Top 5: Tokyo’s Best Teishoku Restaurants

The proverbial bread and butter on restaurant menus across Japan is teishoku (written in the menus).

Translated as “fixed meal”, it’s a far cry from “do you want fries with that?” »Sets found in fast food outlets. The teishoku business card is a well-rounded variety, and you can expect your order to come with a main course (usually fish or meat), a bowl of miso soup, a bowl of rice, and an assortment of side dishes and seasonal pickles. Since many items can be prepared en masse in advance, wait times are kept to a minimum, which is essential for hungry diners.

An added benefit: Teishoku meals – also sometimes defined as higawari (日 替 わ り, dish of the day) on the menus – translate fairly well in bento format, which means it’s still possible to order safely and relatively inexpensively from your favorite places. The only downside is that teishoku tend to stay in the washoku genre. Although there are many restaurants offering excellent ranchi setto (lunch sets) which include Western fare such as pasta, these five restaurants were chosen for their excellent, healthy take on the classic Japanese format and relaxed vibe.

Rustic-chic: The exterior of Niwa-Coya looks like a small blue cabin. | CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Niwa-Coya

This little coffee combined and zakka (various lifestyle products) located a few minutes walk from Sengawa Station offers a spectacularly colorful and healthy higawari lunch. If you dine there, it’s beautifully presented on a raised wooden platter, with a bowl of brown rice, soup, fish or meat protein – like roast pork, chicken simmered in cinnamon cream or fried mackerel – and four or five small sides. They are all delicious, especially the recurring ones, rich kabocha and satsumaimo (pumpkin and sweet potato) mash. The cafe menu is complemented by a substantial selection of homemade cakes, cookies and drinks.

Recently, Niwa-Coya has started offering his teishoku as a bento (¥ 1,080 after tax, a slight reduction from the price of dinner). It is accompanied by brown rice and white rice and on all sides (except the soup) neatly spread in a divided container.

Wakabacho 1-28-28, Chofu, Tokyo 182-0003; 03-6322-1848; bit.ly/niwacoya-ig; take out available

Eat while you read: You might need to keep calm in Fuzkue, but its miso soup-centric lunch is well worth it.  |  CLAIRE WILLIAMSON
Eat while you read: You might need to keep calm in Fuzkue, but its miso soup-centric lunch is worth it. | CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Fuzkue

At first glance, the 50-page document describing the expected conduct in Fuzkue – the “store where you can read a book” – is intimidating. But like other notorious places in Tokyo where the rules reign supreme, like Bar Martha, the crux of the matter is simple: act like you’re in a library and “shhh”.

There is no need to be intimidated. Especially when the atmosphere in Fuzkue is so relaxing: lots of natural light, wood accents, soporific background music. The whole place is designed so that you linger with a book (or three) for hours. To this end, Fuzkue offers an extensive drink menu (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), otsumami small bites, candy, and food including a miso soup teishoku.

Miso soup is definitely the star – on a recent visit it came with mushrooms, minced beef, and daikon – but the meal is rounded off with a small bowl of rice (free refills if you ask) and elegantly arranged. okazu sides and pickles (¥ 1,000 before tax).

Considering the length of stay of people, reservations are recommended. A second location opened at Shimokitazawa Bonus Track in early 2020.

Hatsudai 1-38-10, Shibuya-ku 151-0061; fuzkue.com; take out not available

Take-out lunch: Sha-Shokudo offers five different take-out bento, including a meat or fish higawari (meal of the day).  |  CLAIRE WILLIAMSON
Take-out lunch: Sha-Shokudo offers five different take-out bentos, including meat or fish higawari (Meal of the day). | CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Sha-Shokudo

The coffee branch of the architecture and interior firm Suppose Design Office, Sha-Shokudo is a coat rack for the words “business / company” and “cafeteria”. Fittingly, it’s located in the basement of Suppose’s Tokyo branch, a stylish, open-plan space that’s half cafe and half functional office.

