L’Inconnu gastronomical restaurant
by Abdon FLORES
L’Inconnu – Restaurant Italien is this kind of isolate, discrete restaurant that keeps inside a great treasure. Even if it just opened in November 2015, the place has grown such a reputation that is already well known in the Parisian gastronomy circuit. The concept under which it functions could seem bold: Italian cuisine reinterpreted by a Japanese chef. An interesting approach since merging two of the most emblematic gastronomies in the world implies an important challenge.
Chef Koji Higaki has a solid background to defy this trial. He began working in Osaka first at a Japanese restaurant and then an Italian one followed. Eventually he went to Italy and his real formation on cucina italiana began. Chef at the Connoviano Annex back in Japan, he was hired to work in France for Passage 53 (2*). But his dream became true with the opening in Paris 7th district of L’Inconnu, a place where we can discover originality and foreignness melted on a dish.
Italian restaurants are rather merry places where the smell of food and the laughter combine to create a particular atmosphere. Nevertheless, at L’Inconnu prevails a serene calm, this Japanese je-ne-sais-quoi that mitigates any sort of excess. It can accommodate up to 22 guests, and it must be said that for a new gastronomical restaurant this surface is adequate so to satisfy the client’s expectations. Now, fusion cuisine allows a variety and a freedom that can be dangerous if not used wisely. The temptation is just too much; but chef Higaki has understood this.
What about a mere grissini fait maison in a nuts bed to start with? It is just the beginning of a splendid tasting adventure in this temple of food creation. In haute cuisine starters should never compete with main meals but complement them and, if possible, enhance their presence. The squash mousse combined with cappuccino mousse is a surprising discovery; both elements marry to come up with a unique taste. Mini Margheritta –but really mini– and mini cannellone crab stuffed are a good example of what chef Higaki is trying to do: pizza and pasta the size of a sushi. While the bream starter has a more conventional aspect as a dish, it also has an unexpected surprise in the apple jelly and the beetroot.
Great chefs are distinguished by their main courses; it is there where they find their identity. Being from Japan, a land of fish mainly, Mr. Higaki has a noticeable fashion to treat it. Cod served with ceps, probably the most European of all mushrooms, develops a strong identity. This meal with a cube of focaccia and a white Italian wine like Marina Cvetic, is a three stars dish. Even if duck is neither a typical Italian nor Japanese food, at L’Inconnu is served in a delicious way: with khaki-ginger sauce and Japanese cabbage. Of course, a Laguiole knife is provided as well as a glass of Tenuta delle Terre Nere, a red wine from the outskirts of Etna.
In Italian cuisine pasta is considered as main course; it is actually part of its DNA. Of course it’s complicated to compete with Italians in terms of pasta. But there are good approaches. Spaghetti at L’Inconnu seems to falter at the first bites, but after that it renders an agreeable goût that evokes the Mediterranean with a foreign accent. Lemon zest on it may be the reason. Desserts are not responsibility of main chefs, even though they play a key role in the business. Sorbet lemon-rosemary is another interesting find by the L’Inconnu team restaurant. Fresh, light, aromatic, it is a convenient end to a remarkable meal.
Asked why Mr. Higaki decided to choose Italian cuisine as his specialty, he stated that “Italian cuisine is very traditional, very homemade; in Italy there is almost no fusion cuisine. So, I decided to come to Paris with this idea, Paris where almost everything is permitted in terms of gastronomy. This is the story behind L’Inconnu.” As far as we are concerned, is this kind of ventures that keep enhancing the horizons of gastronomy in the world. A must taste place for sure.
L’Inconnu. 4 rue Pierre Leroux, 75007. Paris. Reservations: +33 (0) 1 53 69 06 03
Open from Tuesday through Sunday from 12:00 to 14:00; Tuesday though Saturday from 19:30 to 22:00.
More info: www.restaurant-linconnu.fr