Where to go for Saké in Paris

Posted by bmountain | Posted in Restaurants, Sake | Posted on 31-08-2011

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On a recent business trip to Paris I made arrangements to meet up with old friend Doug McCarthy for sushi.  I have always found Paris to be a tough place for ethnic food.  I loverue Sainte-Anne French food but most of the cuisines there tend to morph into something between their origin and local fare, and the results aren’t always good.  Sushi is no exception but I love a challenge and after almost a month on the road was craving some good saké.

I was staying in the 17th arrondissement which is in the northwest corner of the city and not too far from the Arc de Triumph.  One important rule to remember about Paris is that if you can see a monument from where you are eating, the food will be orders of magnitude more expensive than a place with a less impressive view  (I still have my receipt somewhere for a $28 USD bagel and café au lait with a perfect view of Sacre Coer)  I kept checking out the neighborhood places that I would come across on my way to and from meetings, and getting increasingly depressed by the options.  None were authentically Japanese, the saké lists usually consisted of two lines “Japanese Saké Hot” and “Japanese Saké Cold”, and they were all expensive.  It wasn’t looking good.

Google wasn’t real helpful either and things were looking grim until as a last resort I checked with my hotel concierge.  Since I was a way for a while had I decided to keep expenses down and stayed at a real budget hotel so the concierge was also the bell captain, and from what I could tell, the breakfast chef.  My expectations were low but he was quite confident in his response, Le Place d’Opera was the place for Japanese food in Paris.

After work I jumped on the metro, which is awesome, the French really know how to do public transportation, and met old friend Doug at the Metro Pyramides, near the Place d’Opera.  Rue Sainte-Anne was right around the corner, and we immediately realized that we had found ground zero for Japanese food in Paris.  We cruised the street checking out window menus and I was amazed.  This was exactly what I was looking for.  Great menus, some with full page saké lists.  We selected “You”, it looked good, and was full of Asians, a good indictor of quality.  Oddly we were seated at a table for four next to a couple who looked a little surprised to have us plopped down next to them but we all laughed about it and they went on with their date and Doug and I caught up.

Doug and I knew each other from Toastmasters International.  Toastmasters is a club dedicated to the improvement of public speaking.  When I first moved to Paris in 1994 I joined a local club in the heart of the city.  French toastmasters meetings are pretty special.  Unlike US meetings which are usually at lunch hour in a conference room in a company, Parisian Toastmasters meetings are in the evening in a private room in a restaurant and the meeting involves a multi-course meal.  Wine is served (naturally) and the meetings take on an entirely different tone from any that I’d experienced in the US.  In Toastmasters you are given assignments from a manual and your speeches are evaluated by another member and a (supportive) critique is given after your speech.  It was great fun and a wonderful way to start building a base in a new city.

The sushi menu at You was excellent, very traditional Japanese and went on for pages and pages.  The wait staff was all Japanese and with a line out the door they kept things moving but it was in typical French good humor and we never felt rushed.  I chose the chef’s sushi and sashimi selection which was superb.  Service was quick and the sushi was the best I’d had in Paris, ever.

The saké menu was a full page and very reasonably priced, even considering it was in Euros.  We chose a Hinodesakari which is brewed by the Matsumoto Saké Brewing Co.  The saké was quite good, medium dry, a hint of citrus.  I’ve not had this saké in the states and it was tough to find information about it on-line but if you ever come across it I’d recommend it.  It’s brewed in Fushimi Japan which is near Kyoto and very famous for its saké breweries.  Matsumoto was established in 1791 and has been producing saké continuously for over 200 years.

All in all a delightful surprise.  If you’re ever in Paris looking for great Japanese food and an excellent saké menu, head to rue Sainte-Anne in the 1st Arrondissement, you won’t be disappointed.

Restaurant Japonais
YOU
11 rue Sainte-Anne
75001 Paris, France
+33 01 42 60 55 50

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