Sake and wine sommelier with PhD in theoretical physics
Continuing from my previous post, more sake adventures in Paris but this time with champagne. I learnt about my next destination after reading an interview with Asuka Sugiyama on Nippon.com. Asuka is an amazing person. She holds a PhD in theoretical physics and teaches maths at a prestigious college prep school. But she is also a certified sommelier both in sake and wine and runs her own wine sommelier school in Tokyo.
Furthermore, she owns a wine bar in Tokyo’s posh Nishi-Azabu area and Japanese restaurant Enyaa in Paris located next door to Palais Royal. She also writes books about wine. And it’s not all. Asuka has an export-import business bringing wine to Japan and sake to France. Asuka’s attitude to life, her dynamism, energy and the love for sake inspired me. So I really wanted to visit her restaurant while in Paris.
We decided to go to Enyaa for lunch but didn’t book which was a bit of mistake: the restaurant was full. However, Ishida-san, Enyaa’s manager, did his best to accommodate us. While we had to wait for 40 minutes, it was not a problem. We walked around the beautiful Palais Royal, looked at iconic Colonnes de Buren and sat in the shade of the colonnade. 40 minutes were gone in a flash.
Sake and champagne
Enyaa is located on the ground floor of a historic building, which is allegedly the birthplace of Moliere, the great French playwright. I wasn’t able to verify this and in my quest to find the information on this subject I came across a few other buildings claiming to be the birthplaces of the creator of Tartuffe. So which really is the one remains a mystery.
The restaurant was quiet and the atmosphere was very romantic: stone walls, arched doorways, oak tables and shelves with sake and champagne bottles on display. The bar, where we were sitting, was made of a single slab of ginko wood. It looked just gorgeous. Overall Enyaa felt modern and elegant but at the same time connected to the traditions of Japanese and French food.
The restaurant was created around the innovative concept of bringing together the two most famous drinks from each country: sake and champagne.
Surprisingly, there are some similarities between both beverages: strong regional connection, premium status (in the case of ginjo sake), complex production process and some subtly in taste. The concept worked very well for me and my wife. She had champagne and I ordered sake.
An old friend and Black Face from Gifu
Enyaa has the best selection of available by glass sake that I have ever come across outside Japan. You can order all of their sake and champagne by glass. It’s a massive difference from London, where in many restaurants you have to buy a whole bottle if you would like to order an expensive sake.
Enyaa offers sake from several Japanese prefectures including Niigata, Yamagata, Aichi and Ishikawa. Overall, it stocks about 30 sake from 10-12 breweries. The restaurant maintains the direct relationship with the breweries and always emphasises this connection.
Some of the breweries were familiar to me. For example, I have written about Fukumitsuya brewery before. So I decided to try their Kagatobi Yamahai Junmai sake, while my wife settled for a glass of R. Geoffroy Rose de Saignee.
What I liked about this sake was that while it was dry and not as refined as Kagatobi Ai that I previously tried, it had a very lively attitude. The ‘yamahai’ brewing method together with the 65% polishing ratio contributed to its full-bodied taste and a sharp but pleasant finish. It went nicely with my starter. And guess what, my wife was very pleased with her champagne!
After Kagatobi I decided to try something new and asked Ishida-san for his recommendation for a daiginjo sake. His suggestion was Hyakujuro Junmai Daiginjo, which I happily accepted.
The sake is named after a kabuki actor, who was famous at the beginning of the 20th century. He wore the “black face” make-up depicted on the label. The sake won a well-deserved gold medal at The Fine Sake Award in Japan in 2014.
Hyakujuro is very delicate and fresh sake. It has an elegant aroma, complex but very clean and pure flavour. It’s not too dry and has an amazingly smooth finish. I really enjoyed it with my main course. It’s distributed by Tengu Sake in the UK, so I may buy it again.
To finish my sake lunch I asked my host what was his favourite sake on the list. As it turned out, the sake he currently liked the most, Kurumazaka Junmai, hadn’t made its way on the menu yet.
Kurumazaka sake comes from the Wakayama prefecture in the Kansai region famous for mount Koya, oranges and ume, Japanese apricots.
Kurumasaka’s polishing ratio was 65%. It was well-bodied sake with strong umami, great for pairing with various kinds of food. It was a very good end of that day’s sake adventure!
What is a jyubako?
The restaurant’s food was also wonderful. I’ve heard before from a few of my Japanese friends that Japanese food in Paris is not great. My own experience was also a bit of hit and miss. However, Enyaa didn’t let us down. The food was of great quality, very authentic but still with a bit of French touch and very nicely presented.
For a starter, I had aubergines with miso. The aubergines were perfectly cooked: not too firm and not too squishy. Each piece was separated into four sections making it easy to pick up with chopsticks.
The miso seasoning on the top added umami to the dish. As a main, I had ginger pork, which came in the beautiful wooden tray (called jyubako). Again, the pork was perfectly cooked and the rice was delicious. My dessert was my favourite matcha ice-cream. I love everything with matcha and Enyaa’s ice-cream was just superb.
I really liked the atmosphere at Enyaa. The staff was very friendly and attentive. The manager, Ishida san, helped us a lot in choosing our drinks and very interestingly presented each sake and champagne we had ordered.
My daughter particularly liked her chicken with vegetable tempura. She said that she felt like holding vegetables’ hands whilst dancing in a happy circle in a beautiful meadow surrounded by woods. Quite an interesting comparison and I know what she exactly meant.
So if you feel like have a delicious Japanese meal accompanied by a good choice of sake and champagne, I would definitely recommend Enyaa. Asuka mentioned in her interview that she was thinking to open a sake bar nearby. If she does It will be definitely a great place for both sake lovers and novices.
Stay tuned for our next adventure in Paris, when we found an ancient bento box which led us to a Parisian sake shop!