ICHO, Quality Japanese Cooking in the Marais, B+

December 24, 2010

As delightful as the Marais may be, it’s not, with certain exceptions–the Cafe des Musees, for example, a particularly noteworthy food neighborhood, which is why I was delighted to discover the tiny Japanese restaurant Icho tucked away in the rue des Tournelles just steps from the Place de la Bastille.

Taking its name from the Japanese word for gingko trees, this is a pleasant little spot with a pull-up-a-chair sushi counter just inside the front door where exceptionally talented sushi man Aroun Tanovan, a Laotian who trained as Tokyo’s prestigious Tsukuba cooking school, deftly and passionately plies his trade.

Stopping by for a quick bite on a snowy night–par for the course in Paris this winter, Bruno and I had been looking forward to some miso soup, some sushi and tempura, but they only serve set price menus in the evening, so we both went with the assorted sushi and sashimi plate, which was beautiful to behold when Tanovan delivered two of them to our table and quite rightly advised us to taste everything before using any soy sauce. It was a guilty pleasure to eat some silky red tuna sashimi, and the yellow tail and scallop sashimi were exellent, too. Right away, we were impressed with the quality of the produce here, and the obvious art that had gone into composing these plates, too. Sushi with deep-fried shrimp topped with a silky slice of salmon and soft-shell crabs with avocados and sea-urchin cream was outstanding, as was the entire assortment. Bruno echoed my only complaint on the way home, too, when he said, “I could easily have eaten more.”

Though I drank a nice dry Asahi beer with my meal and skipped dessert, the wine list was compiled by Thierry Desseauve of the excellent Bettane & Desseauve wine guide, and desserts are by Gabrielle Jones, who was pâtissière at the Ritz. All told, this is an excellent little address and a place I’ll look forward to returning to soon and often.

Icho, 3 Rue des Tournelles, 4th, Tel. 01-44-78-03-92. Metro: Bastille. Closed Sunday. A la carte 35 Euros. Assorted sushi and sashimi menu 30 Euros.