Mokonuts

I often wonder where people will go when they tell me they want to dine somewhere “out-of-the-way” in Paris. Do they want to go to the outer reaches of the 20th or 15th arrondissements for lunch? And if they want to go somewhere where “only locals” eat, will they be happy with a standard plat du jour? Or do they want more creative cooking, with an accent on fresh ingredients?

In a tight, closely watched city like Paris, there are few places that are undiscovered. When I first stopped into Mokonuts one day for a cookie, shortly after they opened, there weren’t many people there. When I went back recently, it was packed. And with good reason.

To be honest, I was miffed that it took me so long to go back, but I’ve been so busy that it was hard to get away in the middle of the day for lunch, which is the only time Mokonuts is open. (They are planning to open for dinner service in the near future.) But since they have two kids, and do all the cooking themselves, Moko Hirayama and Omar Koreitem need to be home by the time the kids are out of school.

It’s easy to see why no one else could take over the reins here. Mokonuts is a highly personal spot. Originally categorized as a “café and bakery,” they’ve taken the small place to a whole new level and have embraced the savory side.

Omar handles the less-sweet side of things. Born in Lebanon, but raised in Paris, he met his wife, Moko (who was born in Japan, but lived in San Francisco and New York) when she was transferred to London. Got that?

Moko worked in finance but was intrigued by pastry-making and went to work at Ladurée in London, baking early in the morning before going off to her regular job. They eventually made their way to Paris, to work at the doomed La Jeune Rue, a project that promised to turn the Upper Marais into a culinary destination, but slid toward failure, and never got off the ground.

So they decided to go off on their own, starting by making sandwiches. But Omar (who worked at Daniel, in New York) wanted to flex his culinary chops and explore new flavors.

Starting with super-fresh ingredients, carefully sourced, his cooking has a decidedly Middle Eastern bent, riffing on the flavors of his native country, which include sumac, za’atar, labneh, bergamot, and tahini, seasoning well-sourced ingredients from the Île-de-France (the region where Paris is located), including beautiful produce from the potagers (edible gardens) of Marie Brouard and Thierry and Elise Riant.

Middle Eastern cuisine is having a renaissance in Paris with popular places like Miznon, Liza, and Tavline filling their seats and tables. Omar gets some of his ingredients from Lebanon, though, to find the quality he’s looking for, and it shows in his plates. Well, if you can’t see it, you can certainly taste it.

The menu changes daily so there might be a soft cooked egg with chickpeas and smoked eel with braised red endive and tangy sumac sprinkled over it, to enjoy with a un p’tit verre de vin.

Or there may be clams with lieu jaune (pollack), artichokes, crushed potatoes, and mâche (lamb’s lettuce).

Being France, of course, there’s (natural) wine for lunch, but those of us that have to get back to work can opt for lemonade scented with rosewater. But do save room for dessert, because Moko’s cookies – and other sweets – deserve their reputation as right up there with the best in Paris.

Desserts are all made in-house. But rather than baking off a bunch of cookies in the morning and letting them sit all day, Moko bakes them practically to order, so they’re soft and warm when you get them. She told me she relies on my technique for tapping the cookies down while they’re warm, to keep them soft and chewy.

But she is the one responsible for the delicious range of flavors; tahini, multi-grain and chocolate, rye, cranberry and chocolate, miso-sesame, peanut butter and milk chocolate, and coconut with Cambodian black pepper, that she slides out of the oven all day, while chatting with customers and working around Omar, in their neatly organized kitchen.

In addition to platters of cookies, there’s may be a swirly chocolate babka or le cheesecake, a Parisian favorite, topped with crunchy pomegranate seeds.

Mokonuts
5, rue Saint-Bernard (11th)
Métro: Faidherbe-Chaligny
Tél: 09 80 81 82 85
Open Monday through Friday, 8:45am to 6pm.
(Reservations recommended at lunchtime.)


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30 comments

  • Annalee
    April 28, 2017 11:41pm

    Amazing photos! You never fail to inspire me.

  • suse
    April 28, 2017 11:47pm

    Whoa, I’m lusting after one of her cookies. They look delicious!

  • Judy
    April 29, 2017 12:00am

    Those cookies look so good

  • DonnaM
    April 29, 2017 12:23am

    Oh wait…another excuse to go back to Paris!

  • Kristin
    April 29, 2017 1:27am

    Their food looks fabulous! Wish I could go.

  • Shana
    April 29, 2017 1:48am

    Wow, looks absolutely delicious!You must ask ‘pretty please’ for a recipe you could share with us!

