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Posted: Fri Apr 27 2012
Squirrelled away in a tiny street in the Latin quarter, Lengué is a real slice of Tokyo. There are huge bottles of sake lined up on the bar, dishes of the day pinned on the walls – in Japanese – and the service is polite, cordial and discreet. In the early evenings you'll find a few knowledgeable Japanese enjoying a glass of sake or sh?ch? and some tasting dishes. From 9pm, they make way for a younger, cosmopolitan crowd, who handle the unfamiliar menu etiquette with rather less sang-froid.
But they needn’t worry, really. Lengué is an izakaya, which are millions-strong in Japan, and positively defined by lack of etiquette. They are neither bars nor restaurants, but your visit will always kick off with a drink – sake, beer, sh?ch? (a potato-based alcohol very popular in Japan), Japanese whisky or French wines. Then you order a selection of little dishes as often as you feel like it, and share them around the table so that everyone gets a taste. There are things like a spoonful of aubergine soup with dashi (Japanese cooking stock), green beans with sesame, fried pumpkin croquettes, or kinpira-gobô, a typical home dish of burdock and julienne carrots, sautéed and cooked with sweet and sour seasoning. So don’t come here if you want a classic starter-main-dessert combination – the izakaya way is to share everything, and graze your way gently through the evening.
Langué doesn’t entirely escape the Parisian influence though, so the cooking is a little more controlled than you might find at a local izakaya in Japan. There’s the tuna salad dotted with little cucumber flowers, or the gyoza, not simply grilled but fried and dressed with a sweet ankakéau sauce. It’s difficult to give an idea of the prices, as it depends so much how much you order, but for example, mizuna salad with lotus root chips goes for €7 and edamame €4 (allow €25-30 if you want a proper meal). At lunchtime, you can get bento boxes for €18.
Lengué 31 rue de la Parcheminerie