Paris' Best Asian Restaurants for Deliciously Exotic Cuisine
By Paige Donner
Paris Local Expert
When I have a taste for Asian food, there are two neighborhoods I head to in Paris : Chinatown and Little Japan Town. The former is in the 13th arrondissement (Metro Olympiades) and is a whole street lined with Chinese diners where you can see people shoveling mouthfuls of sticky rice and spoonfuls of aromatic broth and noodles into their mouths. The street is anchored by Tang Frères, the Chinese grocery store emporium (a delight with a fantastic takeaway counter, too !).
For Japanese hankerings, I love to wander along rue St. Anne just off of Avenue de l’Opéra. This little neighborhood is chock full of noodle shops, yakitori restaurants and a few sushi restaurants. Though indeed some are better than others, on the whole you really can’t go wrong just wandering into any of these restaurants for a quick meal.
For really spectacular dining, and in a few cases gastronomic Chinese and Japanese cuisine, I have gathered together here on this list several Paris addresses that are truly outstanding. In the world of food there is an established link between the cultures of French and Japanese chefs. Perhaps it’s the commonality of the strive for excellence and mastery of savoir-faire ? At any rate, some of the best, most authentic Asian food you’ll find anywhere on the planet is here in Paris.
Kinugawa, synonymous with Japanese haute cuisine since it opened in the French capital in 1984, has been revered for decades for its traditional Kyoto cuisine. A runaway success at once, regular clientele has long counted among the stars of fashion, cinema and politics. Since 2012 it has been under new ownership, following the passing of Kyoichi Kinugawa in 2005. The chef today is Toyofumi Ozuru, formerly of Nobu Paris. He melds traditional with contemporary Japanese culinary arts. For example, Crispy Softshell Crab offset with creamed wasabi ; melt-in-your-mouth Sashimi marinated in citrus ; Sautéed Eggplant in a Sweet Miso Sauce that is so perfect its consistency is like custard; Japanese seagrass highlighted with notes of spiced Yuzu... The Chef creates his extraordinary dishes with sharing in mind.. The restaurant's recent total facelift is thanks to the architectural and design firm of Gilles & Bossier (NYC Baccarat Hotel). (01 42 60 65 07)
9 Mary Goodnight
Just opened early this spring (2014), Mary Goodnight is the new Thai-fusion showcase for the much-loved chef by the singular name, Thiou. Parisians have followed the chef through several evolutions, seeing her pass through Thai Orchid and even Bain-Douches. The Parisian small screen demi-monde have already found their way here. If you don't watch French TV news, you probably won't recognize them. But that, and the fabulous outdoor upstairs terrace, certainly lend a backdrop of glamour to the steamed crab dumplings in a citronelle/coconut milk broth and the chef's famous Tiger's Tears. Mary Goodnight sits right on the circular where rue d'Auteuil starts to head into the Bois de Boulogne. Its 30's inspired décor is all taupey-beigish comfortable banquets, ceiling fans like you'd find in the East-Asian tropics and retro hanging lamps. A smaller, more private dining area can be found tucked away behind the bar (01 40 71 11 90)
8 Toru Okuda
Chef Toru Okuda's first restaurant opening outside of Japan was here in Paris last fall (2013). He has already been awarded with his first Michelin star here. In Japan he has two and three macarons already between his two Tokyo restaurants. He is considered a master of Kaiseki cuisine, Japan's highest culinary art that originates from Kyoto. This means that the meal is always a set menu based on what the chef proposes that day. You can expect appetizers, soup, sashimi, three main courses and dessert. This holds true for lunch and dinner. Another talisman of Kaiseki cuisine is that the food is cooked on woodchip stoves or by steam, never by fire. The chef uses inspired condiments such as fresh wasabi and nori soaked in saké. Count on between 160 to 200 euro per person for lunch or dinner. (0140701919)
Considered one of the finest Chinese restaurants in Paris, the finesse of TaoKan and the cuisine you enjoy here puts "Chinese" in an altogether different category. The inspiration for this restaurant occurred to restaurateur Christophe Daine when he returned to his native Paris after spending the better part of a decade in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. His tastes had become accustomed to refined Chinese fare, something he was hardpressed to find in Paris. That was in 2011. In 2012 he opened TaoKan, a name created by fusing the Chinese word, Tao, meaning the way, with Kan, meaning to protect or take care of. The location in Saint-Germain-des-Prés couldn't be more convenient or more hip. For the interior design, the young entrepreneur relied on the expertise of the Lempereurs, known for their design of the Dyptique boutiques in Paris. The color scheme is soothing creams and dark woods. (01 42 84 18 36)
6 Blueberry Makis Bar
The name the two sisters who founded and run the place gave to their restaurant is derived from a Wong Kar Wai film, My Blueberry Night. Its significance here is the California connection, an element these two restaurateurs, Florence and Marie, infused in their Pacific-themed restaurant, where a California-meets-Japan vibe and menu reigns supreme. On offer are traditional Japanese sushi and classic California makis re-visited. What that translates to is a use of French-imagined ingredients such as truffle, strawberries, yuzu, smoked mozzarella, Thai basil, shizo and more. You can expect your fish to come to you in all its cooked forms, like as in Tempura, or perhaps raw, or even maybe seared or half-cooked or marinated in citrus. The atmosphere leans towards zen and loungey with a neon pop here and there. (01 42 22 21 56)
5 Miss Ko
Miss Ko is an Asian-fusion bar that serves sushi and full meals until after midnight. Its "Golden Triangle" (Triangle d'Or) location has made it a hit since its 2013 opening. The door, by 8pm, is already tough to get past so even though the ba serves cocktails like Swedish Ninja, Black Shadow and Old Cuban - Thai Basil is a favored ingredient - don't even think about perching at a spot there unless you a.) have dinner reservations or b.) are dining at the bar. Same goes for the lounge. The terrace is roomy and even covered. Plans for additional street terrace seating may materialize as the weather warms this season. The real appeal about this spot, besides its ultra-hipness, is you get to see a slice of authentic Paris that crosses ethnic lines, social strata and even ages. Kids too are welcome. But don't expect prompt service. Friendly, perhaps.
