Hot springs, beautiful scenery and the thermal area Owakudani draw both Japanese and tourists from overseas to the pretty mountain town of Hakone on the southern edge of Kanagawa. The fact that it is a quick, easy journey from Tokyo definitely helps. A good choice to have lunch at might be Pan-no-Mimi, a cute restaurant with a rather special item on the menu.
The restaurant is set back from the road. A profusion of potted plants flank the path, and on one side there is a charming outdoor dining area under a wooden pergola. A pink and blue and white wreath beside the door hints at the interior décor of the shop. The shop sign has 'Lunch and drinks' in English, but the restaurant's name only in hiragana: ぱんのみみ
The restaurant is not large. There are some counter seats as well as tables and chairs. The tables are covered with table-cloths and the chairs are dark wood. Dried flower arrangements are everywhere on the walls, and the overall effect is cute and cozy. A friendly waitress saw us seated with welcome glasses of iced water, and left us to look at the menu.
The star of Pan-no-Mimi's menu is definitely their seafood gratin. A generous amount of seafood including prawns and scallops in creamy sauce is served in a half-loaf bread 'box' topped with grilled cheese. It looked fantastic, and huge, and my partner ordered it happily, but I decided it was a lot bigger than my appetite, and went for toasted ham and cheese sandwiches.
Other items on Pan-no-Mimi's menu include a delicious looking omrice (curry flavored rice covered with omelet), cheesy grilled hamburger, and curry with hot spring cooked eggs topped with grilled cheese. There are also six different flavors of pasta: cod roe, forest mushrooms, Neopolitan, Japanese carbonara, seafood and special meat sauce, as well as toasted sandwiches with various fillings. For dessert they offer home-made chiffon cake served with fruit and cream or ice-cream, or shiratama zenzai, a traditional Japanese sweet of rice cakes served in a red bean sauce.
Available drinks are hot or iced tea or coffee, juice and beer.