Cave 27 sounds more like a wine shop but here is certainly the smallest izakaya of Paris, a venue which could also pretend to the category of tachinomi because it's mostly a standing bar serving sake, wine and tapas. Its location in Montmartre makes it a springboard for some of the best vistas of Paris by night, one of them just 20 meters away with a gorgeous view on the Sacré Coeur.
B. and I went there with a Japanese friend, and with a fourth person in the room the place seemed almost full, but we had a very good time, both with the food and the sake.
Cave 27 is located at 27 rue Lamarcq on a quiet stretch of street of Montmartre, and most tourists don't even know this spot 20 meters away with this striking view on the church on top (picture at bottom).
One of the reasons you might want to visit is Cave 27 is also because the maître des lieux, Takemoto-san, has more in his background than just setting up an izakaya in Paris. What do we start with ? Flamenco, equestrian art, mangas, arab language, hunting horn, fencing ? Motoichi Takemoto, who prefers to be called Athos Takemoto is an expert on all these fields, he travelled extensively, having for example spent 3 years in Algeria recently where he worked as an interpreter for a Japanese contruction company, after having spent now and then time in Australia, Switzerland, Tunisia and Syria, beyond Japan of course where he was born in Tokyo...
speaking of the manga culture which is now so ubiquitous in the West, I found out through research that Takemoto-san was the first to publish in the late 70s', from Switzerland and with the help of publisher Rolf Kesseling, a manga magazine named Le Cri qui Tue where you could find French translations of mangas by authors like Takao Saitō, Osamu Tezuka, Yoshihiro Tatsumi & Fujio Akatsuka, and Shōtarō Ishinomori. The first issue was published in 1978 but the venture was short-lived and stopped in 1981 after the dive of the French Franc. Takemoto-san was a precursor in the spread of this manga culture, more years were needed before the seeds could blossom, and manga fanatics in France owe much to his pioneering work.
The day we had the sukiyaki we each got a small jug of sake, a Kimoto Junmai Kiku-Masamune, a brewery in Kobe. Very nice. The brewery website has a page in English to explain what the Kimoto method is. It is interesting to learn about Kimoto because that's the ancient method, as opposed with the quick fermentation with commercial lactic acid and cultivated yeast.
The next time as I dropped there by myself to sip another sake, I got this 300 ml bottle of Hakutsuru draft sake, a tokusen Junmai Namachozoshu. Very pleasant sake too, and which isn't pasteurized. This bottle of draft sake costs 8 € here, very good deal for the quality and the volume.
Takemoto-san also has sake from Daishichi, a highly-qualitative sake from the Fukushima prefecture which uses exclusively the Kimoto method (a sakemaking method akin to working with indigenous yeasts). Daishichi was among the participating breweries recently at the sake event organized by Issé and Gerard Depardieu. The 300 ml bottle is more expensive (16 €) than the Hakutsuru but it is worth to try, Daishichi being among the top sake breweries in Japan in terms of quality. It is a Junmai Kimoto Sokaireishu.
I also got a Nigori sake here (from a brewery I didn't note the name). Nigori sake is this cloudy, white sake which looks like unfiltered, but by experience both in France and Japan, I don't really like this type of sake. Plus, I noticed several times that they tend to make me feel tired, I don't know if they got some higher SO2 because of the unfiltered side but I feel something from the first sip. Catherine, a friend of B. who was there that evening said the same thing, that's why I tell about my concern about Nigori sake in general.
It's been years that Takemoto-san has tried to have French equestrian-art specialists and teams come there in Fukushima to participate but this is a hard thing to put in place. Plus, the recent earthquake-plus-tsunami that struck the coast has given a hard blow to the people ans as a consequence to the festival, which is only slowly recovering from the catastrophe. In the july-2011 festival, instead of the 500 horses taking part, there were only 80 of them. Many farmers in the region suffered from the tsunami, and the farmers who mostly take part to this equestrian festival are really for a large part the descendants of the warriors/samourai of the ancient Japanese history.
Shortly after the Fukushima earthquake, Takemoto-san set up a non-profit group, ANFAA, for Amitié Nippono-Franco-Arabo-Andalouse in order to help this stricken region and where you find all his cultural enthustiasm to promote flamenco and Japanese equestrian arts. You'll also see on the home page the video where the mayor of Minami-Soma pleads for help (with English subtitles) in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe. Minami-Soma is only at 20-30 km from the N-plant.
The Japanese webpage for ANFAA has numerous links from international media including in arabic.
Speaking of arabic, Takemoto-san told me about his work in Algeria including anecdotes that help understand how this country is faring, like how the arabization campaign in the school system with the massive hiring of Egyptian teachers in the place of French-speaking ones contributed to the islamization of the country (Egypt being home of the Muslim Brotherhood) . He was a translator for several Japanese contruction companies who in charge of the contruction of a highway across Algeria from the Tunisian border to the Moroccan border. There were several hundreds of Japanese working there. It was a bit difficult for the engineers who landed here from Japan without any clue about this country, so, Takemoto-san helped in this regard. I looks like strange to have Japanese highway contruction companies come from so far when we have in France a good expertise in the field but I guess their pride over there in Algeria would have taken a blow if they had hired the demonized former ruler for the job.
In order to popularize the north-African culture among his fellow expatriates and among the general public, Takemoto-san would like to open a Japanese-Algerian izakaya because Japanese people don't know couscous and this would be the opportunity to build a bridge between these two cultures including in the culinary level.
You can enjoy a bit of the Flamenco touch of this izakaya on the videos on the right. We had dropped with a few friends that day in the evening, just for a bottle or a small jug of sake (that's what we intended initially at least), but the situation was such that we stayed more and had a few plates (of ippin-ryori or tapas, call it as you want) prepared with inspiration by Takemoto-san. His small dishes are not only delicious but very affordable, and at one point in the evening, Gonzalo (I learnt his name then) took a guitar and began to play, and to our astonishment, Takemoto-san joined himself this Flamenco impromptu... Believe me, we were happy to drop the conversation and listen.
You may not have live music every day there but if you visit regularly there's a good chance you'll witness something like this. Gonzalvo's son is also a great musician and I hope to see him there one of these days.
Watch and listen to this other beautiful interpretation of Flamenco song by Takemoto-san.