As the new decade begins, the longstanding culinary love affair between France and Japan seems to be growing ever stronger. French chefs continue to raise the tricolore over new branch restaurants in Japan, while Paris remains an irresistible magnet for ambitious Japanese chefs, many of whom are profoundly influenced by their exposure to Gallic gastronomy. A delicious example of this reciprocal passion is the new Le Concert de Cuisine, where chef Naoto Masumoto’s superb Franco-Japanese cooking has become a strong draw for stylish crowds—former French president Jacques Chirac and his wife Bernadette have been spotted—in spite of a somewhat drab location in the 15th arrondissement. Masumoto previously cooked at Paris’s well-respected and very expensive Japanese restaurant Benkay for ten years. Now on his own, he’s offering an intriguingly subtle menu of dishes that draw on the traditions of both countries and beyond—shrimp flambéed in Cognac and soy sauce, for example. His menu here changes often—recent offerings included beautifully made risotto with nutty-tasting Japanese pumpkin, and irresistibly unctuous lacquered suckling pig with celery root purée. The real surprise of my meal, however, was dessert. I’m not normally a big fan of Japanese sweets, but Masumoto’s banana wrapped in crispy vermicelli noodles with praline ice cream was sublime.
14 rue Nélaton, 15th, 01.40.58.10.15. Lunch menus €24 and €29; dinner €40 and €57
Prices are per person without wine.
Originally published in the February 2010 issue of France Today