There are three dimensions to being cool in Paris: owning an iPhone, wearing Converse shoes, and eating sushi – at least twice a week. Failing to fulfill one of these conditions will make the Parisian lame, old and uncool.
Over the past two years, sushi has become cool Parisians’ (read under 40yo Parisians – for most Parisians under 40yo are absolutely convinced of the fact that they are cool) food of choice. If a Parisian eats out for lunch with his colleagues every day, it is simply impossible not to go sushi at least once a week. Impossible.
Sushi restaurants have flourished everywhere in Paris. They are usually owned and operated by Chinese people. It is amusing to notice that just like the other two dimensions of cool, sushi in Paris has mostly been made popular by Americans and is mostly made by Chinese people.
As the Parisian first starts eating sushi, he first feels like he is penetrating the secret and precious world of Japanese gastronomy – New York style. Thrill of differentiating culinary exploration. He then realizes that sushi seems to be low in fat and rather cheap. So he starts consuming it more regularly – gains confidence. When the Parisian gains confidence, gentle respect and cryptic devotion turn into absurd self-importance and outrageous rudeness. That is when the Parisian starts making fun of the Chinese accent of the waiter.
In most sushi restaurants in Paris, menus are quite comfortably repetitive and kindly made intelligible with pictures. Parisian men tend to opt for the sushi – brochettes menu. Parisian women, in a noble attempt to minimize caloric impact of their meal, usually favour sashimi. When the Parisian takes someone from province to a sushi restaurant, he will usually show him how to use sticks and will order for him. The Parisian is well-travelled and always considerate.
On top of the myriad of Chinese-owned sushi places, Paris has become very big on sushi delivery. Companies that operate on this market are more into marketing, and not operated by Chinese people. Every other Parisian under 40yo orders sushi on Sunday night.
Sooner or later, sushi eaters will claim to love Japanese food. ”La cuisine japonaise, tu vois, c’est hyper fin, moi j’aime beaucoup“. Loving Japanese food implies nothing but enjoying sushi. The apotheosis of this culinary escalation is the discovery of La Rue Sainte-Anne. La Rue Sainte-Anne is Paris’ little Tokyo: one Japanese restaurant after the other. On his first visit to a Japanese restaurant on rue Sainte-Anne, the Parisian will enjoy the pioneering excitement of finally entering the world of “real” Japanese food, with “real” Japanese people cooking and waiting tables. On Rue Sainte-Anne, he will start dismissing sushi (ignorant food) and venture like the true explorer he has always been into sobas, udons, okonomiyakis… He will then start taking friends Rue Sainte-Anne – or more precisely taking them to ”un ptit resto japonais que j’adore, tu vas voir” (conveniently enough – that one restaurant is usually the only one he’s been to). Taking friends there, the Parisian will systematically warn them with the hint of condescendence that is the real cement of a true Parisian friendship “Attention par contre: c’est du vrai japonais, y a pas de sushi, hein“.
Being beyond yet not over one of the attributes of cool is a very Parisian response to the dictatorship of cool: I’m still cool, but I’m also more than cool.
If you do the math, that makes the Parisian super cool.
Useful tip: Unless you love lines, don’t try la Rue Ste Anne on a Saturday night.
Sound like a Parisian: “Oh, hier soir, j’suis resté à la maison, tranquillou, commandé des sushis, rien de spécial…”