Asakusa is one of the main sightseeing areas of Tokyo. The heart of the district, Sensoji Temple, is surrounded by souvenir shops and eateries, and there are several shopping centers in the area as well. Gourmet food is also abundant, with Japanese foods such as sushi, tempura, and soba, and western restaurants around every corner.
Compared to Ginza or Omotesando, where popular shops continuously open and close, Asakusa’s special point is in the large number of shops with long histories that have continued operating to this day. With its downtown, retro feel, you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself here! This time, we’ll be introducing two shops in Asakusa with long-standing reputations.
Owariya Honten: Serving up giant portions of tempura and soba, and a taste of Japan since long ago!
Open since 1860, Owariya is a popular soba shops with loyal customers from the past all the way to this day.
Sandwiching the Kaminarimon gate, there is one shop each on the east and west sides of the gate. The shop in the entertainment district of “Asakusa Six Wards” is the main shop in the west, while the branch shop on the east is next to the Sumida River. Both shops serve their signature dish, soba with gigantic 20 cm prawn tempura nestled on top, the “Tempura Soba” (1600 yen with tax).
Despite serving one of the highest quality prawns available, tiger prawns, a 1600 yen price tag is surprisingly reasonable when compared to other shops. Tanaka Hidenori, a relative of the fifth-generation owner of the shop, says, “Soba is the taste of the common people. I want to keep the price reasonable, so everyone can have their fill of good food.”
The “Tendon” (1700 yen with tax), also comes with a huge prawn tempura, which sits on a bowl of rice, and is topped with sweet and spicy sauce with a soy sauce base. If you come as a pair, you can order different menu items and share with your partner as well.
On some days, the shop can sell over 1000 prawn tempura, which are fried in pure sesame oil from the Taihaku brand. With just one crunch, you can smell the rich fragrance of the sesame oil, while the sweetness of the prawn envelopes your taste buds.
Despite its adaptability and fillingness, Tanaka says, “Though I choose only the largest prawns for the largest visual impact, everything down to the oil itself is chosen to make it more palatable. Even elderly customers find it easy to eat. A dish that’s so popular you can eat it every day without getting tired of it, you can taste the skill and history that has gone into the making of this delicacy.
The buckwheat flour used to make the soba comes from Akita prefecture, and is milled by a special millstone, while the noodles are made fresh in the shop every day. It slides down your throat easily, and as you slurp the noodles you get a hint of the fragrance of the soba in the back of your nose.
The dipping sauce is made from bonito flakes that come from Makurazaki city, in Kagoshima prefecture, and are boiled for over an hour and a half to get the rich flavor out, before being added with “kaeshi”, a seasoning for soba sauce.
The combination of the sesame oil from the tempura and the fragrance of the soba results in a rich and deep flavor. The crunch of the crispy tempura perfectly complements the taste of the soba noodles.
Another recommended dish is the “Kashiwa Nanban”, which costs 1100 yen (with tax). Chicken and leek are sautéed in oil and topped on soba, and the heat and oil of the toppings warms the noodles and flavors it.
Suitable especially for cold days, the plump chicken and leek absorbs the flavor of the soba sauce, and with each bite the flavor spreads delightfully throughout your mouth.
On the second floor, there are both regular table seats and Japanese-style floor seats.
Tanaka is poised to take over as the sixth-generation owner of the shop in future, though he says humbly, “I’m still in the middle of training, and learning many things from behind the counter.” To adapt the shop’s services to modern times, he says, “As there are many foreign customers now, we’ll be providing menus in English. First and foremost, I would like for them to taste our tempura and soba.”
Owariya Honten尾張屋 本店
- Address 1-7-1, Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to, 111-0032
4-minute walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro, Tobu Railway, Tsukuba Express), 6-minute walk from Asakusa Station (Toei Subway)
- Phone Number 03-3845-4500
Business hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Closed on Fridays
Kamiya Bar: Enjoy Western and Japanese food at Japan’s oldest bar, with 140 years of history
As you head towards Sumida River from Kaminarimon gate, you’ll find Kamiya Bar at the three-story building at the intersection. Opened since 1880 as the first bar in Japan, it became a gathering spot for the common masses, serving delectable gourmet food that can excite the taste buds of anyone.
The building was constructed in 1921 with three long arch windows, a unique architectural point which earned it a spot as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property of Japan in 2011, and is now a representative landmark of Asakusa.
The bar entrance displays samples of menu items in a glass case, and you can buy coupons for food from the vending machine on the first floor before heading to the bar space.
Each floor is split by the cuisine they serve, with the second floor, “Restaurant Kamiya”, being for families and groups, where they can partake in course meals of western cuisine and alcohol. The third floor is “Kappo Kamiya”, which serves traditional Japanese food, such as sashimi, tempura, torched wagyu beef, and other cooked dishes.
Regardless of which floor you’re on, all of them serve Kamiya’s original alcoholic drink, the “Denki Bran” (280 yen, with tax).
“Denki Bran”, which translates to “Electric Bran”, is one of the signatures of the shop, and its creator, Kamiya Tenbē, created the drink in 1882 using brandy as the cocktail base. With an alcohol content of 45%, it leaves an electrifying sensation in the mouth like an electric shock, hence the name.
In current times, the “old type” is 40% alcohol, while the regular one has a slightly lower alcohol content of 30%. Nonetheless, the light sweetness and refreshing aroma of herbs continues to draw fans today, and it makes for both an excellent aperitif and as an accompaniment for food.
For those who prefer to ease up on the alcohol, we recommend getting the “Denki Soda” (480 yen, with tax), which mixes the drink with soda.
To go with the alcohol, we recommend getting the “German Potatoes” (570 yen, with tax). Made using the “Kita-Akari” variety of potatoes from Hokkaido, the strong sweetness and fluffy texture of the potatoes is complemented with bacon, onions and Worcestershire sauce, to create a simple yet flavorful dish.
Regulars usually order the dish together with Denki Bran or beer, and even on the afternoon we visited the restaurant, we saw plenty of customers enjoying their German Potatoes with ice cold beer or Denki Soda.
For those looking for something a little more filling, we recommend the “Hirekatsu” (800 yen, with tax), a type of minced meat cutlet. The cutlet is cut into pieces that you can easily pick up with chopsticks, and the combination with special sauce drizzled over the cutlet is a real show stealer.
Every day, chefs in the restaurant carefully tenderize the meat, and the crunchy bread crumb coating is especially addictive. With each bite, the umami of the juices of the meat spread through your mouth, and the serving size is generous too.
Besides the above, we also recommend giving their crab croquette, fried prawns, and other fried items on their menu, which also comes in English as well!
- Address 1-1-1, Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to, 111-0032
1 to 2-minute walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro, Tobu Railway, Toei Subway), 10-minute walk from Asakusa Station (Tsukuba Express)
- Phone Number 03-3841-5400
Business hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (last order at 9:30 p.m.)
Closed on Tuesdays
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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