Visitors to Japan may expect that, Tokyo being a big Asian city, it will inevitably have street food. It’s true that Tokyo does have some street vendor fare. A visitor can satisfy their sweet tooth with crepes, taiyaki or yakisoba. Or for those who crave a savory snack, there is often takoyaki or yakisoba on offer. However, street food in Tokyo is usually limited to a narrow range of treats except for festival days when vendors set up a wide variety of food stalls along major thoroughfares. Japanese and non-Japanese alike may yearn for the spicy, savory and sweet flavors, and easy availability of Thai street food which they may have enjoyed on their holidays. Lai Mai, a tiny restaurant just a few minutes’ walk from Omotesando, may be just the cuisine you are after.
Lai Mai’s atmosphere is unique, too. Most of Omotesando is full of stylish modern buildings, but Lai Mai is a rare sight, a vintage shop house crammed between two concrete buildings. The décor inside and out combines a little bit of Bangkok with its filigree carvings and elephant friezes, and a lot of post-war Tokyo with vintage hardware and dark wood.
For lunch, Lai Mai offers three items for lunch plus rice for a set price (￥1050 for eat in, ￥900 for take-out). On the day I visited, I had a plate of krapow chicken with Thai basil, red curry, a small helping of salad, and what the chef describes as Thai-style oden. Oden, a typical winter soup in Japan, is usually stewed fish cake, hard-boiled eggs and daikon radish in a light broth flavored with soy sauce. Lai Mai’s version is loaded with eggs and stewed chicken lightly spiced with cinnamon. The lunch portions are filling. Lai Mai’s spiciness level won’t fry your taste buds, and the food is full of complex flavors.
Lai Mai also serves dinner from 5 pm. The daily set menu starts at a reasonable ￥700. Diners can also choose from the a la carte menu of classic Thai rice, noodle and side dishes. Beverages include Thai beer and fruit juices.