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Le Petit Kanda: Oden with a strong Gallic accent

by Robbie Swinnerton

In Japan, it’s not winter without oden. Some people find it hard to get excited about the idea — and the redolent reality — of kamaboko fish cake, hard-boiled eggs or chunks of daikon simmered interminably in murky baths of odoriferous dashi stock. But Le Petit Kanda makes this cold-season specialty easy to love, by reinventing it with a distinctly Gallic accent.

The “French oden” that forms the core of the current menu at this mellow little modern eatery is so light and fragrant you’d be best off thinking of it as Japanese pot-au-feu. The light, clear broth is a chicken bouillon boosted with mushrooms and konbu seaweed. The ingredients appear to vary according to the whim of the kitchen crew, but are likely to include chickpeas, duck or chicken, choucroute (sauerkraut) and even escargot snails, which are served with a dollop of grain mustard on the side. Très éclectique.

Le Petit Kanda opened last September on the ground floor of the beautifully refurbished red-brick former Manseibashi Station building. It is operated by the same folks behind World Breakfast All Day in Gaienmae, and shares the same whimsical-but-serious approach to cooking. Off-mainstream labors of love like this are only to be applauded.

Maach Ecute Kanda Manseibashi, 1-25-4 Kanda-Sudacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; 03-5295-0121; www.le-petit.jp; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (Sun. & hols 11 a.m.-9 p.m.); nearest stations Ogawamachi, Awajicho; smoking not permitted; price ¥1,000-2,000 per head (plus drinks); cards OK; Japanese menu; French spoken.

Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com.