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Nestled between some of Paris' most famous monuments, hidden gems, covered passageways and some of the best hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurants and shops the city has to offer fill the Palais Royal neighborhood. Here is a small selection of must-dos and sees in this gourmet stronghold.
As you walk through Paris, you've undoubtedly wondered at all of the "Restaurant Japonais" storefronts serving up menus featuring little or no variations of grilled meats, sushi and sashimi, and if you're looking for a Japanese experience that actually verges on authenticity, the rue Sainte Anne is where you want to be. Inconspicuously situated between the administrative Bourse area and the bustling Opera, the rue Sainte Anne stretches out as a haven of Japanese bistros and shops.
Your first stop, before noon for lunch or before 7:30 for dinner (if you want to avoid the lines that soon stretch down the block) is Kunitoraya, a now-famous, bar-seating-only refuge for udon lovers. Let the fritture du jour prepared by the chefs in the open kitchen tempt you, and order up a steaming bowl of udon or the delicious Kamodon (duck and egg on a large bowl of rice). Service is prompt, the chefs and waiters are friendly, and the people waiting outside for your spot will be grateful if you don’t linger over conversation!
After lunch, head further north on the rue Sainte Anne to the rue Chabanais where, at #13, you can get your fix of the city’s best bubble tea at Zen Zoo, which is also an excellent lunchtime bet. Served hot or cold, with or without milk and in a variety of flavors (our favorites are sesame, taro and green tea), we recommend getting it to-go to enjoy in the neighboring Square Louvois. If you're in the mood for coffee, the café "Au fil de l'eau" just across the street serves an excellent espresso, and is coincidentally a lunchtime hotspot for Andouillette fans.
Just down the block, on rue Rameau, also lies an interesting boutique, dealing antique and contemporary prints. When we stopped by, 18th century depictions of human anatomy rubbed shoulders with whimsical watercolors, all reasonably priced.
Another foodie "must-try" is the Workshop Issé on the nearby rue Saint Augustin. Brainchild of the owner of rue Richelieu's famed Japanese bistro Issé, this enterprising boutique is divided between a grocery section (filled with titillating Japanese imports) and a small counter and communal table where every lunchtime, for €10, the chef (on leave from the frenetic pace of the sister restaurant) serves up a fixed menu put together at his discretion, populated with anything he feels like experimenting with that day!
After all that eating, a stroll is well in order. Intensely riddled with covered passages, perfect for strolling on a rainy day, the 2nd arrondissement makes for a great locale, but the key can be finding them. I happened upon a very lucky stuffed deer ornamented with Christian Louboutin pumps in the elegant Gallerie du Passage; and the bustling Passage Choiseul features a number of intriguing book stalls and clothing boutiques.
Other Things to Explore in the Neighborhood
Genevieve, a HiP Paris blogger lives in New York but travels to Paris often where she likes to discover hidden gems on the Paris restaurant scene. She works for Haven in Paris, a boutique vacation rental agency with properties in Paris, Provence and Tuscany. Slow Travel Classified.
© Genevieve Sandifer, 2009
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