4 La Table du Vietnam
This brand-new gastronomic Vietnamese restaurant by My Nguyen took the place of the long-standing Nabuchodonosor. Hence, a more distinguished location in the 7th arrondissement, just near the Eiffel Tower, is hard to find. The concept of gastronomic Vietnamese is a cutting-edge one in Paris. With so many Vietnamese mom-and-pop diners here in the city, it was about time that we were introduced to the fineness of this Asian cuisine with its 100+ years of French finesse and influence. Soft woody tones of purple and ochre greet as you are seated and gaze at the handpainted silk wall tapestries. The weekday lunch menu is a deal and for under 20euros you have a crab and mango salad served with steamed dumplings and mini spring rolls. But if you really want a treat, go for the soft shell crab, very simply flash fried and then served with salt and pepper. (01 45 56 97 26)
3 Madame Shawn
The Thai woman who is Madame Shawn, started off working in several of the larger Thai restaurants when she first arrived in France. A couple of decades later, she now has eight restaurants and counting to her name here in Paris. The newest is this chic Bastille address for whom she commissioned designer Charles Zana for its up-do. Olive greens and wood dominate the furniture choices while a spicy red neon ceiling lighting fixture/ art installation lends pizzazz. Most of the main dishes here are conceived of for sharing between two. So a 16euro main dish actually is enough to feed the both of you. One of the signature twists here is the Pig's Tears, a play on the famous Tiger's Tears dish : thin filets of pork, marinated in honey and asian spices and then served with lettuce leaves, sprigs of mint and a lightly spicy sauce. (01 43 72 63 14)
2 Shang Palace
When this restaurant opened at the exquisite Shangri-la Hotel several years ago, it was with much fanfare as Paris's first haute-cuisine Chinese restaurant. It has lived up every inch to its reputation since then. The restaurant is in the bottom level of this Napoleon IIIrd mansion that was refurbished as a Palace Hotel and is furnished in Sino-Franco elegance throughout. The menu is faithful to authentic Chinese cuisine as you would find in the provinces, with little to no Western re-interpretation. The tea menu is extensive and one of the chef's passions is to imagine pairings with the rarest of Chinese teas. If you've never had Chinese haute-cuisine, authentically prepared with genuine ingredients, this is worth trying. And the setting's luxuriousness offers a welcoming atmosphere. (01 53 67 19 92)
Considered one of Paris's best-loved Japanese restaurants, this much-favored venue plies patrons with fresh, amazing sushi. It and sashimi, in fact, often draw the largest crowds. If that's not your preference, tempura dishes make ideal choices as well. You can opt for the "tapas" size to taste different specialties. A soothing interior contributes to the appealing experience. The lunch prices are exceedingly affordable and if you opt for the set menu you can get away with under about 20euro per person. Dinner gets a bit pricier and sometimes harder to squeeze into the tiny space. But whether lunch or dinner, if sushi is your thing, this place is oh so worth it. (01 42 96 26 60)
About Paige Donner
Paige is a transplanted Parisian. She first arrived as a young bride in the early 90s to live in Paris, having uprooted herself from her native California. Since then it has been an on again, off again love affair for her with the City of Lights, one that has grown fonder over time. Paige hosts World of Wine for World Radio Paris. When discovering a new wine region, her dog accompanies her as the little canine has proved to be the ideal vineyard companion. As a journalist, Paige has written for the NY Times, Variety, LA Times, Fodor's, Blackbook...
Read more about Paige Donner here.