I’ve heard izakayas described as Japanese pubs, which is an apt comparison if the pubs you frequent offer cool damp towels to cleanse your hands and serve chilled sake and small plates of gyoza, instead of pints and chicken and chips in a basket.
Recently, I was delighted to discover an izakaya in Paris, a bento box of a place in the 5th called Lengué. On a recent visit, we enjoyed a series of small plates washed down by beer, sake, and refreshing yuzu-soda and shochu cocktails. (Shochu is a type of Japanese distilled liquor, similar to vodka.)
The food, like these fried vegetarian dumplings, is simple, even homey, if your home is a tiny Tokyo studio apartment. And yet it also achieves the unique quality of being exactly what you want to eat at exactly the right moment.
Take, for example, these chicken meatballs. Tender and savory, glazed in a sticky, salty-sweet yakitori sauce, they were a satisfying counterpoint to a chilled Asahi beer, or tiny earthenware cup of perfumed sake.
Or, this dish of sauteed girolles in an earthy mixture of butter and soy sauce, which demonstrated the Japanese enthusiasm for seasonal ingredients, and paired beautifully with my sharply tart yuzu cocktail.
The dining room is furnished with a small counter, several high tables, and stools, which create a casual atmosphere. Lengué is a convivial place to share a meal with friends, to sip a cocktail (or two) and order (and reorder) a series of small, bright, salty bites. The attentive staff encouraged us to order food in waves, like tapas; you could also try the 28€ tasting menu.
31 rue de la Parcheminerie, 5e
tel: 01 46 33 75 10
P.S. Read a blog post about Lengué (in French) from Table à découvert.