Eating well in Paris isn’t hard to do, but it can easily cost more than you originally budgeted. After a week of dining on foie gras, duck, and cheese plates, I was ready for something simple — and cheap.
Less than a five-minute walk from the Louvre, the Japanese quarter is just that kind of place. With most of the ramen houses centered on rue Sainte-Anne in the area between Palais Royal and Opéra Garnier, the long lines outside the restaurants seem to be a reflection of the tiny eating spaces as well as the universal appeal of affordable meals.
I first heard about the Japanese quarter by following the culinary adventures of ex-pat food blogger Meg Zimbeck, who recently started the website www.parisbymouth.com. Though I was originally looking for restaurants that were actually open on Sunday, I ended up checking out the neighborhood on a Friday and Saturday night. By 9 p.m., most of the shops had already closed, but the lines outside the restaurants were just beginning to ramp up. Here are two places where I had dinner for well under €10.
Naniwa-ya (11 rue Sainte-Anne)
This tiny space has six tables and a bar, where I sat with a view of the chefs preparing the noodles. When I asked a man sitting to my right for tips on what to order, he was nice enough to tell me that the noodles tasted better than the donburi. Seeing that he had completely emptied his bowl of noodles, I followed his cue and ordered the ramen. Before the man left the restaurant, he told me to help myself to the tea, which was stationed near the door. For a mere €6.50 ($8.20), I was content with the noodles, hard-boiled egg, slices of pork, and miso broth. As you can tell from my bowl, I wasn’t disappointed. I wanted to try more of the menu, but was too stuffed to fit in anything else.
Hokkaido (14 rue Chabanais)
In this deceptively small restaurant, a narrow staircase took me downstairs to the overflow room, which was painted white with an arched ceiling. After asking my server which ramen dish was the most popular, I happily slurped up the Champon Ramen. At €8.30 (about $10.50), this version had a little more substance than the one I’d tasted the night before at Naniwa-ya: one-inch strips of pork, Napa cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and just the right amount of sesame seeds.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d inhaled the bowl of noodles and downed most of the soup, I once again wasn’t hungry enough to be able to sample anything else — that’s one of the drawbacks of dining solo; it’s much harder to eat your way through a menu. Looks like I’ll just have to go back on my next trip.