We had so much incredible food in Japan; how could we pick just one favorite? While we loved the comforting ramen and drooled over the extravagant ryokan breakfast, the Komakata Dozeu restaurant rose to the top, and it still makes my stomach grumble at the thought of it.
Want to learn more about our favorite Japanese restaurant in Tokyo? Read on!
On the day we planned to visit the famed Sensou-ji Temple in the Tokyo neighborhood of Asakusa, we found a remarkable shop packed to the gills with kitchenware. Seriously, there was hardly enough room to even walk between the crowded shelves loaded with assorted bowls and rice cookers, utensils and glasses.
My chef brother had begged us to bring back an authentic damascus knife to add to his collection, so we found the knives section and spoke with the proprietor to find a suitable blade. All I can say is, thank goodness my brother back in the States was still awake and responsive on text so we could find the best tool for his kitchen; I know nothing about knives!
The mission took much longer than we’d anticipated (but through us, my brother found the perfect damascus knife), so instead of continuing on straight to Sensou-ji, we opted to stop first for lunch.
When Aaron first led us to this unassuming building a few blocks away from the temple, I literally stopped him and asked if this was really the right place. It just didn’t look like a restaurant to my American eyes!
It didn’t help that we were well outside of the lunch hour – almost 2pm! – so there were no other patrons waiting outside.
I’m pretty sure we stood there for a solid ten minutes debating whether or not we should open the door.
But I’m so glad we did!
On the other side of the noren panels awaited a remarkable traditional restaurant. Fun fact: the Komakata Dozeu has been in business for over two HUNDRED years! Our country is barely that old.. let alone restaurants within.
The young waitresses must have been so bored, because they were incredibly eager to welcome us inside. They instructed us to remove our shoes, and they led us to the far wall of the restaurant, making sure we got the full view of the glass wall looking out on an enclosed zen garden.
There were only a few other diners seated on cushions at little tables sprinkled across the tatami mats.
The food, of course, was delectable.
We were presented with an English menu, which thankfully had images of each option. Being the adventurous types we are, we elected to try everything!
We shamelessly ordered the largest set meal and a small bottle of sake, and our tummies grumbled as the decadent smells wafted from nearby tables.
When the many little bowls began arriving, I couldn’t really identify half of it, but it sure looked good, and I was in it for the experience!
Being a dozeu restaurant, this was of course their specialty. Dozeu are small freshwater fish, a Japanese pond loach (which sounds really gross… but they’re delicious!). We got it in a few different forms.
- Dozeu nabe – This was the scariest-looking course, because it was literal whole fish laid out on an iron plate atop a mini hibachi grill – they cooked right in front of us! Softened with a soy sauce and cooked with negi (Japanese green onions), this one definitely took us a bit out of our comfort zone. But soo worth it!
- Dozeujiro – This soup also featured the little loach in a smooth unsalted miso broth.
- Yanagawa – This looked much more like a small omelette in an earthen crock. This contained dozeu, egg, and burdock root.
- Dengaku – This was an appetizer that looked like popsicles. One was tofu, which I understood well enough, and the other was konnyaku or “yam cake” (made with an unrelated tuber). Both were drizzled with a miso sauce.
- And because all of that wasn’t enough, the spread also came with the Japanese staples of pickled vegetables and rice.
The meal also came with an adorable wooden spice dispenser to add additional flavoring. We did, of course, but we tried to keep it to a minimum, as we’ve found that Japanese food is best when appreciating each ingredient’s unique flavor – and not drowning it all in sauce or spice.
We weren’t disappointed with the Komakata Dozeu; every morsel left my mouth watering for more, and I can’t wait to return.
The meal was far more than we ordinarily would have paid for a lunch, but it was worth every yen. In the wake, we nearly forgot our original mission of seeing Sensou-ji. But after all that food – even split between the two of us! – we were in desperate need of a digestive walk!
The atmosphere was lovely, the staff charming, and the food divine.
We still dream of the food in Japan, and this is the first restaurant that comes to mind when we consider what we enjoyed most. I was thankful Aaron did some research ahead of time on this one, as we never would have otherwise known the establishment to even be a restaurant, let alone something worth checking out.
It would have been a real shame to miss this one. It is an experience we will always treasure.
And yes, we eventually got to Sensou-ji!
What is the best meal you’ve had while traveling?
Psst… do you love reading about food? You might also enjoy these:
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