Sunday, November 20, 2005

Paris Journal: Sapporo Restaurant Japonais

Our hotel was in a neighborhood that's packed with Japanese restaurants. Day in and day out I would pass these places, usually either sushi/sashimi joints or noodle houses specializing in ramen, and look at their menus, trying to catch a glimpse of someone's lunch. Given my weakness for Japanese food and my need for an antidote to meals based on bread and butter, it wasn't a matter of if I'd duck into one of these inviting little nooks, but when.

One chilly afternoon, faced with the idea of chewing another sandwiche while sitting on a park bench, I made up my mind to check out Japan town. Five paces later I came upon Sapporo and looked inside. It was packed and humming. This will do. I walked in, waited ninety seconds for a seat at the counter, sat down, and asked for a beer. Ordering food was no problem -- when it comes to menus I speak much more Japanese than French.

The tiny dynamo of a woman who runs the place, in many languages, took my order and yelled it to the back line: "Yakisoba, s'il vous plaît!" Her red-dyed head streaking up and down the small room, she maintained a strict sense of order while still managing a wisecrack to break up her busy line cooks. Total pro.

This is the last of three solo lunches I had at Sapporo -- the house-special ramen, with gyoza. The pork broth was smoky, the noodles were al dente, and the two slices of roast pork on top were, I swear, the best pig product of any kind I had in Paris… right next to the crackling skin at Joël Robuchon's place.

"See you again!" the Japanese proprietress smiled and repeated on my leaving, adding, "Arigato, merci au'voir!"

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