Teishoku means “set” in Japanese. Restaurants like the one below specialize in set meals: a main and a few sides, all at an economical price.
Sunshine city, Ikebukuro
This was not our first choice, but as the lunch lines were continuing to grow well after 2pm, we settled on the one in the area with the shortest queue. The restaurant is located in the basement. Its sign at street level was alluring enough, and it’s lack of seafood in any photo or within its logo was what drew my partner’s approval.
Down a brick wall and tiled staircase we walked. We joined a line ascended up, bodies waiting behind a sliding glass door. Here, like at several other places we have been, you gently tap a mechanism attached to where the door knob should be, and it opens itself for you.
The kitchen was visible to those of us in line and from the dining room tables. An open space with just a pane of clear glass shielding their work counters. As a diner, there is a certain comfort in being able to watch the chefs, in their clean white smocks prepare your food. The care they take to dress a plate and the quality they put in, because they themselves too are on display. An organized dance of bodies moving and bowls mixing. A loud orchestra of clattering porcelain and regular kitchen clamour. Though the music playing overhead helped to deflect this noise. Bluesy beats to set a calm environment. It helped, as the dining room was still. Panes of glass separated booths. It created seclusion and privacy. And majority of the patrons kept to their groups, speaking in whispers and bringing plastic to mouth, at what seemed to be as slow as possible. It was like the goal was to move as if they were coated in molasses and to open their mouths as little as possible. Such places also don’t leer at the use of cell phones and tables. We fit in well with this acceptance. My partner on his car forums and me collecting notes for this blog.
Above each table hung hooks and a hanger. Their purpose was to allow for the hanging of coats out of the way, although not one was used. Guests instead were content with leaving their jackets by their sides when in booths, or on the back of their seats when in chairs. And with fold out baskets provided at each table for parcels and other items to be stored neatly on the floor, there was really no need for any of these hangers. With all of the hung up around the room, it appeared the restaurant’s theme was inspired by a laundry mat.
The servers were in uniform, white button ups with red tie and matching red apron, and a black kangol style cap on each head. They were attentive, refilling cups and always a wave of a hand away.
The menu had photos, but without English characters, we couldn’t be sure of what each cuts of meat was. So we went with their newest special and hoped for the best. It was a little bit of everything, meat wise, and it came with sides. With all the small dishes and little parts, it almost felt like we needed instructions. In hindsight I wish we had looked around the room before we began eating.
We were most curious about the bowl filled with a yellow sauce. It looked like melted cheese, but was cold, and had the texture of a raw whipped egg. It tasted salty like miso, so wasn’t something you’d take on its own, so surely this was meant as a dip? In our minds, the only logical thing was to dip our meat into it, so we did. It made each bite fulsome, and did help to take off some of the hot spice. Though it wasn’t until after we settled our bill did we notice that other tables were pouring this sauce over their rice and adding the pickles, another one of the included sides, on top. Our Japanese friend laughed when we relayed to him what we had done and revealed that this was actually a sauce of yams. How did they get this texture I wondered?
Three distinctive looking, thinly cut slices of meat. It wasn’t until later did a friend confirm they were all pork, all from different parts of the pig. And as mentioned above, the pork had a spicy hot chilli pepper flavour. A flavour we bit whole heartedly into and were caught off guard with. The cuts were flavourful, but dry. It was a chewy texture that was hard to break into, requiring tedious jaw motion from our part.
A clear pork broth with lemon grass and the side of pickles.
As with most places focused on turning around tables, the bill is already at your table. It is delivered with your food, and kept rolled up and safe in a cylindrical acrylic. This eliminates the need to hail a server when you want it and to have to wait for them to bring back change or usher over a debit machine to pay. Instead it is here for you to take to the register when ready to settle and go.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Out of all that we had, this one was one that I liked the least. It wasn’t anything unusual, just simple food prepared in an average way. It had a nice set up, but was nothing I would crave for, or need to try again. And now thinkinging back, it sort of seemed like the setting and the chefs were over done for the type of cuisine served. Don’t deny your cravings.