12, rue de l’Hôtel Colbert, in the 5th Arrondissement.
01 43 29 59 04. Lunch and dinner, Tues–Sat.
Exposed beams, an ancient door and a cave dating to the Middle Ages: this seems like an unlikely setting for a Paris restaurant serving ultracontemporary Franco-Japanese fare, yet somehow it all works.
Upstairs is an elegant, classic dining room, but downstairs in the “salle japonaise” you’ll be asked to remove your shoes for a seat at one of the sunken tables. In the hands of lesser restaurateurs, this would feel like two different establishments, but at Sola, the transition is seamless.
The same can be said for the food. To call this cooking fusion doesn’t seem quite right. This is not an East-meets-West mash-up but a distinct, organic style all its own. Most of the ingredients are French; some are Japanese; all are treated in a way that feels born of both cultures, neither contrived nor derived.
We chose the five-course, no-choice tasting menu. A morsel of marinated anchovy perched on a thin crisp—potato?—was a fine amuse-bouche, salty and mouthwatering. Another teaser, a small bowl of pumpkin soup garnished with mascarpone and speculoos crumbs, was almost dessert. The sweet theme continued with a shrimp tartare, served with lemongrass granité and carrot in three forms: whole, as sunshine-colored meringue crisps and in airy dollops of cream. Miso-caramelized foie gras was almost like a crème brûlée, silky smooth with a crunchy glaze, sitting on a finger of toasted brioche.
Next, spears of baby corn tempura were served with lightly charred kernels, black trumpet mushrooms, sliced black truffle and a chestnut purée. This dish was packed with autumnal umami, balanced by the sweetness of the corn, and utterly delicious. The fish course was a plump little piece of bar (sea bass) served with thin coins of pattypan squash, green and yellow, and shaved ribbons of hearts of palm. Finally, we had crisp-skinned pintade (guinea fowl) served with more mushrooms, tight florets of roasted cauliflower and a nutty sunchoke purée.
We drank sake with most of the meal, switching to a too-heavy Crozes-Hermitage at the end. The sake was the better partner. The flavors here are not timid, but the composition of each plate is delicately balanced, and the crisp brew complemented the cooking without detracting from it.
A pre-dessert of late strawberries with verbena sorbet arrived, followed by a caramel and coffee dessert dusted with earthy cocoa and topped with a candylike lace cookie. This was, not surprisingly, a perfectly natural extension of the rest of the meal, and as delicious.
In a nutshell: Sola offers sophisticated Franco-Japanese cooking in an elegant, relaxed setting. Highly recommended.
Price check: Menus at 55 and 75 euros.
If Sola sounds good, you’ll also like Shu. Read the review.
8, rue Suger, in the 6th.
01 46 34 25 88.
Mon–Sat, 6:30 p.m.–11 p.m.