Once you watch Japanese master Toru Okuda wield a knife, you’ll never want to touch one again. Precision. Care. Attention. Discipline. Perfection. Okuda – whose stable of Tokyo restaurants include both a Michelin three-star and Michelin two-star – has come to Paris. And we diners are the better for it. His serene, pale-wood, pottery-filled trio of dining rooms (a main floor counter for seven; a downstairs dining room for twelve; and a private room for four diners) transport you directly to Japan, with all the accompanying courtesy and gentleness one expects. There is only a single, multi-course kaiseki menu, and diners are presented with a simple printed list of the offerings as they begin their pleasant journey. I was lucky enough to be seated at the bar, with chef Okuda in front of me, demonstrating his amazing proficiency with a knife. It is hard to choose a favorite of the eight courses, but I guess I would have to say the soothing, delicate flan, rich with fresh crab meat and a perfect foil of warm autumn mushrooms (flan salé au tourteau, sauce épaisse aux champignons). It was course number two, and if I had to stop there, I would have been a happy woman. Brilliantly fresh tuna, paper thin slices of squid from the I’ile de’Yeu, and delicate white flounder (carrelet) arrive as a sashimi selection, seasoned with the most delicious seagreens, including an unforgettably bright-flavored fresh-water nori. Not that the dish needed embellishment, we were instructed to season one bite of the squid with the dollop of caviar set on the plate, and take a second bite paired with fresh wasabi that had been grated only seconds earlier. Mouth in heaven, mouth on fire! It will be a while before I forget his grilled bar – oh so perfectly cooked over a charcoal fire – just lightly smoky, falling easily into chopstick-worthy bites, seasoned with salt and sesame. And who would think to actually fry an avocado, transforming both the texture and flavor, making me think of a freshly harvested butternut squash, cooked to create an autumn-worthy purée. Morsels of charcoal-grilled French Limousin beef fillet from butcher Hugo Desnoyer arrive so tender you can eat them with a chopstick, while just about every dish leaves your palate with a clean, citrusy aftertaste. But the one dish that I will be making at home is Okuda’s spectacular dessert (photo) : It consisted of a peach compote, using no less than three varieties (a white peach, a pêche plate and the rare pêche de vigne) set in a glistening crystal bowl, surrounded by a fragrant and fruity-sweet sparkling peach jelly, and of course a perfect peach sorbet, garnished with pungent leaves of fresh mint.
Traditional Japanese kaiseki
7, rue de la Trémoille
Tel: +33 1 40 70 19 19
OPEN: Wednesday to Monday
CLOSED: Monday lunch and all day Tuesday
PRICE: 160€ fixed menu at lunch, 200€ fixed priced menu at dinner. No à la carte menu.
ATMOSPHERE: Smart casual