Wander down Omotesando’s back streets for solid set meals at this hole-in-the-wall teishoku restaurant.
Gindara teishoku, or the grilled shoyu and sake lees-marinated black cod set meal. - image © Florentyna Leow
Teishoku 定食 means ‘set meal,’ and it refers to the standard Japanese meal of rice, soup, pickles, and a main dish. It’s a great structure for a meal. There’s your carbohydrates, something hot to drink, something salty to enliven the rice, and a (typically) protein main. This is the basic structure of the traditional Japanese breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and one of the closest things you’ll find to homestyle Japanese cooking when dining out.
Not all teishoku meals are created equal. I’ve had plenty of mediocre teishoku in Tokyo. But Ohitsuzen Tanbo in Omotesando ticks all the boxes for a teishoku place I’d go back to again and again: a down-to-earth setting, great ingredients, and generous portions.
Turn right after Blenz Coffee. - image © Florentyna Leow
Ohitsuzen Tanbo is not the easiest place to find for the uninitiated. You’ll want to take Exit B2 from Omotesando Station, and walk past the AO department store. Keep walking, and turn right after you see the sign for Blenz Coffee.
Down the stairwell and into the cavern. - image © Florentyna Leow
After about 50~60 meters, you should see Kitchen Tachikichi on your left. Take the next left into the small road. The restaurant is down a stairwell, below a sign for the questionably-named Cave de Ladoucette.
The interior of Ohitsuzen Tanbo Omotesando. - image © Florentyna Leow
This is the kind of place you’ll want to head to relatively early for lunch or dinner, before the lunch and post-work crowds really set in. Like many restaurants in Tokyo, it’s small, with seating at close quarters. If you’re dining alone, you might be seated at the communal table with other diners. It’s not a place you should linger for long. It’s popular with the locals, and it’s always nice to be considerate of other diners waiting at the door.
Hurray - an English menu! - image © Florentyna Leow
The main problem with this place is that everything looks delicious. I can never decide if I want their seared skipjack tuna (look at those gorgeous ruby red slices of fish) or broiled unagi (smoky and flaky and everything you want at that price point) or braised pork belly (imagine the melting fat in your mouth). If you’re having a hard time deciding what to order, a good way to decide is to scope out your fellow diners to see what they’re eating. That’s how I ended up with the grilled black cod set meal this time.
The rice comes in a separate container! - image © Florentyna Leow
You will not find overcooked fish here: it is perfectly oily and flaky, permeated through and through with the haunting flavour of soy sauce and sake lees. This is the kind of fish that makes me, a non-beer drinker, wish I enjoyed beer. For those who care, the rice is also excellent. I love that it comes in a separate container with a rice scoop, instead of in the bowl. It keeps the rice hot throughout the meal. Cold rice at dinner is not fun.
A side of mentaiko! - image © Florentyna Leow
Japanese set meals tend to be proportionally heavy on the rice, and light on the protein and vegetables. I personally like ordering one or two additional side dishes. Mentaiko and hot white rice, for instance, is always a winning combination.
Sauteed Nozawana - a kind of Japanese mustard leaf. - image © Florentyna Leow
Ohitsuzen Tanbo also does a variety of small side vegetable dishes, such as sautéed Nozawana leaves 野沢菜炒め. It’s fantastic with rice. Their sesame-dressed spinach ほうれん草ごま和え is consistently good, too.
Add your toppings and pour the soup in. Or the other way around. Enjoy your meal. Have fun with it. - image © Florentyna Leow
One of the fun things about this place is that your teishoku doesn’t just come with rice and miso soup. It also comes with an extra tea kettle of dashi stock for making ochazuke, or ‘tea rice.’ At some point in the meal, pour the stock over your rice, and sprinkle the provided toppings in the square plates over. Smooth, oily fish never tasted better than when it’s dunked in hot, soupy, salty rice.
I like Ohitsuzen Tanbo. It’s small and underground, great for escaping the Harajuku crowds, and they do solid set meals that taste like your alternate universe Japanese grandmother’s cooking. What more could you ask for from a teishoku restaurant?
Ohitsuzen Tanbo Omotesando-ten
Name in Japanese:
B1, 5-49-5 Jingūmae, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0001
Closed Sundays, public holidays
Tanbo.co.jp (Japanese only)
:: Read customer reviews of Ohitsuzen Tanbo Omotesando on TripAdvisor
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