While you can, of course, dine on site, Sha-Shokudo offers five take-out bento options, including two higawari (one meat, one fish; 1,100 before tax). It takes the staff a few minutes to assemble the fresh bento, giving you plenty of time to browse the floor-to-ceiling shelves of art and architectural volumes or the variety of minimalist products and food items for sale.

A recent fish bento came with a piece of sweet and sour teriyaki buri (amberjack), fried tofu topped with relish, renkon (lotus root) and mushroom salad, and a perfect boiled egg. It lives up to Sha-Shokudo’s goal of making a “balanced, lots of veggie” bento.

Oyamacho 18-23, Shibuya-ku 151-0065; 03-5738-8480; bit.ly/shashokudo-ig; take out available

Sugar Free: Lakan-ka's menus are all Kyoto-style obanzai dishes sweetened with monk fruit.  |  CLAIRE WILLIAMSON
Sugar Free: Lakan-ka’s menus are all Kyoto-style obanzai dishes sweetened with monk fruit. | CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Lakan-ka

Kyoto style obanzai is the hallmark of meals in Lakan-ka. Its three set lunches start at ¥ 1,200 before tax: there’s Obanzai, which includes a bowl of rice, soup, and sides; Triad, which replaces some sides with a more substantial main course; or a bowl of Donburi rice. All are light, fresh and delicious.

Lakan-ka refrains from using sugar in any of its dishes or desserts, instead swapping it for the naturally sweet, low-carb monk fruit. The whole operation looks like a more refined version of your standard teishoku.

Mix-and-match bento boxes are available to take away (you can also pre-order them), with obanzai dishes starting at $ 350. Options are subject to change but include homemade pickles, simmered fish, tatemaki omelets and more.

Since January 15, Lakan-ka has also started offering delivery.

Jingumae 3-7-8, Shibuya-ku 150-0001; 03-6447-1805; lakan-ka.jp; take out available

Spicy and Sweet: Maki Maki Cafe's “dry curry” is topped with a fried egg.  Get the cheesecake for dessert.  |  CLAIRE WILLIAMSON
Spicy and Sweet: Maki Maki Cafe’s “dry curry” is topped with a fried egg. Get the cheesecake for dessert. | CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Maki maki coffee

The modus operandi of this café is “to use wood from the countryside”. Everything from the exterior walls to the counter, to the floor and to the tables is made from a different wood. There is even a real cozy wood stove tucked away in the corner of the main room.

There are a variety of seasonal lunch sets on the menu, including a onigiri plate, which includes two onigiri, four sides and a miso soup (800 for dinner, 500 to take away) and a donabe (hot pot) teishoku, where the rice comes in an earthenware pot. Save room for dessert and finish your meal with a creamy slice of Basque cheesecake (400).

Maki Maki recently made a subset of their menu (including the aforementioned cheesecake!) Available for take out. Of particular note is the “dry curry” garnished with fried eggs (800). Call at least 30 minutes in advance to order.

Chitosedai 6-8-9, Setagaya-ku 157-0071; 03-5969-8544; makimakicafe.com; take out available

Honorable mentions

Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima, which featured in the Michelin business piece in the “Top: 5” series, deserves another shout. His famous iwashi Teishoku (sardine) breakfasts start at just 880 and include everything you could want in your meal: sardines (made into sashimi, fried, stewed, or nabe fondue), soup, rice, pickles and tea. It’s a classic for a reason.

Japanese-only criteria are also thrown out the window to give vegetarians an option as well. Lemon is a quick and casual upscale restaurant near Gaienmae that offers four delicious lunches from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Choose from a salad, quiche, gratin or sandwich (flavors change) and your meal will be completed with bread, soup and a side salad. Traditional teishoku? No. Delicious and, starting at just ¥ 1,080, great value? Absoutely.

In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is urging residents and visitors to exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, concert halls and other public spaces.

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About Mohammed B. Hale

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