings of Japanese chef'd places (The Table d'Aki, Kei, Clandestino, Vivant Table, L'Office, Passage 53, L'Agape, Abri, La Bigarrade, Sola & Chez La Vieille) and since then two other places have impressed me - Les Degres de Notre Dame and H. Kitchen; but none are really fusion cooking, all are Japanese chefs doing mostly French stuff.
      For fusion you might have to go back to the future and the first one to my knowledge in town - Cartes Postales in the 1st where there's a 25 E menu

      1. A second rec for Toyo. But even lunch is relative pricey. Sigh.

        More affordable:
        le Petit Verdot on the rue du Cherche-Midi in the 6th ...but more French than Japanese;
        le Concert de Cuisine on the rue Nélaton in the 15th near Bir Hakeim ... but more Japanese than French

        1. I think Sola is a bit more Japanese-inspired than some of the others, plus the cooking is quite stunning and the room is good as well. I'm a big fan of Passage 53 but it's pricey, and although the cooking technique at La Table d'Aki is correct, the room and atmosphere are uninspiring. I have not been to Abri or Vivant Table but am eager to dine at each.

          1. Thank you all! I know that there have been a wave of new places so this really gives me some direction. I really like Toyo and Sola...but they might be a bit over the budget this time (maybe I'll save that for when the Mr. comes along). But some of the others are perfect...after careful consideration I think I'm leaning towards being a nice mom and going for the more Japanese end of the spectrum - Concert de Cuisine and Saké Bar look really good, as does La Table d'Aki, although it was just written up in the NYT...hmmm

            Anyway, thanks again, I'm sure she will be thrilled with my choice! :)

            4 Replies
            1. re: sistereurope

              "the more Japanese end of the spectrum"
              Then Kiku, definitely. Very good modern Japanese. Reasonably priced menu.

              1. re: sistereurope

                In that case Concert de Cuisine is good but it's Japanese not French and it's not cheap.

                1. re: sistereurope

                  I've been to Sola, Kei and La Table d'Aki. Of the 3, I found Sola the most Japanese inspired and La Table d'Aki the least.

                  1. re: sistereurope

                    <I'm sure she will be thrilled with my choice!>

                    Not so sure about that. My bff took her granddaughter to Paris this past summer. GD speaks fluent Japanese and loves, LOVES Japanese food.

                    They tried Japanese food twice during their week and reported two thumbs firmly down for both although both places came "highly recommended." Major complaint was that the food was not really Japanese because it was so toned down for French tastes.

                    I wouldn't say don't try one, but don't be too optimistic,, either.

                  2. Thanks, yes I realized that I changed gears a bit mid-post...after looking over the menus I decided to be supermom and please my daughter by going for the Japanese end of the spectrum. Concert de Cuisine is a bit pricey but not when compared to Sola or Toyo or Kei
                    Thanks Pairigi, Kiku looks really good.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sistereurope

                      I've been to Concert de Cuisine, Passage 53, Sola, Kei and Le Bigarrade and also think Sola is most japanese inspired. For me the best meals were at Kei.

                    2. La Table d'Aki is lovely, but it is French food cooked by a chef who happens to be Japanese.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Cookingthebooks

                        OK, as Pti suggests we need a spectrum. All the way from Japanese chefs cooking "straight French" through Japanese guys and gals doing twists on French food by fusion to pure Japanese. Sounds like a job for tmrw.

                        1. re: John Talbott

                          Japanese chefs cooking "French food" never really cook "straight French". They have a special touch. It is important to identify it and feel it, but I do think it makes their cooking one of a kind.

                          1. re: Ptipois

                            Agreed, somtimes it evebn extends to how a dish is plated.

                          2. re: John Talbott

                            This may be a fool's errand to try such a categorization but I'd be interested if it's of any interest in assessing Japanese/French places (at least those I've visited in recent years):
                            Restaurants that are almost purely French cuisine cooked by Japanese chefs:
                            L’Office
                            Au Passage
                            Vivant
                            Kei
                            Chez la Vieille (Adrienne)
                            58 Qualite Street
                            Hide
                            Ribouldingue
                            Breizh Cafe
                            Restaurants that are almost purely Japanese cuisine cooked by Japanese chefs:
                            Yuzu
                            Concert de la Cuisine
                            Guilo Guilo
                            Enishi
                            Table d’Aki
                            Abri
                            Restaurant that is almost purely Japanese cuisine cooked by French chefs:
                            Qui Plume La Lune
                            Restaurants in between that have some Japanese products, herbs and spices:
                            La Clarisse
                            H. Kitchen
                            Les Degres de Notre Dame
                            Clandestino
                            Restaurants in between where French food is influenced by Asia/Japan:
                            Monjul
                            Carte Blanche
                            Restaurants with French chefs inspired by trips to the Orient:
                            MBC
                            Ze Kitchen Galerie
                            Restaurants inbetween that are ½ terroir ½ Japanese:
                            Passage 53
                            Le Kolo of Asafumi Tamashita
                            Restaurants in between in using raw veal & fish more than the usual:
                            L’Agape
                            Stella Maris
                            Atao
                            Restaurant that’s supposed to offer French and Japanese separate (mission) but described by one as French food cooked Japanese style:
                            Sola

                            1. re: John Talbott

                              La Table d'Aki is almost purely Japanese cuisine?

                              1. re: Cookingthebooks

                                I'm scratching my head at that one too.

                                1. re: Cookingthebooks

                                  Sorry; I agree it fits more in Pti's category of "Japanese chefs cooking French food with a Japanese flair." or your own wording "French food cooked by a chef who happens to be Japanese." I'll correct when I post on my blog.

