At the heart of the 11th arrondissement, Mokonuts has become a gem both for Parisians and visitors. I trust we no longer introduce this tiny twenty-ish seats restaurant which is surely known to make the capital’s best cookies – which honestly are to die for ! Very far beyond the “Café & Bakery” as stated on the door sign, husband and wife Omar Koreitem and Moko Hirayama are offering a daily menu inspired by fresh, seasonal produces, as local and organic possible, influenced by their cultures and loaded with talent.
It’s around a very disappointing tiramisu they had at one of their first dates in New York that Moko and Omar revealed their common passion for good food. After a change in their career path, both worked a few years in the food industry before opening Mokonuts in 2015 with no precise concept in mind. Only they knew they would serve cookies – Moko’s specialty – and some qualitative food! Today, I’m not going to Mokonuts for lunch – though I couldn’t resist taking a few cookies away – but to talk suppliers, sustainability and responsibility which has been at the same time surprising and very enriching to hear about.
Omar explains that his experience at Le Sergent Recruteur alongside Antonin Bonnet – actual Quinsou – has been significant to him in terms of responsible sourcing and the urgency to reduce a restaurant environmental impact. Creating a sustainable dynamic at Mokonuts has been very natural and evident to the duo. The couple prefers to locally source their produces from French farmers and fishermen which helps reduce the intermediaries and allows them to participate in the local economy. They much appreciate being in direct contact with the supplier allowing to build long lasting relationships, “we can also regularly provide them with feedback and refine the produce selection to what’s the most appropriate for our restaurant”. Moko and Omar mention that reducing the intermediaries is a way to get very fresh ingredients of which the taste and nutritional value is intact, as they haven’t been stored in fridges for long or at all. “We’ve got to know a lot of our suppliers thanks to word of mouth”, says Omar pointing out that a few chefs in the district are working this way as Bertrand Grébaut – Septime – and Giovanni Passerini at the eponym restaurant. Hence, they happen to share some of their suppliers, Vincent is one of them. He’s coming with his truck to provide the Chefs with vegetables and depending whether you go first or last on his round, Vincent might be sold out for some products because a Chef next door took them all!
If this functioning appears very challenging to my eyes, Omar considers it as “a constant questioning” also boosting their creativity. “The real challenge is nature, because we can’t control it and our clients may have difficulties understanding this”, he says while Moko gently melts butter for her gorgeous desserts on the next day. Of course, the deliveries are very variable, there’s no precise science there, they take the products as they grow and prefer making things as they go. Fun story is that they sometimes receive client calls to book for the following week asking what will be the menu then, while they still may be very unsure of what will be served for lunch a few hours later! When the couple opens in the morning, they start the mise en place for the day and print the definitive menu – three starters, two mains and a few desserts – around 11am after they figured out the recipes. Although Mokonuts offers a meat and a fish main course, Omar finds seafood more exciting to work with. Every morning, he receives a text from Guillaume – Poiscaille – who supplies the restaurant with fish. I hold on for a second so he unlocks his phone, shows me one and explains. There are all the details: the name of the fisherman, the specie he’s hoping to catch on the day along the approximate quantity available and price. Well, you can easily imagine that the list is short and quantities reasonable as they all use sustainable fishing practices! Then he calls Guillaume to “hold the produce, but it happens that the fisherman did not catch this specie or that we receive 4.2kg when ideally need 5kg, then we adapt”. With this sourcing method, the fish has barely been out of water for 24 hours before being delivered, that’s about 3 to 5 times faster than for a great majority of restaurants!
If Omar and Moko are willing to diminish their environmental impact at Mokonuts, they aren’t always looking for labelled produces, Omar even mentions that there are too many of those and the criteria are sometimes vague. They believe that many responsible farmers can’t obtain the French organic label for financial reasons, and it doesn’t mean its less qualitative nor sustainable. “I feel like they sometimes use the labels to be able to sell the produce at a higher price”, Omar says. They reason the same way with fishing methods. “It’s more about the ethic than the way the fish was caught!” as a line caught fish can be left soaking in the water for hours before being picked up by the fishermen. They do prefer organic and responsible products if that goes along an ethical approach in accordance this their personal beliefs. Moko mentions that they much pay attention to food waste using the ingredients up as much as possible: “When I have over ripped fruits, I make sirups or jams”, she says. They regret not to be able to implement more waste management systems as the space is very limited in the kitchen.
“I’d say 50% of our clients are aware of these environmental issues but we don’t want to be moralising in any way”, they say. Moko and Omar are convinced that their clients know that they’ll find good and qualitative food, responsibly sourced. From times to times, they mention the region or suppliers on the menu: “Though I usually don’t do so for desserts, I had kiwis from Ardèche last time and had to write it because many still think that it’s exclusively an exotic fruit”, Moko told me. Hearing them, everything flows smoothly and feels so natural and authentic, that’s another reason why I love Mokonuts so much!
Want to go to Mokonuts? It’s highly suggested to book in advance for lunch.
5 rue Saint-Bernard, 75011