TO Restaurant Paris: a great Franco-Japanese fusion experience

Lately I’ve been going through a “Japanese fusion” period in terms of restaurants. So I’m continuing my discoveries, and after a disappointing experience at Yakuza I’ve set my sights on TO, chef Ryo Miyazaki’s restaurant near the Canal St Martin, for my next experience.

The concept of TO

TO is a restaurant that is part of the very fashionable Franco-Japanese fusion trend. If I were to make a comparison with Yakuza, which I recently tested, it offers French cuisine revisited in the Japanese style, whereas the other offered a Japanese base revisited with French ingredients.

In terms of positioning, they’re in the bistronomy niche.

The setting at TO

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Right from the façade, the tone is set: simple and uncluttered. This is confirmed by the room where I’ll be dining.

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But in fact the restaurant offers several distinct atmospheres: just next door is a room with a more subdued ambience, and then, further on, another much darker one. Not to mention a bar in the basement.

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I also had the impression (to be confirmed) that the sound, light in my room, was perhaps a little louder in the others.

The result is a very clean design and an à la carte ambience, which I think is a good idea, but more on that later.

Otherwise, you’ll be surprised not by the open kitchen in the basement, but by the toilet opposite it, which is almost as open as the kitchen.

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The menu at TO.

The menu (available only on mobile via QR Code) is fairly short, but offers two tasting menus (or Omakase in Japanese restaurants) in 6 and 8 courses.

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I’ll be opting for the 8-step menu with, for once, the 5-glass wine pairing that the waiter was good at selling to me, even though I’m generally resistant to it.

Note that the Omakase menu is not, as in many places, a “best of” from the menu, but is made up of specific dishes.

The meal and the dishes

The menu was nowhere to be seen, and as I discovered the dishes as they arrived, you’ll forgive me for sometimes being incomplete on the description of each dish: trying to take notes as the waiter presented the dish to me, I generally lost track from the 3rd or 4th ingredient onwards.

But let’s start from the beginning. When I arrived, I was given the rare opportunity to choose my seat (as it turned out, the restaurant would be full by mid-evening). An excellent point.

The welcome is very kind and friendly. The waiter, as I said, takes the time to answer all my questions about the various options on offer to help me make my choice without pushing me to consume. He could, for example, have tried to sell me the wagyu option but didn’t even mention it (he was wrong, I might have been interested).

Anyway, it’s time to get started.

We start with an amuse bouche of chicken liver mousse, avocado and parmesan.

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It’s fresh and the combination of chicken liver and avocado is a success.

Then we get right to the heart of the matter with a pre-entrée: a parsnip velouté with foie gras (and, it seems to me, mushrooms).

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In fact, the velouté is more of an emulsion. It’s light and airy. All the flavors blend well together, and the gingerbread plays a key role when you come across the medallion of foie gras.

The first course is a ceviche of yellowtail and red tuna.

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The first comment that needs to be made is that the plate is visually very successful. Of course it’s a fresh starter, but I would have liked the fish to be spicier. A lack that will be compensated for (and that’s their role) by the sauces that accompany it (I thought I guessed horseradish among others), but I’m noticing more and more that restaurants that revisit ceviche even though it’s not a “native” dish in their culture are depriving it of the spiciness that makes it so appealing.

But apart from this totally personal detail, the dish is a real success.

The second starter is a temaki of sea bream.

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It’s the only dish on the menu that openly claims its Japanese origins. It’s accompanied by rice with shizo sauce, among other things, but what makes it so interesting is that the fish is matured for 2 weeks to get rid of all its blood.

You can eat it with your cutlery or roll it in seaweed leaves with your fingers. I’ll choose the second option. A real delight. At the time, I thought I could eat 10 of them, as the consistency and flavours are such a delight in the mouth.

The continuation…will take a long time to arrive. About twenty minutes. This is extremely rare on a tasting menu, where the sequence of dishes is known from the outset, making it easy to pace the cooking.

I take the opportunity to look around a bit. The room has filled up considerably and I notice that the music, muted in this room, is perfectly at the right level and doesn’t bother me at all.

At last, my first course arrives: cod with sake and soy, cooked at low temperature.

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It comes with clams, a beef pastrami for the land-sea touch, and the sauce is a clam chowder.

The fish was cooked an entire night.

A real delight. The cooking gives the fish an incredible lightness and for the rest the assembly of tastes is perfect. Pastrami with clams was a daring move, and a success.

The meat also takes a long time to come. A good fifteen minutes….

Eventually it arrives: a veal hanger, also cooked at low temperature.

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It is served with shimeji mushrooms and cauliflower purée.

I can’t remember ever having eaten such melting meat. A real treat. The seasoning is perfect, the whole thing is full of flavor and very light.

At last we come to the desserts.

The pre-dessert will be a panna cotta with a quenelle of ice cream and….for the record I “missed” most of the ingredients.

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Once again, a very fine, light dish with a wonderful combination of tastes.

Dessert will be a roasted pineapple with mango quenelle, yuzu, mascarpone and crumble.

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Once again, an almost “vaporous” dish. It’s melt-in-your-mouth, fine, and the blend of flavors perfectly successful.

A coffee and the bill, and I’ll be able to close this excellent evening. Well, no.

I waited a good half hour and had to express my dissatisfaction to a waitress whom I intercepted on the run (the waiter who was looking after me having totally abandoned me since dessert) for things to speed up.

I left on a friendly chat and a little embarrassment on her part, but given the quality of the meal I was ready to forgive anything.

A word about the wine pairing: two sakes (one 50% sparkling and one 60% very floral), a Chablis, a Crozes Hermitage and a Gewurtzraminer. Each was presented at length by the waiter, along with the reason for pairing it with the dish, and the fact that there were fewer glasses than courses meant that the traditional “race” to finish one’s glass in a hurry before the next course arrived was avoided. Served in generous quantities.

In bottom line, a very fine, elaborate menu, with perfectly successful combinations of flavors and dishes that are really well presented on the plate.

The service was qualitatively of high quality in its interactions with the staff, but at times fell short of the mark due to its slowness and rather tedious waits.

But in the end, I was delighted.

The service

As you can see, the service was two-faced.

Very friendly staff, never stingy with explanations, ready to answer all my questions and who took responsibility for my few negative remarks.

And then inexplicable slowness. As for the “gaps” in the meal, I would blame them more on the kitchen, but the space-time gap between the end of the dessert and the arrival of the coffee and the bill is, if not a problem of attention, at least a problem of organization.

The atmosphere

There’s something I don’t like about many modern, hip restaurants: too dark an atmosphere, so you can barely see your food, and too much loud music.

What I liked about TO is that you can choose the room that suits your expectations.

So the first room, where I dined, actually looked like a “normal” restaurant room, and I suppose the room at the back was a bit more “hip”.

This is also reflected in the way customers behave: they chat with the staff, it’s relaxed and not the least bit showy.

Bottom line

I can’t help making the comparison with Yakuza, whose memory is still fresh in my mind. One is everything I don’t like, the other everything I do like.

If it hadn’t been for the service “bugs”, I’d have called it a perfect experience. Of course, it comes at a price: 168 euros, but I took the most comprehensive menu and couldn’t do more.

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But it’s well worth it, and without wine pairing, you can get much more “affordable” prices. For the record, once again, at Yakuza it was 215 euros, even though I only had one glass of alcohol, was still hungry when I left and wasn’t impressed by the dishes and flavors.

To the question: “Will I return?” the answer is “yes” without a doubt. And it’s a table I’d be happy to introduce to others, which is not the case with other places….

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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