Thank you to my friend Debbie Kobayashi who wrote this blog post. Debbie lives in Paris, she is a foodie, a wine connoisseur, and knows everything going on in the city; even how to track Tom Cruise while shooting in Paris for his last movie.
Komatsubaki opened this January East of the Champs-Elysees on rue d’Artois and offers three omakase dinner courses – Tsubaki (Kaiseki for those who prefer things to be cooked), Koma (Kaiseki and Sushi), and Zen (Vegetarian Buddhist Monastery cuisine). Sushi, hot Inaniwa udon noodles in shiitake mushroom broth with vegetable tempura, and hearty donburi including the popular lanlan don and unadon – holdouts from his previous sushi bar Comme des Poissons – are the lunch options. I recently tried Koma for dinner. Master Sushi Chef Kino-san and his Michelin-star winning, artistic sous-chef Takubo-san work together in Zen-like harmony, providing conversation in French, Japanese and English while preparing and serving course after course in a timely manner.
As it was cherry blossom season in Paris, a live sakura cherry blossom branch and a seasonal Japanese calligraphy message decorated plates which held a treasure trove of Japanese delicacies! To start, Japanese springtime mountain vegetables fukinoto and udo in a light tempura batter; mugwort flavored chewy yomogi fu; and crunchy, marinated myoga; all of which I had never seen in my eleven years living in France! The uni (sea urchin) custard was luxuriously rich.
The next course – a succulent yellowtail marinated in white saikyo miso and grilled to perfection – made us want more! This was followed by delicate flounder liver served with ponzu and momiji-oroshi (chili pepper red freshly grated daikon) and decorated with finely sliced chives to cleanse our palates!
Grilled flounder with a fragrant bright green kinome topping accompanied with okra and lotus roots was another highlight. One incredible experience after another!
Once the kaiseki portion was finished, it was time for sushi, which was served one after the other and included Chef Kino-san’s signature grilled eel with salt and shichimi.
Kino-san’s fish arrives directly from a Japanese fishmonger specializing in local fish in Paris and Rungis. He slices fish to the perfect thickness to balance his vinegar rice (which is a blend of two rice varieties). And I don’t say this lightly – after all, the best compliment you can give a sushi chef is to compliment his rice. Kino-san gently molds the perfectly seasoned rice rhythmically in his hands and tops it with a glistening slice of fish, eel, calamari, shellfish, sea urchin, salmon roe, etc. He dabs his sushi with a brush of yuzu vinegar, konbu, wasabi, soy sauce, or plum vinegar. At Komatsubaki, there’s no need to worry about having your sushi fall apart in the soy sauce because Kino-san has already applied the correct amount of his specially blended soy sauce for you! His ginger is 100% natural, pale, beige and mild, the perfect palate cleanser between servings of sushi.
Dessert consisted of sakura mochi filled with sweet bean paste wrapped in a fragrant cherry blossom leaf. We enjoyed our kanpai with beer – following Japanese tradition – chilled sake, glasses of a well-balanced, crisp Burgundy white, and ended with hot green tea to compliment our desserts.
A group of Japanese expats was seated in the private shoji and tatami room, which has an opening under the table for your feet and can be reserved without charge for 6-8 people. The shoji, tatami room, and wall coverings were all shipped from Kyoto, and four miyadaiku shrine craftsman carpenters were flown in to put it all together! Beautiful Japanese ikebana, pottery, and art complement the atmosphere.
Kino-san chose his profession because he wanted to eat well, very well. He first arrived in Paris in 1971, repatriated for love, brought his family to Paris in 1983, and has been the heart of a Parisian institution for top quality sushi for the last 35 years. He is originally from Kumamoto but studied sushi from various masters in Tokyo.
I cannot wait to try the Zen course of vegetarian Buddhist monastery cuisine on my next visit, followed by a few pieces of sushi a la carte, of course! As the weather in Paris remains chilly, the hot Inaniwa udon with tempura sounds tempting too! Reserve ahead as seats are limited, especially at the popular counter. 24 hours advance notice is needed for the Zen vegetarian Buddhist menu.
3 rue d’Artois, 75008 Paris
📞01 42 25 26 78
Open everyday except Monday
Saturday and Sunday: dinner only
Take Away: 📞01 45 20 70 37