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Paris has an endlessly surprising way of springing culinary treasures upon lucky, and oft unsuspecting, Francophiles. My latest such felicitous discovery was of Maison Hisada, a superb little cheese shop with an upstairs cheese-centric café located at 47 rue de Richelieu, near the Palais Royal in the first arrondissement.
I had seen a blog post about this shop and noted the address with consternation. My longtime favorite winebar, Juveniles, is located at 47 rue de Richelieu. I was concerned that Juveniles had closed only to be replaced by a fromagerie.
During a recent sojourn in Paris I bee-lined over to rue de Richelieu to check out the state of affairs regarding who was occupying this address. Best of all worlds, my wine bar fave is still rolling along in great form, and, Maison Hisada, located in the same building, is an exemplary fromagerie with a terrific back story.
Most interesting find: the cheese macarons. But before we get to these savory delights, cheese lovers should know that Hisada offers a gorgeous array of French cheese, some with interesting Asian inflections like wasabi-tinged chevre. Madame Hisada is also known for her line of sake-aged cheeses. And there are some other Japanese twists on flavoring that might be of interest including Camembert with whisky, chevre au yuzu, and Sakura Mochiko. This French and European cheese selection is well curated and of high quality. I loved a perfectly ripened rich Citeaux, a Burgundian cheese from an ancient abbey, that is not always easy to find.
But, beyond the cheese selection, I was intrigued by a small box of four, you guessed it, cheese macarons, or in the nomenclature of Maison Hisada, ‘Forons’. One was filled with chevre, two with middling-mild cows milk cheese and the fourth, a killer version with roquefort. This was new culinary ground for me and I loved the flavors and the creamy-crunchy contrast of the classic macaron and its creamy interior cheese ‘ganache’. Brilliant.
As I talked with the very pleasant sales attendant I learned more about this little cheese-oasis. Madame Sanae Hisada, now a maître fromager and resident of France, has had a long and serious fascination with French cheese. She opened her first cheese shop in Tachkkawa in Tokoya when she was 34 years old. There was not, at that time, any cheese shop, nor access to French-style non-industrially produced cheese, so this intrepid woman began to travel to France to purchase quality cheese.
She left Japan and moved to France to study French cheese-making, with the goal of becoming a master of the craft. The sales attendant was graciously discreet when I asked her if this was a difficult path to follow for a woman who is not of French background.
When she was 49 years old in 1999, and still selling cheese in Japan, she remained fascinated by the profession and on the path to become an ‘Affineur’ of cheese. She decided to study in the shop of Philipe Olivier, a master of cheese in the north of France. First she earned the title ‘Garde et lure’, then, Prud’homme, then ultimately earned the master affineur status in 2009.
Whatever the travails, Madame Hisada did indeed persevere, and after several years of study, apprenticeship, she opened her first Parisian shop in the 16th éme in 2004. She has a fantastic palate. The attractively trim small shop on the rue de Richelieu has a comprehensive selection of chevre, sheep and cow milk cheese and a small selection of wines, many varieties of sake, and, of course, those cheese macarons.
In addition to purchasing cheese to take home, Maison Hisada offers a second floor café focused on cheese. At lunchtime, there is a buffet of cheese arranged by type and strength where one can craft one’s own glorious assiette de fromage for 18.50 E (and have seconds to boot). The menu also offers a pre-selected cheese plate, fondue and raclette for two, jambon iberique platters in small and large sizes. On the Asian side of the ledger, one can order the silken bean curd with sesame sauce. For dessert, no surprise, cheese based treats reign. You can order those ‘Forons’, or a fromage blanc with seasonal fruits. Torteau Fromager is made in the regional style of Poitou Charentes. There is also sorbet available.
One of the goals of the shop and café is to serve the legions of Japanese visitors to Paris who are interested in French food and cheese particularly, but who lack easy access to learn about and taste excellent cheese in all its glorious variety. And of course, curious gourmands with an interest in cheese know no particular national bounds. This is a great concept for everyone!
At Hisada one can sample a broad variety of cheeses and learn about pairings and complementary flavors in a friendly, encouraging environment. I was intrigued by the opportunity to learn about pairing sake with cheese, and plan to taste that wasabi-infused chevre paired with sake the next time I am in Paris.
Maison Hisada. 47 rue de Richelieu, Paris 1. Open Tuesdays-Saturdays 11:30 to 8:30. The café is open noon to 8:30. 01 42 60 78 48 Metro: Palais Royal
A second Maison Hisada shop is located at 17 rue de Marois in the 16th near the Porte St. Cloud metro stop. Hours: 8:30 to 1:00 and 3:30 to 7:00 on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. Closed Mondays and Wednesdays. Sundays and holidays: 8:30-1:30.
Sally Peabody is a travel advisor specializing in Paris, elsewhere in France and in Turkey. She leads intimately scaled culinary and cultural tours and works with independent travelers to get them to their best in these richly layered destinations. Her websites: Your Great Days in Paris and Turkish Journeys.