Paris: Kunitoraya | rue Sainte-Anne, Palais Royal/Musée du Louvre

Not great, but still a good time.

It’s not that I don’t know how to socialize, but after years and years of emotional pounding, betrayals and heartbreaks, you’re guarded. You feel like you could never really trust the world again after what it did to you – friends will go, boyfriends will break your heart, your family will wish you never existed. But while all this will never bruise me, I can’t say I’m alive to anyone else but myself. I can’t run, but I know how to create misdirection. So, I brought someone, a French Vietnamese who chatted me up on Jack’d, another gay app, an evening ago, to meet up one of my former company’s Paris-based editors.

I’ll admit that I was using Christian, my new friend, but in my mind, the only reason I could ever bring myself to “use him” was the fact that he was an undergraduate about to break into the fashion industry. This connection, if successful, would help him to break new grounds that he might otherwise never have. I think that if you can’t help yourself, then you should help others even if they’ll never know or recognize you for your intentions. It sounds silly, but the truth is none of us are truly good in everything – there are areas which we excel in, and there are areas where people whom we think are beneath us do better. We constantly see the bible referring to the poor and the meek to learn some life lessons that the more privileged might have missed out. The bible even refers to how people who’re seemingly evil and cursed by life and destiny, can still bear some good. While it consistently criticizes and chastises the Gypsies from the Old to the New Testament, it singularly highlights and glorifies the act of one of these “bad” people with the story of the good Samaritan. To make my conscience feel completely clear, I asked if he’d like to meet my Paris-based editor, whose fame and reputation precedes her. His answer was unanimous and expected.Overall, everything happened according to plan, and I was satisfied.

After the little bout of chat, we parted ways and Christian took me to what many Parisians and online reviewers generally recognize as having the best Japanese food outside of Japan and Singapore (I’m not kidding about the “Singapore” bit, go read Trip Advisor), Kunitoraya. Kunitoraya is well-known for its udon, and after my experiences in Amsterdam and Brussels, I was very apprehensive about having Asian food here. Being intimate with Northeast and Southeast Asia after numerous visits in recent times and the fact that I live in one of the world’s most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities, you start to recognize the nuances of each East Asian race. I had been told that Kunitoraya was an authentic Japanese establishment staffed all by Japanese, but when I walked in, I immediately recognized that this place was as Japanese as Sakae Sushi, and chose to ignore the demographic of the staff. Instead, I’d critique the place solely on the thing that should matter most – the food.

Kunitoraya was really one of those hole in the wall places. On the ground floor was the noodle bar surrounding the open concept kitchen – a very tight place, really. Then by the side, there was a steep drop of stairs into a basement that looked like it was dug out manually from the limestone deposit which Paris sits on not too long ago. It was ghetto, but very cool at the same time. You read about the hollowed out undergrounds of Paris being essentially an abandoned limestone quarry – many paths are blocked, but there are “not-exactly-legal” tours that offer a rare glimpse of this lifesize Swiss cheese. I order a Tempura Udon, and he, a dry variant side dish of Tempura, and what’s basically a Tsukedon for his main.

When it arrived, I immediately sensed something was off. And when I sipped some of the broth, it confirmed my suspicions. The water that I’ve drunk so far in Europe – this isn’t taking away from it – has been rife with minerals no matter the source. For Singaporeans trying to follow me on this, the still water and tap water tastes akin to Evian. The intense mineral content easily overwhelms the mildly flavored kakejiru, which is the typical udon broth made up of dashi, shoyu and mirin. So, the illusion one gets is a dilluted soup albeit with an obvious metallic aftertaste. To be fair, the water in Japan also has a high mineral content, but this is further masked with generally heavier and stronger flavors and the broth, steamed for several hours before being served. It was certainly something I was not yet unused to, but one of the biggest consolation I receive, is that it’s clearly, a healthier meal than the French dinners I’ve been eating.


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