One can wait weeks to be one of the chosen few that gather around the 20-seat rectangular bar that makes up the small Montmartre Japanese restaurant known as Guilo Guilo (pronounced Gee-low Gee-low). We joined the believers the other night for the 7 pm (first) seating and like everyone had a ring-side seat for the show. Slight and elegant chef Eiichi Edakuni holds court (he even calls himself Le President), directing the multi-course meal like an orchestra leader. The rest of the cheery, agile staff scurries about in very tight quarters, clearly organized and motivated. There is no written men and no choice, just a set 45-euro menu each evening. Ours included some real highs, lows, and a few ho-hums. Tops on my list was the elegant, memorable cold-smoked mackerel (photo), strips of that fabulous fatty fish garnished with a nori sprinkle and piled on a bed of a fine julienne of shiso and black radish. (It was so satisfying that our neighbor asked for a second serving at the close of the meal.) I also loved the orginality of the crunchy corn and shrimp tempura, refried counterside, arriving hot and crisp. Another dish with happy, bright, intense flavors came in the form of what they called « Japanese bœuf Bourgignon » a tiny bowl of rice topped with a rich beef stew showered with spring onions and nori. There is something wonderful about a roomful of strangers all eating the same food, like a picnic, a festival, a communion of souls. Several of the offerings lacked punch and character, including a rather bland tofu and crab soup, essentially a deep- fried bundle floating in a delicate broth ; and an underwhelming turbot rolled in a sesame coating. If you go, don’t bother with famed foie gras sushi, which most diners order for an 11-euro supplement. The restaurant goes into Benihana mode as the chef tosses cubes of foie gras in flour, sautes and sauces with fanfare, transforming them into bite-sized morsels to set upon a mound of sushi rice. The result is rather mushy, tasteless, and fatty, flavors I could have done without. Guilo Guilo offers an extensive sake menu, including an intriguing bubbly sake.
GUILO GUILO, 8, rue Garreau, Paris 18. Tel: +33 1 42 54 23 92. Métro: Abessess. Open : dinner only. Closed Sunday and Monday. 45-euro menu. http://www.guiloguilo.com