My job frequently requires me to eat elaborate three-course meals at lunch and dinner several days in a row. It's something I have trained myself to do over the years and my stomach rarely utters a peep of complaint, as long as I don't overdo the wine (not as easy as it sounds). I am grateful, though, when I come across a restaurant that acts as a kind of cleansing interlude, replenishing my body with crunchy vegetables and wholesome grains.
Until recently Rose Bakery served that purpose: after munching my way through one of their colorful mixed salad plates, I always felt ready to face another multi-course feast. But as this café has grown ever more popular and expensive I have started looking for alternatives, and Nanashi has become my new haunt.
Run by Kaori Endo, a former Rose Bakery cook who is also famous for preparing meals with scavenged market ingredients in an artists' squat and writing the book Une japonaise à Paris, Nanashi brings a Japanese touch to simple organic fare, the type of food that I would like to eat at home every day. Though it's advertised as a bento restaurant, the food is served in plates and bowls rather than the traditional compartmentalized box.
Open only for the past few months, Nanashi has already expanded to two locations, one in the newly fashionable rue du Paradis near Gare de l'Est and the other in the very-much-arrived northern Marais. The first feels more like a loft in Brooklyn than a Paris café, with 1960s-style furnishings and quirky objects such as German beer mugs. My friend and I were the first to arrive at 8.30pm, but an hour later the spacious dining room was packed with health-conscious local hipsters. A few years ago it would have been hard to imagine Parisians swapping their cigarettes for grilled tofu; times have changed and the city is no worse for it.
The blackboard menu has a limited selection of dishes, from meat, fish or vegetarian "bentos" to salmon chirashi (raw fish on rice) and smaller plates such as a brioche pizza or spring rolls. Brunch, served on weekends, also includes muesli, yoghurt and a children's plate. For my first Nanashi experience I tried the vegetarian bento, which brought me two surprisingly large chunks of grilled tofu topped with mashed avocado on a bed of red and white quinoa. Accompanying this was a plate of three salads reminiscent of Rose Bakery, making for a generous meal that left me feeling invigorated even if my friend and I did polish off a bottle of organic red Burgundy.
A couple of months later I decided to try Nanashi II, whose long dining room with plain wooden chairs has a functional feel like a Scandinavian school canteen. Endo seems to have perfected her formula and we found the same selection of dishes as at the original, with bentos that change daily. This time my friend Erica took the vegetarian option, a delicious tofu burger with seaweed and lentils in a soft white bun made on the premises, while I had the "banka" trout from the Basque country, served brunch-style with scrambled egg, asparagus, a potato topped with fromage blanc and a helping of wheat, plus the requisite plate of salads (I especially liked the beets with chick peas, green beans and hazelnuts).
Though again there was plenty of food, we couldn't resist trying the matcha cheesecake, which was rib-sticking but not too sweet with its layer of plain whipped cream. Not surprisingly given the value for money — we paid 15 euros each without the cheesecake — the dining room was full again, and the friendly staff seemed to have no trouble keeping up. Will there soon be a Nanashi in every neighborhood? I'm not the only one who would be delighted.
Nanashi, 31 rue de Paradis, 10th, 01 40 22 05 55.
Nanashi II, 57 rue Charlot, 3rd, 01 44 61 45 49.
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Thank you for the tip, Rosa. Will look the place up next time I travel to Paris. It is always easy for me to spend a few hours in Le Marais! Other than that, looking forward to meeting you in a few weeks when I arrive in Nice and stay at Le Studio. Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle
Veronique, I'm looking forward to meeting you too! I'm sure you would enjoy Nanashi - it's a very Parisian experience despite the Japanese slant.
It was so lovely to see you Rosa AND to discover this wonderful restaurant. I can't wait to try the one in the 10th. Next time? xo Erica
I have just read an old post of yours about Helsinki. Thanks for the information about the porridge - I love it! I will be back in Helsinki soon and I am staying at the Klaus K. You are right, the breakfast there is amazing. We have travelled all over Finland and think it is wonderful. Thanks for the Helsinki tips.
Hi Rosa, Sounds like an exciting and at times challenging culinary adventure you're on. Even though you're used to all the fine dining, do you find that it challenges your health at times, or is it more a case of all things in moderation, even fine 3-course meals? thank you! Michael
Michael, because I eat a healthy diet of fresh foods when I'm at home I can get away with indulging at restaurants with no ill effects so far. I also climb four flights of stairs to get to my apartment, so that burns off a few of the calories!
Thanks for sharing - I know the feeling of craving simple, healthy food, especially after a stint of too many rich Paris dinners (not that I'm complaining!)
The South West could do with a few more places like this! We moved from the UK to the South of France to live and work three years ago (my husband is a chef) and its surprising how little "world food" can be found down here. Although, don't get me wrong, there is a lot of fantastic food to be had, but it wouldn't hurt to have a bit of competition within the region I don't think. Anyway, enjoying the blog. You might like to check his out to? Its a diary of an english chef in France. You can find it at www.northbysudouest.blogspot.com
Nbso, I can see how eating southwestern food every day could get a little repetitive, wonderful as it is. Please tell your husband I love his blog. Fascinating and beautifully photographed.
thank you for your share , I think cooking is a enjoyful thing ,expecilly to cook new food let theis stomach enjoyful