  • Lila Schwartz
    April 29, 2017 2:11am

    I sure would like to know more about those gorgeous cookies!

  • Gwen Ethelbah
    April 29, 2017 5:20am

    Please, some cookie recipes? Not all of us can get to Mokonuts!

  • April 29, 2017 5:37am

    Thanks for the heads up. I thought this was just chocolate chip cookies. Love the Middle Eastern flavors they’re favoring.

  • April 29, 2017 8:15am

    The dishes look delicious and Moko seems impish and charming. I respect their choosing to do lunch only in order to be with their kids.

  • April 29, 2017 12:56pm

    I’m reading this after my very late and very sumtuous ‘not very petit’ déjeuner and I’m literally drooling over your photos and text. This is heaven…. Thank you so much for sharing, all the more as I’ll never be able to go there myself.
    I love the Lebanese kitchen and I love even more what I see here…. What a great couple this is.

  • Elaine
    April 29, 2017 1:08pm

    Love the article — where do I find information about tamping down the cookies? I have all your books, so you could direct me to which one. Merci!

    • April 29, 2017 6:02pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s here, in my recipe for Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. (I also use it in an all-new chocolate chip cookie recipe in my upcoming book, because it works so well!)

      • BeinPortland
        May 4, 2017 9:00am

        I’ve just preordered your new book, but Nov. seems so far away. Ah, well, that’s just about the time the weather turns bad, so I’ll appreciate it all the more when it arrives.

      • sarahb1313
        May 5, 2017 2:37am

        It’s also in your Oatmeal cookie recipe which is the best I have ever had… if there is any dough left to bake!!

  • April 29, 2017 1:25pm

    Yum! Forwarding this to my daughter who is going to Paris next month and will be staying nearby.

  • April 29, 2017 2:46pm

    any chance for a recipe cookie share from this place for those of us that live…well not anywhere near Paris! xo

    • April 29, 2017 6:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know if they want to share their recipes, of if they are in quantities for home cooks, but you can send them a message via their Facebook page and see : )

    • April 30, 2017 3:03am

      I agree!!! Please???

  • Sabrina
    April 29, 2017 5:58pm

    Maybe I just read too fast, but what is the dish in the 9th photo? Looks fascinating (and good).

    • April 29, 2017 6:05pm
      David Lebovitz

      That’s fish (lieu jaune) with apples and artichokes.

      • Sabrina
        April 29, 2017 6:21pm

        Thanks–I would love to try that one!

  • Dena
    April 30, 2017 1:40am

    Adding my voice to the chorus requesting the cookie recipe … You just can’t put a pic like that in your story and then leave us hanging like that Daveed… If they won’t give you the recipe any chance you could give us a “reasonable facsimile” ?

  • mahala burton
    April 30, 2017 2:52am

    Fabulous photos and food to die for!
    I immediately spied the Joyce Chen Scissors..almost favorite kitchen tool .

  • sally larhette,Nadeleine Kamman chef
    April 30, 2017 5:23pm

    like you, I would know every nook and cranny, where to go! not so much anymore..

    Moko nuts…wow!

    were you ever in Wellesley Ma?

  • sally laRhette
    April 30, 2017 5:25pm

    Very nice! Love Mokonuts.
    Were you ever in Wellesley, Ma with a fabulous take out?

  • Jaye
    May 1, 2017 5:19pm

    I concur! We need the cookie recipe

  • May 2, 2017 2:30pm

    Ooh, this place looks so fun yet intimate. Will definitely have to check it out on my next trip over the pond.

    I feel like Middle Eastern cooking/flavors are having a renaissance everywhere right now, like with Dizengoff/Zahav on the east coast here in the US, and Kismet in LA. I’m digging it!

  • adrian
    May 5, 2017 2:20pm

    Thank you!
    One question: How does tapping the cookies keep them soft and chewy? And when do you tap them? I remember reading this in one of your cookie recipes somewhere…

  • Cate
    May 9, 2017 6:29pm

    WHAT?! They are NOT ALLOWED to be into cheesecake now. Do you have ANY idea how far I had to take the métro/RER to hypermarchés, how many dinner-roll-butter-packet-sized tabs of Kiri I had to open and scoop into a bowl one by one (50), to make a cheesecake with the equivalent of 3 8-oz bricks of Philly in the summer of 2004? How much I roamed the Marais looking for decent cheesecake in the summer of 2003 and found NOTHING like back home, and how long it took me to even get that recommendation that the Marais might have Eastern Europeans serving cheesecake? Paris is NOT ALLOWED to suddenly be all into cheesecake … *harumph* :-P *sigh*