Sunday, February 28, 2010

Raw Tuna, Raw Tunes

It took them long enough, but the French have finally caught on to sushi in a big way. Sushi places were few and far between the last time I was in Paris, but over the last few years sushi lunch bars and Japanese grills have popped up all over the place, and even our local Franprix supermarket now carries simple maki rolls alongside the more standard refrigerated French appetizers of shredded carrot or balsamic couscous salads. This fishy dish has also become one of France's most popular delivery foods. While an American family might get a pepperoni pizza, bread sticks and a 2-litre Coke brought to their door, Parisians can expect a scooter-driving delivery boy bearing a sashimi platter and a bottle of white wine. I've yet to sample this approach, but on Friday I joined a big group of friends at a place in Belleville called Sukiyaki that was definitely anything but ("yucky", that is). In spite of not having my two favorites, spicy tuna and eel (the Chesapeake Bay is actually a huge source of the world's eel supply, so it might just not be as readily available here) the restaurant served up a pretty heaping, delicious plate of fish to satisfy my sushi craving.

We followed up our dinner with some Amorino gelatto (!) and a jam session cocktail at the Duc des Lombards jazz club near Châtelet. I sipped what was definitely the best mojito I've had in France and enjoyed the music and chill atmosphere. The night's line-up began with a few middle-aged jam regulars, including a pianist, a bassist and a pretty rocking drummer who apparently runs the sessions, then rotated through various other performers and music students (trumpet, flute, sax...) every few songs or so.

I know that jazz bars exist in big American cities, and that jazz is still a major part of the culture in places like Chicago and New Orleans. By and large, however, jazz isn't at all appreciated in the States the way it is here--American jazz legends from the 20s are still featured prominently in French music stores, free jazz festivals crop up all over the place during the summer months, and the regular scheduled concerts at the club are a nightly occurrence, pricey and well-attended.

From our seats on the balcony we had a great view inside the workings grand piano, and I was mesmerized by the playful movement of the pianists' fingers across the keys and the corresponding shudders of the hammers against the strings. The improvisation and expression, which would vary from sultry to peppy to bluesy, made me nostalgic for the taste of jazz I had near the end of my piano-playing career. If I were a musician, I would definitely play jazz; not that there's anything wrong with the classics, but jazz is such a living, transient music in comparison--it's like the difference between studying Latin vs. studying Arabic. As I battled drunk youth for space on the night bus later on, I renewed my vows that as soon as I'm settled somewhere I'll invest in a nice keyboard and start playing around again--I think music is, like blogging, one of those forms of procrastination that I could feel good about doing. (And now, on to homework...)


  1. ahh those pictures are great

  2. Tom doesn't look like he finds his sushi very appetizing