Lemon no Mi has quickly established itself as a 'Yanesen' favourite, and it's easy to see why. Everything about the tiny restaurant smacks of the Yanaka way of life, from the dilapidated exterior to the eat-what-you're-served home cooking concept, and its reputation is growing rapidly. On a recent visit, we sat at the counter alongside a woman who had travelled over from Suginami-ku just for her lunch break. On other days, we've seen the place packed (which doesn't take much, admittedly) with local shop owners who regularly close up shop for lunch in the hope of a good meal and an hour of gossip.
The Lemon no Mi concept is not particularly unusual, but it still raises a smile. Maiko, the proprietress, cooks a single lunchtime dish each day according to the ingredients she has and the mood that takes her. No matter what it is, it'll cost you ¥1,200 – a snip when you consider that the meal is split over a number of substantial courses and leaves you wanting for nothing more. The lunchtime 'menu' stops being served as soon as it sells out, so hopeful diners should try and get there before 1pm, to be on the safe side.
On our last visit, the dish of the day was a homely and thoroughly delicious chilli con carne, packed with fresh chilli beans and spiced mildly enough to ensure that the sweetness of the finely diced carrots shone through. A fine dish on its own, but turned into a great meal by the addition of a plate of marinaded vegetables (a kind of sauerkraut garnished with fennel seeds served alongside a small pile of chopped carrots flavoured with Okinawan spices), and a salad that still makes the mouth water just writing about it – rocket, okahijiki (salsola) and red mustard leaf, seasoned with honey and balsamic vinegar. All of this was accompanied by a haul from Maiko's oven – fresh brown bread, kept warm on a steamer that sits under the window – and neatly packed away with a simple but elegant slice of grapefruit and orange. Very heaven.
Before she opened Lemon no Mi, Maiko trained and worked as a florist, though she did so with a strong nostalgia for the childhood she spent watching her mother running a kissaten. 'There's not so much difference between flowers and vegetables,' she laughs, 'so I decided to start cooking instead.' Try one of her lunchtime specials, and you'll be glad she did.
|Venue name:||Lemon no Mi|
2-28-9 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku
|Opening hours:||12noon-6pm / closed Mon|
|Transport:||Sendagi Station (Chiyoda line)|