By Seth Sherwood
Photography by Peter Frank Edwards
From the medieval and Renaissance streets of the Vieux Lyon quarter (a UNESCO World Heritage site) to the angular sci-fi edifices in the fast-rising Confluence neighborhood, Japanese cooks and flavors have bloomed like cherry blossoms, infusing the restaurant scene with gastronomic marriages of Orient and Occident.
Their repertoires range from Gallic classics with delicate Eastern gestures to loyal Japanese imports with light Continental accents. The Land of the Rising Sun has ushered in a new dawn across Lyon’s gastronomic landscape, and we’ve rounded up six of the most delicious examples.
1. Saveurs de PY
Located in Lyon’s bohemian Croix-Rousse district, this spot is the offspring of husband and wife restaurateur team, Yuko Matsumoto and Pierre Mercier. In rooms brightened by cherry-red and wasabi-green walls, noonday hordes indulge in duck with miso-marinated eggplant, monkfish in crustacean broth, and other daily specials. Matsumoto oversees the service, while Mercier cooks up the restaurant’s lightly Nipponified takes on classic French food.
2. Au 14 Février
This minuscule restaurant in the timeworn streets of Vieux Lyon, is a stone’s throw from iconic Lyon Cathedral and its famous astronomical clock. Named for Valentine’s Day and outfitted with heart-themed decorations, the intimate space serves complex small dishes – “la cuisine française made in Japan,” as the restaurant’s chef Arai Tsuyoshi puts it – that have won the love of Lyon’s epicures.
3. L’Ourson Qui Boit
Situated on rue Royale, Tsuji Culinary Institute veteran Akira Nishigaki is collecting rave reviews for his pea soup with wasabi cream, nuggets of veal in a mustard-sesame sauce, and more. The food is largely French, though Far East flavors slip in – mainly in seafood dishes.
Across the Rhone, this restaurant, created three years ago by Tsuji alumnus Tomohiro Hatakeyama, is practically the polar opposite of L’Ourson Qui Boit. A monastic hush greets you inside. No music or spirited conversations animate the Spartan, stone-walled space. An almost religious purity governs the steadfastly Japanese menu, which offers marinated eggplant, grilled pork with ginger, noodle bowls, and more.
5. Do Mo
A former customs house in the neighborhood of La Confluence, the menu consists of two sides – the left side of its menu (or west side, if read like a map), is a list of nouveau French creations unfurl: grilled foie gras with anise-soaked chestnuts, duck confit with leeks, cod with foie gras emulsion and potatoes. On the “east” side are the same dishes, Japanified: smoked foie gras with a “cloud” of soy sauce, lacquered duck with tofu, and steamed cod with vegetable tempura.
The restaurant most dedicated to Franco-Japanese fusion, this spot lies in La Guillotière, a working-class immigrant neighborhood that few tourists glimpse. Chatting underneath undulating wooden forms that hang from the ceiling, diners scooped up lunches of grilled cod with a yuzu-hollandaise cream, roasted magret de canard with polenta-teriyaki sauce, and other dishes. Fueled by its popularity, the creators, head chef Gaby Didonna and sous-chef Junko Matsunaga, will soon annex the space next door.
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– Géraldine Hasting, Virtuoso travel advisor, Seattle
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, November 2014.
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I usually send clients to Lyon on their way to the south of France or from Paris, or as a pre- or post- river cruise detour.
It’s best to go during spring, early summer, or fall (note that there’s a greater chance of rain in fall).
Plan on two or three nights to enjoy the food and wine – and don’t miss les quenelles de Lyon!
Lyon has been the
“city of silk” since the sixteenth century: Visit the Atelier de Soierie to learn about the silkscreen process, also known as screen-printing or à la lyonnaise. Also try antiques shopping, weekend food markets, and winetasting in the nearby Beaujolais or upper Côtes du Rhône.
Your travel advisor can arrange dinner reservations and even a chauffeur to pick you up. Reservations should be made at least a month in advance for big-name restaurants – and up to three months ahead during big events or exhibitions.