Located to the south of the Marais, Soma succeeds brilliantly in bridging the gap between traditional and haute cuisine Japanese. Two French Japanophiles showcase the menu, which is a series of tapas-style plates, each costing around €12. In the middle of the room, you can see head chef Sourasack Phongphet (‘Su’ for short) preparing dishes with a satisfied sense of joy, with the help of a team of chefs in the downstairs grill kitchen.
After a bowl of edamame beans as an apéritif, we are seduced by an assortment of seafood delights: horse mackerel tartare with shiso leaf (delicate and perfect as an appetiser) and a delicious green tea-infused octopus salad, a combination which gives it a strong, rich taste. Then the butterfish sashimi, served simply as it is – revealing it as surprisingly melt-in-the-mouth and with a subtle, fine taste. Tempura prawns with wasabi cream are a little too greasy however. There’s meats too – a classic of ginger-sautéed pork, plus a beautiful plate of semi-rare beef in a rich ponzu sauce. To finish, Japanese French toast – a pleasant display of creativity, even if doesn’t quite match up with culinary wizardry of the savoury dishes.
In keeping with Japanese tradition, you’ll want to try at least one of the dozen sake varieties; anise, roasted nuts, kiwi, lychee and even candied fruit. Or perhaps an artisanal Japanese beer, Coedo Shiro, or a selection of natural wines. Soma has the relaxed and friendly vibe of an izakaya, but with flavour combinations that are are refined as they are exciting. With dinner costing €40-50 per head, it’s possibly the best value Paris-Tokyo return ticket around.