                          3. Thanks John! This is a very helpful list.

                            1. One more to add to the list of very good French restos with Japanese chefs: Blue Valentine on the rue Pierre-Levée in the 11th. A new opening but very little notice/ few reviews and, for me, a totally accidental discovery while looking for parking. Chef Terumitsu used to be part of Thierry Marx's team at the Mandarin Oriental (which might not be much of recommendation for some) but seems to have learned his craft well without too much Marx-ization. Anyway, beautifully presented, precise, artsy cooking well suited to the venue... and a bargain (3 courses for 36 € and a lunch special for 19 €) for the quality. For me, the marinated octopus was almost wet dream territory... delish ! Bad news for some, the ambiance is somewhat cocktail-bar-ish, ultra-cool clientele so maybe not all that suitable for old-fart Republicans, a bit artsy rock-n-roll, a bit biased towards veggies (the salads did look spectacular but we didn't try any), and most wines are inexplicably only available by the magnum. But the cocktails are great and not too pricey, continuous hours from noon to 1:30am (but full meals only at normal meal times), and open on Sunday. And I'm certainly going back !!

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: Parnassien

                                "One more to add to the list of very good French restos with Japanese chefs: Blue Valentine on the rue Pierre-Levée in the 11th."
                                Thank you Parnassien, we had a totally fresh food, interestingly prepared and very Zen meal there today (too Zen for my partners). Aside from a slice of daikon and what was called a Japanese sauce with the onglet it didn't seem much Japanese or fusion-y to me.
                                And at lunch there was none of the cocktail/Bobo stuff but 16 upper-middle-class ladies were having their monthly lunch there and raised the roof to 89.1 dB.
                                A definite go again.
                                http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

                                1. re: Parnassien

                                  Most wines are available only by the magnum? Living on a dirt road in rural New England, I know I'm a little provincial, but isn't that a little weird?

                                  1. re: bauskern

                                    Ultra-weird. I was as astounded as you. All I can suppose is that it's a device to steer you towards the cocktails and that it's an "experiment" that will change as the restaurant matures.

                                    1. re: Parnassien

                                      "Most wines are available only by the magnum?"
                                      I think in my attempt to convey my shockitude bausk I didn't write as precisely as I should have.
                                      When I asked for the wine list, the junior waitperson turned over the lunch "menu" on which were listed 3 red and 3 white and maybe a rose wine - all of which listed the price - by the glass, the 50 cl carafe and 1 liter carafe. We asked was there a list of bottles, meaning 75 cl, answer "No longer, except as a magnum." Which meant to us that once upon a time, they had had bottles. By this time, being pesky Yankees, well at least 2 of us, the JV-waitlady was over her head and was superceded by whom I assume was the co-owner, Lena Balacco (ex-Chambre aux Oiseaux) who was lovely and poured us (out of three magnums) three glasses of red wine to taste.
                                      Parnassien, there was not one cocktail shaken (James Bondien) or poured at lunch although the cocktail list, which was impressive, and which I took a pix of that was so horribly shaky I didn't post it, so I'm not sure why they abandoned bottles between their opening in mid-November and now.
                                      A mystery - you will get to the bottom of this, I hope, before I bring the fetching Colette back in two weeks.
                                      But I would just add that at the famous Christian Constant's Cocotte, he has only box-wines and about 9 or 12 of them, in Joseph Cornell type partitions.

                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                        That could mean there's a special reverence to wine at that place. Pouring wine by the glass only from magnums = ensuring that the wine stays at its best longer in a larger container, and besides wine is supposed to age better in a magnum. Still, that would still be weird and a bit extreme as a wine policy.

                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                          Wouldn't there be a greater air to wine surface area in a open magnum and this causes the wine to oxidise faster so it will spoil faster...?

                                          Better places that sell by the glass, either have good turnover so bottles are not open long enough for the wine to go stale, or throw away unused parts of open bottles at he end of the day - which means magnums would be worse than standard bottles. Or they add inert gases like Nitrogen, Argon or Carbon dioxide to the bottles when they stopper them to flush out the oxygen and protect the wine.

                                          Its true Magnums are better for ageing wines but it does take a longer time to achieve the same ageing in a magnum than a bottle i.e. slow is better.

                                          Agree - it does seem to be a slightly odd policy - I assume the waiters all have the muscles to heft a magnum and pour it gracefully into a diners glass....!

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            As I wrote, it's a weird policy and I can't find a reason for it. Maybe they just care for their waiters' fitness.

                                          2. re: Ptipois

                                            When at Goust last, same thing all our wine pairings came from magnums.

                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                              Maybe they do the volume to justify it - but it's an odd approach as many wines are not available in larger formats so it limits the selection. We ate there in September and I don't recall magnums and whilst I wasn't looking for them I hope I would have noticed.

                                  2. For completeness's sake, I'll add Tsuname in the 9th; it's hugely popular with the under 29 set, but I don't think matches the great food Clement Nguyen and Masumi Tao churned out at Atao. More at
                                    http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

                                    1. And yet another wonderful meal in a 2-week old place, AT in the 5th with a Japanese chef (who has been with Gagnaire.) I'll be back. Very zen, very good.
                                      http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                        I just had dinner tonight (yes, I eat at home at night) with 4 folks who just don't "get" the Japanese chefs cooking French food with a tweak - they looked at me as I was describing my 8 dishes today as if I were demented (that's orthogonal to the point), and they're from the Center of the Food Universe - Brooklyn.
                                        Good to know what you like and hate I suppose.

                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                          Got another one - Kigawa in the 14th - Osaka born and trained, O Rebelle for 6 years, totally French-French except for the flowers, artful presentations and print of "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Hokusai. A 7.8/10 in my book from start to finish. Undiscovered except by the Michelin and Le Point. No Yankees, pesky or otherwise.