39, rue Ste.-Anne, in the 1st Arrondissement.
01 47 03 33 65. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. daily.
This is surely one of the most popular addresses in the Japanese neighborhood around rue Ste.-Anne, and it’s one of my favorites, too. Kunitoraya is part of a mini-empire of Paris restaurants that includes the younger but higher-end Kunitoraya 2, as well as a Japanese-French bakery/café, Aki, where you can get a brioche with a beguiling swirl of matcha and (I’m not making this up) a sandwich made from a baguette stuffed with gyoza, the pan-fried dumplings served in noodle shops.
Kunitoraya is more purist, I’m happy to say. They’re known mainly for their house-made udon noodles, and on a chilly winter night, few things sound better to me, even in Paris. There was already a line when my two friends and I converged from different corners of the city, but it went quickly enough, and we were soon ushered down the Lilliputian spiral staircase to the downstairs dining room and wedged into our table.
We popped salty edamame and sipped beer until the main events arrived: first my friend’s udon, fat and slippery in a bowl of clear hot broth, fragrant with deep-sea greens and accompanied by crisp shrimp tempura. I love these noodles, but it’s the rice bowls I crave. The katsudon is my usual order, topped with breaded, fried pork and a fried egg; all mixed up, it’s a satisfyingly sticky, comforting bowl of food.
In no time we were back on the street, which is the good and bad thing about this place: it’s great for a quick bite, but I always want it to last a little longer.
In a nutshell: Kunitoraya serves some of the best udon and rice bowls in Paris, in a tiny space, at a small price.
Price check: You can eat for about 15 euros a head here, more if you’re drinking.
For Japanese noodles of a different stripe, try the ramen at Naritake. Read the review.
31, rue des Petits Champs, in the 1st.
Mon–Sat, noon–2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.–10 p.m.
No phone, no reservations.