Friday, March 16, 2007

Restaurant review: Higuma

Found at 32 rue St. Anne in the first arrondissement in Paris, Higuma is a favorite Japanese noodle house of several of my friends and is raved about on the internet by many. There's often a line out the door during the lunch hour, too. So I thought I'd take a noodle-loving friend along to check it out.

I hate flourescent light, and unfortunately, that's what greeted us. The bad lighting and unenchanting decor was made up for by the open kitchen where, if you're able to sit at the counter, you can experience the energy of four Asian cooks (sorry, few of them looked Japanese), mountains of steam, and sometimes, if you're unlucky, clouds of smoke.

Once you get past the first room, the two back rooms make you feel like you're in a Chinese restaurant -- I think it's the Chinese restaurant furniture. Anyway, the menu includes noodle soups (three different broths: salt-flavored (?), soy sauce, and miso) which all have pretty much the same ingredients -- a few thin slices of tasty roasted pork, a sprinkling of chopped bean sprouts, and four sad-looking pieces of bamboo from the can. Also on the menu are gyoza (aka pot stickers), fried rice, and chow mein.

The food, which came really fast, is actually very basic. Nothing really refined about it. The gyoza were good and the lamen noodles were fresh, but the soups were very salty and didn't look too pretty (I thought Japanese were into aesthetically pleasing presentation?). We also looked over at a woman's chow mein, which was a scary shade of dark brown, signifying an overdose of soy sauce.

Good place for an inexpensive meal, I guess. A noodle soup is about 8,50 euros, and if you want to add 7 gyoza, it's only two euros more.

As for clientele, it's what you'd expect. There were no Japanese in sight. American tourists, French students, and French businessmen made up the majority.

So sorry, everybody. In my opinion, Higuma is way overrated. Let the tourists go there. Why don't you check out Hokkaido (14, Rue Chabanais) with me, which is only a block or two away, where all the Japanese go for their lamen noodle soup? The prices are roughly the same and I think the cooks work in front of you also. And there's no line out the door.

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