Even in Tokyo, a city speckled with high-rise buildings, there are old buildings still remaining here and there. Here are 4 delicious eating establishments that exist in old buildings. Why not have a lovely time in a restaurant overflowing with traditional Japanese aesthetics?
Toranomon Osaka-ya Sunaba is a restaurant that opened in 1872 housed in a traditional Japanese building that suddenly appears in the fancy business area of Toranomon. The current building was built in 1923 and is registered as a national tangible property. It was named Sunaba ("sand pit") after the Sunaba style of soba. It's one of the three styles of soba, with the others being Yabu and Sarashina. It's said that the name "Sunaba" comes from the sand pit that workers laid the materials in when they were building Osaka Castle. There someone opened up a noodle restaurant as well.
This restaurant uses Hokkaido soba flour for its sweetness and strong fragrance. The Edo-style soba noodles are of a perfect thinness so they have a great mouthfeel. When you eat soba, please dip the soba just a little bit in the slightly sweet tsuyu sauce that comes with it and slurp it with all of your might without embarrassment. If you do that you will be able to fully enjoy the soba's fragrance and taste.
1. Toranomon Osaka-ya Sunaba
Hantei is a kushiage specialty restaurant in Bunkyo-ku's Nezu area. Kushiage is fried food on sticks. The 3 story building made with Japanese zelkova wood was built in 1917 and is registered as a national important tangible cultural property. It withstood both the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the air raids of WWII, so it's worth taking a look at. Of course, the kushiage offered by the shop is very delicious. They're made fresh to order, so 1 set consists of 6 kinds of kushiage. When you finish with 1 set, you can order a 2nd. There are more than 30 kinds of ingredients available but the sets are chosen by the chef so if there is something you don't please make sure to inform them beforehand. Also, if you want side dishes like rice, miso soup, ochazuke, or others, make sure to order "shokuji" ("a meal") separate from the kushiage. The Nezu area is full of the working class atmosphere of old Japan, so after you gain stamina from the kushiage, why not take a walk to enjoy the area?
Takemura is a wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) store that serves tea that opened in the Sudacho area in Kanda in 1930. Wagashi are made with ingredients such as azuki red beans, an (a sweet bean paste), kanten (agar jelly), and more. The 3 story wooden building with a gabled, hipped roof has remained the same since it was built so it's registered as a Tokyo selected historical building. Their most famous product is their age manjuu (470 JPY (incl. tax) for 2 pieces). It's hand-made wheat manjuu (mochi rice cake filled with an) fried until crisp. The fragrance of the sesame oil and the crunchy texture makes for an amazing combination with the perfectly sweet an filling. It's no wonder that it was one of the favorites of novelist and gourmet Shoutarou Ikenami. The taste of the freshly-fried manjuu is exceptional but if it's cold the texture changes and the flavor of the an stands out more. Please take some as souvenirs and compare the difference.
Kanda Matsuya is a well-established soba restaurant built in 1884 in the Kanda Awajicho area. The current building was built in 1925 after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, and it's also registered as a Tokyo selected historical building. Thanks to the bamboo carvings on the transoms over both left and right entrances and the big paper lantern on the 2nd floor, it makes it seem like time has stopped just for this building. The taste of Matsuya's soba has also stayed static through time, so it has plenty of supporters that are made up of not just businessmen that work in the area but soba-lovers from all around the country. The soba has a great texture, with a wonderful aroma and sweetness. This is perfectly balanced with the richness and spiciness of the tsuyu sauce and the aroma of the seaweed. The noodles are sized so they're easy to pick up with chopsticks, so you can eat with a natural rhythm. It often gets crowded with salarymen during lunch, so if you avoid that you'll be able to enjoy your meal in this relatively relaxed building and atmosphere.
4. Kanda Matsuya
There are still many old buildings that have kept their history intact even in the heart of Tokyo's modernity. Here are some wonderful places where you can enjoy traditional flavors. Please try to check them out.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.