THE BLOG

Pardon My French: Our Heroine Joins a Secret Society

10/11/2011 11:12 am ET | Updated Dec 05, 2011

In my quest to discover the places in Nice that the guidebook writers don't know about, I have been spending a lot of time away from the beach in the Borriglione neighborhood.

Its basically a cute, mostly residential area with some of the best little fresh pasta shops and bakeries I've ever come across.

But it's not the famous Nice gnocchi or pain au chocolate that keeps me coming back. After reading a blog post By fellow Nice resident and food writer Rosa Jackson about a mysterious secret sushi lunch club located there I began snooping around, and I came across Bodhi-Zen.

Past the sprawling fruit and vegetable market, amongst a few modest cafés and bars, down a little side street, there is a small, unassuming storefront with a beaded curtain hanging across its open door.

It doesn't look like much, but once inside the foyer I felt an immediate sense of calm wash over me, and I realized I had found a very special place.

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The secret sushi society, is an association for Japanese expats and sushi lovers, run by Etsuko Fukazawa, a tiny force of nature who takes traditional Japanese cooking and the tenets of a macrobiotic diet and pairs them with the flavors of Provence and her love of wine.

She moved to France from Japan over a decade ago to become a sommelier, but once she arrived her path widened.

She teaches cooking classes and consults for Provence's top Japanese restaurants and (luckily for me) offers thrice weekly lunches for members of the association at one communal table next to the kitchen in the small center.

They also offer martial arts and meditation, but I am purely interested in what I have discovered to be the most scrumptious, inventive, fresh Japanese cuisine I have ever tasted (and I've been to Japan). I never thought I'd like sushi with Camembert cheese, but with Etsuko's touch it (and everything else she makes) is simply delicious.

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I had been hoping to see what Nice is about beyond the sun soaked seascapes. I'd had been looking for something to be a part of, and can't think of a better place to start (my ever-expanding waistline is also grateful for a break from the influx of cheese and bread that I have been inhaling at an impressive clip since I touched down in France three months ago).

Nice is chock-full of restaurants, I can see about 50 from my balcony, but it's not all that easy to navigate which ones are genuinely good and it can be equally difficult to figure out when they might actually be open. And on top of that, the general rule of thumb for restaurants here seems to be that if it's worth eating at, it's out of my price range

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So Etsuko's delicious cooking, and welcoming bisous have quickly become a regular fixture in my weekly routine.