With a 9 pm curfew in place in Paris, lunch is now the new dinner. And Japanese chefs may just be the new French chefs, judging by the lunch I had yesterday at Le Kigawa.
Entering this restaurant in the 14th arrondissement is like stepping back in time to a bourgeois French restaurant from another era. No trendy mismatched plates, industrial lighting fixtures or zinc bars here. All is calm and restful, with beige walls and chairs, white tablecloths, a pink rose on every table, and classical music playing softly in the background. It’s a pleasant change.
Except for the name, the Japanese staff in the dining room and kitchen (just visible through a window) and a few Japanese mushrooms and notes of yuzu on the menu, you’d never know you weren’t in a French restaurant.
The set menus – not the cheapest around at €40, €65 and €85, available at both lunch and dinner – follow the classic French format of amuse-bouches, starter, fish course, meat course, dessert and mignardises (petits-fours). If you are vegan or a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish, you are pretty much out of luck, as there is no choice for the fish course, and the only alternative for the meat course is shrimp. I’m sure something could be negotiated, however.
The pleasing amuse-bouches were a baby gougère with blue cheese, a spoonful of mackerel terrine with avocado cream, and a slice of dried sausage on a tiny piece of toast.
My friend Susan pronounced her first course “absolutely fabulous.” It consisted of “wonderfully singed” scallops, accompanied by tender pieces of squid and thin slices of multicolored radish, all in a bergamot-flavored sauce.
My starter was a thick, really pumpkiny soup served with blue shrimp cooked in lobster oil. The two main ingredients were both excellent on their own, but I was not convinced that they made a loving couple.
The fish course was simply perfect: properly cooked wild bass with crispy skin, served with a fricassee of various mushrooms in a delicate champagne sauce.
We could have stopped right there, but we had opted for the €40 menu and had both chosen the pluma of Iberian pork, tender, flavorful meat served with mashed potatoes and vegetables in a lovely gravy. Classic.
I then had a chestnut lover’s dream of a dessert: a just-right chestnut soufflé with, on the side, Mont Blanc (vermicelli of sweetened chestnut purée) with a center of chocolate cream, and vanilla ice cream.
Of the two of us, Susan was the real chestnut lover (I shared), but the yuzu cream with meringue and fromage blanc sorbet she chose was also delicious.
Chef/owner Michihiro Kigawa, who brought us this fine French meal, learned to cook French food in a restaurant in Osaka. We are lucky that he has transferred his skills back to the country they originated in.Favorite