Sunday, 3 February 2013

Sola!! A new one star restaurant in Paris

I was thrilled when my friend Noriko suggested that we try one of the newly starred restaurants whose kitchens are headed by Japanese chefs. To start us off, I reserved at Sola. This is a beautiful restaurant that has both a French room

and a Japanese room with a comfortable recessed space for your legs, rather than a tatami mat at which you would have to kneel.

They are both beautiful and when you call, you must choose one of them.

Sola has a set menu. Lunch is 6 courses for 44 euros; dinner is 88 euros for ten. The dishes are so delicate and pure that ten would not be too many. We were there for lunch.

There is a short and nice wine list and also a good sake list. As we were in the Japanese room, I chose a very flavorful Dassai sake, recommended by our server.

A delicious creamy emulsion of panais (a root vegetable) with lobster was a wonderful way to start.

This was followed by a caramelized slice of foie gras served on a piece of toast. The silkiness of the foie gras was delicious against the sweet foil of its crust. It was garnished with a purée of baked apple and a bit of fresh chervil root.

Next came two warm seafood dishes: one with bulots, (periwinkles), fried garlic and parsley root, and the next with scallops, yuzu (like a lemon), gobo (an orange root vegetable), and potato served in a light broth (dashi). They were both light and flavorful. The chef is very proud to use fresh vegetables from Joel Thibault.

The main courses were an excellent turbot wrapped in Italian ham and garnished with ginger pearls, leek, fried leek root, and a ginger jelly:

and a lean slice of roast Iberico ham, peas, pea purée, baby asparagus, nasturtium, in a sauce lightly flavored with vinegar.

This was a perfect end to a sublime meal.

But of course, the meal was not over. The Japanese know their way around French desserts. We were lucky to be served a dish with vanilla ice cream, chocolate ganache, hazelnut meringues and caramelized hazelnuts, and a fabulous and delicate tuile with bits of bitter chocolate.

I left with the feeling that I would like to come again for dinner on a special occasion.

Sola obtained one Michelin star after being open just a year. It is a star well deserved. This is a place to remember.

Restaurants in Japan: Part Two

Ryugin, Akita Udon (Sato Yosuke), Ramen

Ryugin is the first restaurant I went to on my arrival in Tokyo. It has three stars and is sensational. The chef is young and extremely creative.

The meal started off with a bang: 13 types of vegetables with a pine nut sauce. Next came flash fried uni wrapped in shizo leaf and nori (seaweed) served on a bed of burdock root.

There was a long parade of dishes, including seasonal mushrooms, Matsuba crab (only available in the winter months),

a stunning sashimi course with lobster and smoked Spanish mackerel, grilled fish with gingko nuts (in season), charcoal grilled Wagyu beef with diced crunchy vegetables.

Following a palate cleanser of pear and gari and the requisite rice garnished with yuba (my favorite form of tofu) and pickles (delicious), came several desserts with a small bowl of Matcha tea. There was tangerine candy (crack open the candy to find frozen yogurt and add some hot tangerine sauce. With the crunchy pieces of candy, this multi-faceted dessert was a sheer delight.

Before the end of this wonderful meal, came a hot sake soufflé followed with a wonderful soothing and delicious egg ice cream in soft serve.

Of course, a meal like this comes with a price, but it was so superb that I felt it was merited and I knew I would want to return. As I was leaving the restaurant, the chef came out of the kitchen to greet me and to shake my hand. I think they are always very happy to welcome foreign guests who have clearly sought them out.

At the end of my trip, my friend, Kyoko asked me to tell her my absolute favorite dish of the vacation. She was surprised to hear that it was at the Udon place that I went to with her and her husband, Toshio. It is a simple, inexpensive, regional restaurant in the Ginza which serves a type of udon that comes from Akita in the north. The owner chef is Sato Yosuke and that is also the name of the restaurant.

We started with beer and some appetizers: the seasonal mushrooms, Matsutake were served as tempura and were excellent.

Next came a dish of succulent monkfish liver which is very rich and flavorful. Grilled fish (Hata Hata) came next and it was accompanied with a large serving of the fish eggs which were extremely crunchy. All of these dishes (except for the monkfish liver) were new to me.

To accompany the main dishes, we opened a bottle of Shu (a strong sake) from Akita. The specialty of the house is udon and it is served cold or warm on a screen, accompanied with a warm sauce. Both Kyoko and I ordered a green curry sauce that was full of pieces of excellent chicken.

I loved the spicy, satiny sauce and with the cold noodle, it made for the dish that I had to say was the favorite of the whole trip! Kyoko was surprised but when it comes down to it, I find delicious simple food very appealing.

Kyoko always likes to take me to new places but I will definitely ask her to send me the map to get to this restaurant so that I can convince other friends to accompany me there.