8.0 Restaurant Nakatani, 27, rue Pierre-Leroux in the 7th (Metro: Vaneau) 0126.96.36.199, closed Sundays and Mondays, has been open just shy of three months and is a phenominal find. Chef Shinsuke Nkatani is of Japanese origin but was Helene Darroze's lieutenant (but I didn't hold that against him). The exterior is so understated that I walked right by the brass sign and returned to find him standing right opposite the door at the piano with a 16-seat dining area off to the left with painted rough-hewn beams and absolutely cool plates and water cups.
He started us off with some tasty olive tuiles, then supplied an almost elongated cupcake shaped roll-bread withe fine butter and then a vegetable bouillion that came with a nifty little fork-like implement (it'll reappear later).
The menu at lunch is 40E (double that at dinner) with water included in a neat pitcher and it has a choice only of mains. As our waiter rattled off the ingredients both before we ordered and on their arrival, there were so many of them our heads were spinning and he finally took pity on us and printed the menu out. Colette felt that they should do this for all meals, as does, say, Clamato. Another suggestion we had was to have at least one wine priced at that of the "menu" but in this case the most reasonable white was an aligote at 52 E and red - Pinot Noir (above) at 70 E.
For firsts we had daurade royale marinated with sweet spices with a compote of pears, celery salad and gin, yes gin, vinaigrette and water cress. Wow! Then the ladies had the line caught bar roasted in a sautoir sauce pan with iceberg lettuce, tiny leeks, black raddish and herb vinaigrette and I had a "blue", as ordered, faux filet of Breton horse meat with "filaments" of potato, red quinoa, veal juice, tiny mushrooms and juice of onion and champagne, a watercress puree, and red onion shavings in red wine. Boy!
For dessert we had an ice of raw Normandy cream made with rehydrated squash powder and tiny squares of moist winter squash biscuits with clementines marinated in mandarine juice and somewhere some pineapple and bananas and lime - phew! Oh and with the outstanding coffee come some more of his unique mignardises that one speared with those unusual Japanese forks.
Our bill for 3 with a bottle and glass of wine and 3 coffees, was 219 E or 146 E a couple. And it was quiet too.
Go? Yes and as far as I'm concerned Francois Simon and Ryoko Sekiguchi published their "12 chefs japonais cuisinent en France" (Ed. du Chene, 35 E) this month just a tad too early to include Nakatani with Okiyama (Abri), Kudaka (Breizh Cafe), Masumoto (Concert de Cuisine), Honjo (Es), Ishizuka (Le Petit Verdot), Doihara (Le Sot l'y laisse), Endo (Nanashi), Sato (Passage 53), Yositaki (Sola), Takano (Takano) and Nakayama (Toyo). Not to mention a few others like Aki (Aki), Terumitsu (Blue Valentine) and those who've been at Vivant Table, Clandestino, L'Agape, Chez la Veille, Carte Postale, Stella Maris, H. Kitchen, Les Enfants Rouges, Atao & Les Degres de Notre Dame. And that's hardly a complete list.