One of my favourite restaurants in France isn’t French at all. When all the butter and cream and cheese and bread gets to be just a little to much, Higuma is just what the doctor ordered.
Located in Rue Saint-Anne, just around the corner from L’Opéra in Paris’ Asian food district, Higuma specialises in fast, fresh and tasty Japanese food.
It is such a favourite of ours that we even insist on taking visitors to France here, so they can appreciate just how diverse the culinary landscape is in France. Max was describing our favourite haunt to a work colleague the other day, when she suggested we try ‘Yuu’ in Melbourne’s CBD, as it sounded to be a similar type of eatery.
So last Wednesday night, after a couple of hectic workdays and some frantic last minute shopping, we headed to Yuu.
Entry is via a discreet side door down a little laneway. The restaurant itself is in the basement (I seem to be making a habit of eating below ground these days!), and is a pure oasis of calm.
It is indeed, a Japanese restaurant, with an open kitchen, but that’s where the similarities with Higuma end. Where service is fast and perfunctory at Higuma, at Yuu, it is deferent and one feels nothing is too much trouble. I drop a chopstick and a new one arrives before the old one even hits the floor.
Yuu specialises in tapas-style Japanese food, designed to be shared. We try the chicken yakitori skewers, which are tender and delicate if a little boring. The gyoza are fabulous, and more complex in flavour than Higuma’s. These are delicious starters, but the real winners are the next two dishes.
One, is slow-cooked pork belly, covered in cheese (I know, I know) served in a teriyaki-style broth. Indeed, light years away from the delicate cuisine the Japanese are known for. The pork is succulent and falls apart, and the soup is well-balanced, not too salty or sweet.
The other favourite dish, is the wagyu beef roll. Impossibly thin slices of beef have been tenderly cooked then crispily pan-fried, then wrapped around a single spring onion shoot, served with a mirin and soy dressing. Its form resembles sushi and it remains delicate, though full of flavour.
And of course, it’s all the better with a few Asahi beers on the side!
And whilst it might not be Paris, it’s become a new favourite.