One of the most popular tourist spot in Japan is Asakusa, Tokyo. There are many interesting things to see, such as old architecture, new and modern buildings, shopping malls, and more than enough restaurants. One thing I feel about a major tourist spot is that many of the stores and restaurants become too much of a tourist target type, and it loses the true quality. So, even though I like to visit those tourist spots, I always try to find a restaurant that is away from the busy center, where not many tourists would visit.
Hungry for some lunch, we walked away from the main streets of Asakusa, looking for an old fashioned Japanese restaurant. Then, we spotted this restaurant called Osoba Tsuruya. No flashy signs for tourists, very down-to-earth, traditional looking. So we decided to give this place a try.
The inside was almost empty, and we were greeted immediately, with a bit of surprise on their face. I am guessing they don’t really get “tourists” visiting their restaurant often, but regulars who are locals. They were still very happy to have us! It seemed like it was family owned/operated restaurants, which I always adore.
Like many old fashioned Japanese restaurants, they had some tables and chairs, and also tatami floor seating as well. We sat at one of the tables by the wall. One thing I always liked about old, traditional restaurant is their hand written menu on the wall. Of course they have a regular menu that they will bring to your table, but the look of the calligraphy menu on the wall really creates that certain atmosphere.
We ordered their lunch special of the day, which was Oayako Donburi and Cold Soba (800 yen, roughly $8). First of all, the price was fantastic! All the other restaurants we passed by around the main streets of Asakusa were all easily double the price. We were super happy already. And the family owners really took good care of us, very friendly and helpful. When the lunch set came to the table, I was really surprised of the size of the donburi. Usually, when you order a set menu with soba and donburi, the donburi that comes with the set is “mini” donburi. Here, it was a regular size donburi! Good thing we were really hungry!
We put some Shichimi Togarashi, which is Japanese mixed chili pepper, on top of soba and donburi, which adds extra spice. If you are not familiar with Oyako Donburi, “Oyako” means parent and child, so the main ingredients are chicken and eggs, with onions and other added ingredients that differs from place to place. It is put on top of bowl of white rice. A perfect comfort food. Here at Osoba Tsuruya, I felt that it was a bit extra sweet than I was used to, but each area of Japan has a different way to cooking things. Around here, it is normal to have stronger taste of sugar or salt than some other places. Such flavor might be more preferred by non-Japanese customer who are used to strong seasoning flavors? It was really good regardless, I emptied the entire bowl without any issue.
At this restaurant, their main dish is soba, or buckwheat noodle, so I was excited to try their soba. And it was really good, high quality, with nice density and flavor of buckwheat. Very refreshing also. Their dipping sauce was really good too.
While we were there, few customers came in, some of them were couples and some others were alone. It seemed like it was the kind of place where you can go and dine in alone without feeling awkward, and they will leave you alone if you are wanting some solitude. We were happy with our food and service, the only thing would be that since this is one of the “old fashion” restaurant, it was still smoke-friendly. Maybe one day they will change that to be more health-friendly? Regardless, I hope adventurous tourists and locals alike will try more of those out of the sight restaurants, away from the bright lights and noise, for some good family cooked food!
Osoba Tsuruya – 2-1-2 Nishiasakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo Japan 111-0035
お蕎麦つるや – 東京都 台東区 西浅草 2-1-2