Located on the prestigious Avenue Hoche near the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées, Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris is like a palace in the centre of one of the most rich and vibrant areas of Paris, the 8th arrondissement. With Pierre Gagnaire, Joel Robouchon and Guy Savoy as the worthiest of neighbours, the prestigious hotel has lured yet another international heavyweight chef to the French capital. Renowned chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa is opening his very first Paris restaurant, further to internationally celebrated Matsuhisa Beverly Hills and his other locations in Aspen, Athens, Mykonos and Munich. Under Executive Chef Hideki Endo and his team of sushi masters, Matsuhisa Paris has adopted and adapted the celebrated formula of the master chef and presents his contemporary vision of Japanese cuisine: a gastronomic encounter between Asia and Latin America, two cultures dear to the heart of Nobu himself. He says: “Paris is the capital of gastronomy. I’ve always loved the City of Lights for its energy and its people, so I am delighted to be able to showcase my food to the Parisians. Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris combines true elegance with relaxed sophistication – and this atmosphere is mirrored in my restaurant.
Freshening up the already stylish restaurant designed by celebrated designer Philippe Starck, a splash of colour has been added with a green panel behind the open kitchen area, bathing the chefs in fresh light reminiscent of sun shining through the rain forest.
Like in all of Nobu’s restaurants, entering the restaurant I am greeted by a loud shout of “Welcome” by all the staff, giving the impression of a bustling and lively place, even though I am early and probably only the third person sitting down at the elegant dark wood tables that evening.
The service is incredibly friendly and attentive and after some Edamame beans with Maldon sea salt, the first course is Toro tartar with French imperial caviar on soy sauce with wasabi. The play of colours between the green glass dishes on top of each other, the crushed ice and the red tuna is a feast for the eyes before you have even tasted it. Perfect elegance to start the meal. I’m advised to mix the tuna and caviar with the soy sauce to get the full flavour which indeed turns out to be most effective: the silky smoothness of the tuna tartar, the saltiness of the caviar and the umami of the soy sauce form a perfect balance and excite the taste buds for what’s to come. Next we have a real trilogy of taste, Nobu Santen Nori: Seabass, dry miso; Yellowtail sashimi, jalapeño and yuzu soy sauce; and Scallops “New Style” sashimi. Each plate has its own character and evokes different flavour memories. The dishes are punchy yet subtle, complex on the tongue yet very clear in taste, as sophisticated a creation if ever there was one. This is followed by a sushi assortment, succulent, buttery and tender and no bamboo mat in sight. I watch as the chefs press the sashimi rolls in their hands, thoroughly and carefully and yet at an astonishing speed. This is where some in our group cannot resist and ask for more, whereas I approach the chef and tell him that what he has just served us surpasses every other sushi I’ve had in recent years. A salad follows, spinach with dry miso and truffle, quite possibly unremarkable in appearance but definitely not in taste. It offers a combination of crunch and umami flavour that you just cannot get enough of.
Now comes the black cod in saiko yaki. This is where the world is split in those that have tasted Nobu’s black cod and those that haven’t. If you haven’t, this will be a revelation. If you have, lucky you! The texture is unlike any fish, silky, buttery and simply elegant, and the miso-marinade is breathtakingly delicious in its sweet, deeply satisfying way.
The wagyu with Anticucho sauce took me and all my fellow diners by surprise, even with a prior warning. You expect the best and most succulent beef in the world, and what you get is just that, but Peruvian style, with a hot and spicy sauce. To some, this sauce is eyewateringly hot, to others just the best way to serve an all too often plain piece of wagyu. A fantastic way to bring Nobu’s time spent in Peru to the present day Paris restaurant.
Next we were served mushroom Inaniwa udon soup, putting the earthy mushroom squarely centre-stage and drawing the savoury menu to a close.
For dessert we were presented a dish called Whisky iced cappuccino, a coffee crumble with an iced whisky froth on top, a very French way to end this Japanese-South American-themed evening.
Nobu’s creations arehitting every note. With his originality and by using the very best and freshes ingredients, Nobu creates a dining experience that elevates and that excites. Furthermore, all dishes were perfectly complemented by a sophisticated menu of sake, wine and exotic cocktails to fabulouslyblend with Nobu’s culinary journey.
Travelling to Paris, I took the Eurostar from London and indeed the convenience of travelling by train is considerable. There are up to 21 daily services with one-way fares starting from £29. It’s a city centre to city centre service with fast and convenient check-in. As a Business Premier traveller you can enjoy fine on-board dining with seasonal creations by Business Premier Culinary Director and Michelin-star chef Raymond Blanc served at your seat, offering a delicious hot breakfast with regional British ingredients for early travellers and a choice of fine meat or a lighter fish option with fresh vegetables and naughty desserts for lunch or dinner, all sustainably sourced.
To reserve your table at Matsuhisa for when it officially opens on 14 April, visitwww.raffles.comor call+33 1 4299 88 16. And to get a train to Paris in style, visit Eurostar.
Images ©P.O. DeschampsVU,Henry Hargreaves,Romeo Balancourt