Echigoya Sandayu is a tasty, inexpensive teishoku lunch spot that’s open all afternoon in Shibuya. You can’t argue with that!
The grilled rockfish set lunch at Echigoya Sandayu. - image © Florentyna Leow
I don’t have a consistent lunch schedule. Sometimes I eat around midday, which is on time by most standards; sometimes I'll look up from my work and realize it’s half-two. This is usually when most good lunch spots in Tokyo are done for the day, if not earlier. So I despair: where can I eat a decent lunch at 3pm that isn’t a questionable meal from a soulless chain restaurant? Somewhere central that’s open all day, reasonably priced, with food that probably won’t kill me in the long run? Here’s one place: Echigoya Sandayu, a restaurant serving mainly fish-based teishoku set lunches.
Look for the potted plant and red lanterns. - image © Florentyna Leow
This place is a short walk from the Hachiko exit of Shibuya Station. Cross the road to L’Occitane, and keep walking straight along that side of the road, past 109. Keep walking till you see a Family Mart on your left.
A lunch preview! Fake food is useful. - image © Florentyna Leow
Echigoya Sandayu is easy to miss. There’s no English signage, so you’ll want to look for the plastic food set meal display in front, the potted plants, the… facsimile of an old wooden building. The restaurant is down the staircase beside the convenience store.
Fish grilling over charcoal. - image © Florentyna Leow
You’ll remove your shoes when you enter and leave them by the door. At around 3pm on weekdays there are few people, and they still serve set lunches at this time of the day. (Score!) Come the evening it turns into a more raucous, lively izakaya, complete with smoking salarymen. But forget all of that for now: we’re here for a late, leisurely lunch.
A menu with a wooden frame. - image © Florentyna Leow
There’s an English menu with photographs. It’s mostly grilled fish on the menu - various kinds of mackerel, salmon, sable fish, Pacific saury. You’ll notice that the menu features mainly dried fish. They’re not completely dehydrated, but they’ll have been hung up in open-air or somewhere with plenty of air circulation for a short period of time to reduce the moisture content and intensify the flavour of the fish. Most of these set lunches come in below JPY900~JPY1000 before tax, which is a bargain in the centre of Tokyo. There’s a fairly extensive selection of alcohol - no English menu for this, as far as I’m aware, but they have most drinks you’ll want.
Grilled dried rockfish. - image © Florentyna Leow
I ordered the grilled akoudai (Japanese rockfish) set. As with most teishoku, it comes with the usual bowl of white rice, miso soup, and pickles (here, yuzu-scented salted Napa cabbage).
Blanched spinach with a little katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) on top. - image © Florentyna Leow
Japanese teishoku are not particularly concerned about including more greens most of the time, so I ordered an additional side dish of blanched spinach (horensou ohitashi) for JPY150.
A neat heap of grated daikon. - image © Florentyna Leow
It might be a little strange to call attention to a rather ordinary garnish, but I really liked the heap of grated daikon here. Some places grate their daikon more coarsely, and it often tastes a little too harsh for my liking. But here it was sweet, fine and juicy, like a mild radish-flavoured sponge. You can ask for extra daikon at JPY50 per order.
Tableside essentials. - image © Florentyna Leow
There's two kinds of soy sauce tableside - the darker, sweeter one; and the lighter, saltier one. They recommend the light and salty one for the fish. Try pouring some on the grated radish and eating it with your rice and fish.
Bones, bones, and more bones. - image © Florentyna Leow
A word to the wise: you may not want to order the grilled rockfish if you don’t like food with high grapple factor - by which I mean you’re going to have to work a little for it. It does require a fair amount of maneuvering with your chopsticks to remove the bones and scrape away pieces of fish from the spine. If you prefer something easier to eat, order one of the mackerel or the salmon rib sets.
One of the tables at the restaurant. - image © Florentyna Leow
Incidentally, I would not expect hyper-bubbly service at Echigoya Sandayu. It can feel a little impersonal. The waitresses sound jaded and bored, certainly world-weary. They are young and beautiful, some with immaculately painted bright red lips - befitting Shibuya, I suppose. And there’s traditional Japanese folk music (min’yo) playing in the background, the kind of songs fishermen used to chant and sing when they went out to sea on their boats. Do I sense a fish theme here? In the right frame of mind the restaurant feels cinematic. I spent some time reading alone at my table. Several other diners around me were also seated alone, swiping through their phones.
In short, this is the kind of place I like for a mid-afternoon lunch. It’s quiet and feels like a hidden place, but it’s just a few minutes away from the peopled madness of Shibuya. Go forth and eat some grilled fish.
Name in Japanese:
B1 Unimichi Dogenzaka Building 2-6-15, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0043
2 Chome-19-2 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
Yes (for dinner)
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