Kitchen Miki, a Western-food restaurant in Tokyo's Waseda district, is located near Waseda University and attracts many of its students.
When it was pointed out that the restaurant sits in a good location, Yasuyuki Yamauchi, the second-generation owner, said, "It may seem so but things are not that easy."
This is due to the university’s long vacations in summer and spring.
"We have to earn a year’s worth while classes are offered," says the 50-year-old proprietor.
Although the place seats 13 people, about 110 students visit in total on a weekday. So as not to make them wait, "omuraisu" (omelet with rice filling) and other dishes that require time to cook are served only after 2 p.m. Also, there are other dishes that used to be offered but have been taken off the menu.
One such dish is the "soup-style spaghetti," which Yamauchi often ate at the restaurant among the students in his childhood.
Chicken broth soup is used. At Kitchen Miki, a whole onion and the tough stem of cabbage leaves are simmered for about three hours to give the soup a refreshing flavor. The soup is still offered on the side to all dishes on the menu. It is so popular that some ask for a second serving, saying they will pay for it.
Although the current soup is made without them, ketchup and curry powder used to be added when the spaghetti and soup were brought together.
"You never got tired because of the variety in the flavors," says Yamauchi.
His mother, Kimie, now 81, opened the restaurant more than 50 years ago. At that time, she kept a "credit log" for struggling students, while parents of students who spent most of their money on "entertainment" expenses sometimes sent their meal charges directly to the restaurant.
The popular dishes such as the Miki Lunch plate with deep-fried cutlet and spaghetti were created after hearing the students’ requests.
"We have not been making dishes that we want to make but have been offering dishes which the students wish to eat and can fill up with. You can say that the students have fostered this restaurant," says Kimie.
200 grams spaghetti
40 grams onion
2 tsp granulated chicken soup stock base
10 grams hard stem of cabbage leaf
2 slices ham
Bit of parsley
Seasoning A (4 Tbsp ketchup, 2 tsp thick-type Worcester sauce [chuno-sosu] and bit of curry powder)
Finely slice onion and hard stem of cabbage leaf. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in pot, add half of onion slices, stem of cabbage leaf, soup stock base and cook until vegetable becomes tender. Add salt and pepper and mix.
Cook spaghetti as instructed until cooked to the core and remove on sieve.
Cut ham into fine strips. Heat 1 tsp of oil in deep frying pan over low heat, add ham and remaining onion and sautee until onion turns transparent. Add spaghetti, bit of salt and pepper and cook briefly. Add soup, Seasoning A and mix. Cook over high heat for about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve on plate and sprinkle parsley on top. (The above ingredients and cooking procedures have been adjusted to suit cooking at home.)
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From The Asahi Shimbun's Watashi no Ryori column