Found on the Michelin guide and described as being one of the best fine-dining Japanese restaurants of the capital, AO Isakaya welcomes you in a classy ambiance, warm lighting, and upscale decor spread on two floors. Don’t expect to eat conventional sushi. Don’t wait to read into a menu loaded with photos; everything is different.
The menu is described as a “Tapas menu.” New for me, reading into it was a premiere and nothing I’ve seen before. A small menu spread on two pages only feels small. Badly written, you don’t understand what you are really ordering and how many pieces each plate contains. Anyway, I ordered four items of every section, hoping to taste everything and hoping to satisfy our hungry bellies.
An izakaya is a drinking establishment (similar to a pub), serving tapas-style food that's meant to be shared among friends. Some are casual, 'divey' looking bars with small wooden tables and chairs, while others are more traditional -- usually, shoes must be removed as you sit on tatami floors.
The restaurant: blue waves painted on the walls. Wooden sticks create separations along with the restaurant. Dimmed lights, parquet floor, gives a yellow ambiance — blue leather chairs. Candles decorate the tables. Tables have wooden chopsticks waiting to be used.
Yummy indeed! Very yummy, innovative, creative, and richly flavorful. Fine quality salmon tataki, white fish carpaccio on a bed of soy sauce, beef salad with crunchy radish mixed in a sweet and sour sauce. Enjoying the starters, we nibbled on crunchy edamame cooked to perfection and sprinkled with the needed amount of salt. An excellent first impression I enjoyed building up to the upcoming plates.
Waw... wow! Impressive flavors! The eggplant is phenomenally delicious! Over-cooked eggplant marinated in a sweet miso sauce and grilled to perfection. Rice and foie gras, taking French culinary perfection to another level giving it Japanese influences. Chunks of foie gras in their sweet teriyaki sauce on a bed of rice. Chicken Gyoza is a must-try. “The eggplant is an award-winning plate.”
Excellent Maki rolls: non-sweet rice, non-sticky, and cooked aldente leaving every piece distinct from the other. Six pieces of each, some covered with a sweet sauce, others decorated with chili pepper rings... good sushi, in fact, very good sushi. I’ve been searching for good sushi in Paris for so long, believing that French people don’t know what sushi is until tonight’s dinner. Shrimp tempura, known as dynamite shrimp at PF. Chang’s should also be ordered.
Best for last is when the sashimi landed on our table; Fine quality, to be enjoyed raw, as is, no sauces and no additives; no rice to cover the original fish flavors.
Finally, I have a favorite Japanese in Paris, and it’s called AO Izakaya.