KeiKei Kobayashi is one of the most famous names in the city of light, with a passion for French cuisine hard to match. A passion that started very early in his life, still in Nagano (his hometown) when enchanted by Alain Chapel’s work in a tv show.

And there started his own path in cuisine, first in Nagano, following Tokyo, where he worked with Paul Bocuse. At 21 years old he decided that France would be his destination, passing through several kitchens, like Gilles Goujon (L’Auberge du Vieux Puits), the Le Prieuré and Le Cerf, before joining Alain Ducasse’s brigade at the famous Plaza Athenée, working under Jean-François Piège and Christophe Moret’s wings.

Kei-3 The minimalism and aesthetics of Kei’s cuisine is also present in the identity and aspect of the dining room 

In 2011, young Kei decided to step up his career, opening the homonymous restaurant, next to Les Halles, at the number 5 of Coq Héron street, where previously worked Gerard Besson’s starred restaurant.

Focused on developing a signature cuisine, all about the product and the finest aesthetic care, his cuisine was soon recognized, achieving several individual awards and the famous star. In 2017 the second star in the French guide arrived, in the opinion of some, sinfully late.

Kei-5 Kei-4 The centre of the room with highlight to the aged beef Rubia Gallega. 

But on to our experience! Arriving at the restaurant we soon get the fusion of modernity, minimalism and classic aesthetic of a French haute cuisine restaurant, all clear, clean and harmonious, with the team flowing around a full room with the balance and elegance of a great orchestra.

After comfortably seated, we started with a champagne De Sousa Brut Réserve Grand Cru, a 100% Chardonnay, with strong aromas, floral notes, dry fruits and some forest. Pleasant and fresh in the mouth and a great pairing to the snacks to follow.

Kei-6 Red Shiso granita

And we started immediately by awakening and refreshing our palate with a red shiso granita, highlighting the fusion of cultures we’ll find on the menu. Followed a smoked yoghurt tartelette with sardine and red onion, a small snack full of contrasts, crunchy and creamy, with an excellent smoky ending.

Kei-9Smoked yoghurt tartelette with sardine and red onion

Kei-7 Barmejan peas with ricotta 

Interesting in texture and lightness these barmejan peas, filled with ricotta. Followed by a wedge clam with bouillabaisse gel, with the classic sea flavor, without its usual intensity and spiciness.

Kei-8 Clam with bouillabaisse gel

A great start, and preview to a great experience, and the bread and butter were yet to come – yes, I’m an easy man to please – and in this case, I was immediately conquered by the flavour of the butter, the crunchy crust and slightly bitter aroma of the bread.

Kei-10 The butter is hand shaped at Kei 

 Kei-11Moruno shrimp tartar, shrenki caviar, peach soup
Flawless image of a delicious dish, where the sweetness of the shrimp and the peach combined nicely with the richness of the caviar, while the smoked notes of the yoghurt foam elevated the dimension of the dish. Excellent!

Kei-12The crunchy vegetable gardensmoked salmon from Scotland, rocket and spinach mousse and olive powder 
One of the iconic dishes of Kei Kobayashi, and that so well represents his cuisine of flavour, elegance and textures. A perfect marriage between texture and flavour, where nothing overlaps and all is harmonious and subtle, like only a Japanese hand can accomplish.

Accompanying was a Pouilly Fumé, La Moynerie 2015 of Michael Redde et fils. A good Sauvignon Blanc, still young, with notes and interesting structure given by the wood and enviable acidity making an excellent job along with the food.

 Kei-14Foie Gras, apricot foam, ginger confit, mirabelle plum and poppy coulis 
Foie will always be foie, and the light cooking of an excellent piece shows just that. Great combo with the sweet notes of the fruits, good contrast of sweet and savoury, and an intensity kick by the poppy coulis.

Why can’t I eat this on a daily basis?

Kei-15Seabass, crunchy scales, tomato vinaigrette and Barolo reduction
Just the technical work of making the skin and scales crunchy is worth a standing ovation. Flawless execution, on top of which we also have the lemon, caviar, samphire and anchovy. For an even greater contrast of flavours, and endless well-orchestrated notes, we have the vinaigrette, shiso and the Barolo reduction, the anchovy puree and the courgette flower. All working beautifully together even without a sauce or a broth.

