Head to the very elegant Opera neighbourhood in Paris and discover a most unusual enclave. Get off the metro at Pyramides station and go down Rue Sainte-Anne. At the foot of the opulent Haussmann buildings, there are dozens of small restaurants and various shops representing the different facets of Japanese culture. This “Little Tokyo” emerged in Paris at the start of the 1970s when Japanese businessmen stayed in the hotels between the Opera Garnier and the Palais Royal. Today, the district has become the epicentre of Japanese gastronomy in Paris.
Cheese – Japanese style
When you get to Rue Richelieu, stop off at the Hisada cheese shop. Sanae Hisada and her daughter Eri invite you to try the house specialities: cheeses from around the world with a dash of typical Japanese flavour. These fine-food devotees introduced Tokyo residents to their cheese delights before opening their first shop in Paris in 2004. On the shelves, you will find sakura mochiko, a buffalo mozzarella embellished with a cherry-tree leaf, as well as a goat's cheese macaroon. This delicate marriage of flavours will get your palate tingling.
Hisada cheese shop
47 rue de Richelieu
+33 (0)1 42 60 78 48
Takoyaki – just like in the Land of the Rising Sun
With taste buds awakened by your first tasting session, take a stroll around Paris's Japanese community. Under calligraphy name signs, you will find a succession of canteens specialising in ramen noodle soups, bento restaurants and sushi bars… You will be spoiled for choice with the diversity of the mouth-watering options. A word of advice: try and get there early as the best places, often tiny in size, attract Parisians in their droves.
In Rue Sainte-Anne, regulars crowd in front of a restaurant with a most unassuming facade, Happa Teï. Push open the door and step straight into Osaka; there you will discover a dish that is little known in the West: takoyaki. The chef excels at these octopus-filled batter balls. As these delicious snacks get your appetite going, you are then faced with the choice of several gourmet locations to continue your culinary exploration.
64 rue Sainte-Anne
+33 (0)1 42 96 60 40
Do you prefer ramen or sushi?
If you prefer ramen, thin wheat noodles served in soup, then the menu at Naritake is right up your street. In this day-glo orange dining room, you select the type of broth you want and then a sauce and toppings to go with it. For a dish bursting with flavours, choose the roast pork ramen with a soft-boiled egg marinated in soya sauce with chives and chilli oil.
Or maybe the wide variety of raw fish sushi is more to your taste? Then book a table at Michi on Rue Sainte-Anne. Do not be fooled by the somewhat tacky exterior of this sushi bar. Once inside, seated at the counter, you will watch in awe as the chef chops salmon, prawns and scallops at an alarming speed. His maki and sashimi are of the very best quality and make for a real treat. This is one of the best sushi restaurants in the City of Lights.
31 rue des Petits-Champs
+33 (0)1 42 86 03 83
58 bis rue Sainte-Anne
+33 (0)1 40 20 49 93
Cakes with a taste of Paris and Tokyo
For dessert, what about surprising your gustatory cells that little bit more? At Aki bakery, a real local institution, traditional French breads sit alongside cakes with a Franco-Japanese twist. You cannot make up your mind between a green-tea mille-feuille and a brioche filled with sugared red-kidney-bean purée, but you finally give in to a scrumptious eclair flavoured with yuzu, a highly acidic citrus fruit found widely in Asia. This tasting extravaganza proves to be as surprising as it is exquisitely delicious.
16 rue Sainte-Anne
+33 (0)1 40 15 63 38
Gourmet shopping and sake experience
All these culinary discoveries will make you want to make some Japanese dishes for yourself. So next up, you set off in search of great shops that sell all the special utensils you will need. On Rue des Petits-Champs, you will come across Kioko, the best-known Japanese supermarket in the capital. Between the exotic vegetable section and the cookery books, you will unearth small rice moulds in the shape of animals or footballs to add a bit of fun to your bentos.
Further on, on rue Saint-Augustin, the Workshop Issé shop catches your attention. This quality grocery has a sake cellar on the pavement opposite. Take a seat at the solid wood counter and listen as Mr Miyamoto explains all about the sake making process. This legendary rice wine expert will offer you some fruit-flavoured varieties to try – in moderation, of course! And with that, your immersion in Japanese culture in the heart of Paris is complete.
46 rue des Petits-Champs
+33 (0)1 42 61 33 65
11 rue Saint-Augustin
+33 (0)1 42 96 26 74