Destinations Magazine

Japanese Chefs Storm French Kitchens.

By Johntalbott

A couple of weeks ago the food staff at Figaroscope published an article on 12 fine relatively new restaurants which have Japanese chefs (Note: the editors state that “they don’t serve Japanese food, but introduce a twist, new flavors, textures and a graphic elegance” to French food):
The Table d'Aki
Vivant Table
Passage 53
La Bigarrade
Sola &
Chez La Vieille.

What’s interesting to me is that while Kei, L’Agape and Sola have been around for a year or so the rest opened in 2012 and just since the rentree things have gone crazy.  So much so, that I thought the trend had run its course: Wrong!

In the past few weeks Colette and I ate at three more, again relatively recently opened places, with Japanese chefs cooking more or less traditional French food:  Les Degres de Notre Dame, H. Kitchen and 58 Qualite Street and all fall into the same tendency - “they don’t serve Japanese food, but introduce a twist, new flavors, textures and a graphic elegance” to French food.

Now it is common knowledge that many aspiring chefs in Japan do stages here and then return home to have quite good success.  And over the years, Paris has seen Japanese chefs prepare fusion food, think Carte Postale; cook seafood with sensibility and finesse, think Stella Maris; have livened up kitchens which are already taking risks with new herbs, spices, ingredients and techniques, think Ze Kitchen Galerie; or have opened places that are not French, Japanese nor fusion restaurants, think Concert de la Cuisine. 

But places like Les Degres de Notre Dame and H. Kitchen doesn’t fool around much with their formula which is to find very good traditional French produce and products, such as duck breast, and cook it very, very well.  Unfortunately, at 58 Qualite Street, Sylvain Sendra (Itineraires, Temps Au Temps) may have a Japanese chef Hirotaka Okata attributed to it as the chef but he was not present the day we were there and what was present was poorly prepared and semi-reheated Metro-type food.

But in any case, from this consumer, an end of the year salute to all these Japanese chefs and to those who will follow in 2013.  Happy New Year!

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