Kei-16Smoked Scotish crawfish, shitake fricassé, chive, and homardine
The crawfish arrive in the same bowl they’re smoked in, while Charles Weyland (a brilliant dining room manager, by the way!), explains us the same go through 3 different types of cooking: first poached for a few seconds, then cooked at low temperature and finally put in hot stones and smoked. A dish close to perfection, for the simplicity of its elements and the Japanese touch in the French cuisine. The mushroom fricassé and the chive gave earthy notes to the dish, creating more dimension and structure, and the homardine (bisque based sauce enrichened with butter and cream) elevated the bar with the shellfish flavour.

On the glass, the choice went, instead of the obvious Sauternes, to a Chassagne-Montrachet 2015 of Domaine Coffinet-Duvernay, rich, creamy and deeply elegant, making a great harmonization.

Before passing to the meat, there was still time for a classic palate cleanser – with a lemon and mint ice.

Kei-18Seared vendée pigeon with miso, roasted fig 
This pigeon is one of the most emblematic dishes of Kei’s cuisine, and it’s easy to understand why! Firstly for the French-Japanese combo of ingredients, and then for the restraint in adding elements. The cooking of the bird with the miso, the reduced sauce of its cooking, the foie, shallot and lime paste and the brilliant roasted fig with red wine, created a symphony of great brilliance. Certainly one of the best pigeon dishes I ever tasted in life!

To go with, another Burgundy wine, this time a red, Gevrey-Chambertin vieilles vignes 2012 of Domaine Rossignol-Trapet. An elegant wine, marked by wood and elevated by an impressive acidity.


As pre-dessert, we had a goat’s cheese ice cream with cherry jam, Sicilian olive oil and Modena vinegar. Light, fresh and delicious, a good substitute for the usual cheese plate, that would’ve become heavy after so many dishes.

Kei-20Peach and Basil soups, poached nectarine, raspberry and tapioca  
A light and fresh dessert just as I like! Notes of fresh fruit and herbs, with the basil not only in present in the soup but also in the ice cream. The dish presents a good contrast of textures, and surprising elegance and lightness.

Kei-21Baba au Rhum
The chef’s version of the classic French dessert is, in this case, covered with rum, whipped cream, Okinawa sugar cane and cane ice cream. Good contrast, sweetness and above all no excess of any type, in a dessert that often has too much alcohol.

To finish an already long lunch, nothing like a Japanese green tea and some delicate mignardisesguimauve with lime and salted caramel tartelette.

Kei-22As I mentioned before, the service flows like a great orchestra, without impositions, good rhythm and technical domain making us think that also to the dining room that second star came late!

Kei-24Kei Kobayashi

Final Remarks
In a time when young Japanese chefs are taking the French cuisine, and Paris, by assault, Kei Kobayashi is, probably, alongside Shinichi Sato (Restaurant Passage 53), the great leader of this change. A change that brings restraint, passion, simplicity and harmony, like only the Japanese cuisine is able to transmit. The flavours are purest, the dishes lighter, the presentations simpler, but the final result is of an elegance and finesse that makes us blush of pleasure.

And that’s what I felt in the end of a long lunch at Kei, a signature cuisine, based in respect for the product, in the passion for French cuisine and in the brilliant combination of ingredients. For sure one of the most interesting tables in the city!

Kei-23For our usual #wineontour, we gave the chef a delicate vintage Port 1980 from Warre’s

Besides all this, Kei can be a discovery even for those not wanting to spend the highest prices of Paris’ starred restaurants, with a lunch menu for 58€, it is for sure, one of the best offers in the city.

Average price –  Lunch Menu: 58€; Tasting Menu: 110/199€  (without wines) 
Rue Coq Héron, 5 – Paris
+33 1 42 33 14 74 

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

The wine presented in this edition of our #wineontour was kindly provided by Symington Family Estates

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