No Name, Under Yuracucho Station, Tokyo.

February, 2015

Tokyo’s famous cuisine comes at various levels, and predictably there are well-known diners and dives (don’t know about drive-ins…). A little alley exists under this station which is both a surface train and metro stopping-point. Just underneath the old steel bridge that carries the trains, one turns right and immediately there are 15 or so little dives.

I was eating around 6 PM so relatively little crowding, but I went with my “crowd and sniff” criteria: 1) go for a place that is full of locals, especially if there are other comparables nearby not so full 2) stick your head in and sniff.

A girl was barking customers into this place, the first one on the right, and after I walked on down the rest of the alley I was sure it passed the “crowd” criterion, packed as it was with after-work eaters. The smell was definitely positive with a broiled meat predominance, so I let her show me to a small table at the back.

Nothing comes cheap in this town. You might imagine Hanoi prices in a place with steel girders at Japanese head-height and the frequent rumble of heavy rail traffic making conversation even more interesting. But prices for single dishes ran from about $8 to $15 or more. I went for a half-pint draft beer, and started with deep-fried beef tongue. It was a small portion, so than I had deep-fried beef.

The tongue was delicious, crispy and tender, with a wonderful simple beef tongue flavour, accompanied by minimal chopped vegetables and seasoned (by me) with the ubiquitous soy sauce. The deep-fried beef not quite on the same level, a bit tough and chewy but also packed with flavour.

The friendly kid serving was responsive, cheerful, and gave English a game try although most of our communication was in sign language. Around $21 out the door, which might seem like a reasonable deal by Vancouver standards but a place on this level in my home town would have prices a wee bit lower I think.

Food 7.4, service 8.0, ambience (authentic and fun but certainly no Michelinism) 8.0, value 6.3.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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