Restaurant Hakuba (Paris)

© Maki Manoukian

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Japanophile fans of Takuya Watanabe can once again dip into their pension funds: not content simply making waves on the Left Bank with his drool-worthy handrolls, the master chef has found a worthy replacement for the former sushiya Jin. Its name? Hakuba, a muted space tucked away in the heart of the luxury Cheval Blanc hotel, featuring wood-clad design by Peter Marino. His omakase menus unveil a series of haiku-like compositions dreamt up in collaboration with chef Arnaud Donckele (who also runs Plénitude), which make their way out on sumptuous ceramics crafted by artisans in Kyoto and Fukuoka. Take the day we went for lunch as an example, seated at the bar where the talented chef and his two apprentices were hard at work: a trio of lisette (young mackerel) sashimi seasoned with horseradish, delicately placed atop a seaweed consommé brought to life by some tosazu (rice vinegar with dashi) jelly; more sashimi, this time bluefin tuna, garnished with cucumber, watercress and shiitake mushrooms; comforting abalone flambéed with sake, resting on a bed of tender rice with diced anchovy; red mullet medallion that was masterfully cooked over binchotan charcoal, served with sashimi of the same fish and green asparagus – and paired with evanescent shiso leaf tempura. What came next? More red mullet, served in a fantastic bouillabaisse-style broth, followed by some flavor-packed nigiri (seabream, cuttlefish, oyster cooked over binchotan charcoal, lobster, sardine and fatty tuna), along with various maki – omelet, cuttlefish, anchovy and, the ultimate creation, grey shrimp topped with caviar. A savory noodle, morel and palourde clam soup complemented all that, followed by the final act prepared by pastry chef Maxime Frédéric: a rice pudding-style rice mousse, topped with delicate purple rice flakes, and a rhubarb mochi ice cream. Enough already, we can’t take any more deliciousness! // Madeleine Proust

FEELING THIRSTY? : An elitist selection of sakes and wines served by the glass, if you think your wallet is up to the challenge, like this junmai by Dewazakura Shuzo (€27) or Les Chaillées de l’Enfer, a condrieu from the Domaine Georges Vernay (€58)… Along with bottles of Japanese wine at prices that are no less extravagant, from €140 for the Sans Souffre blanc by the Takeda Winery to €365 for the Nana Tsu Mori, a pinot noir produced by Takahiko Soga.
PRICE: : Tasting menus €180 (lunch only) and €380-420, food, sake and wine pairings starting at €175.

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