December 28, 2021
Food for the Soul
5 local restaurants that will warm your body & heart in no time in Tokyo
Kyojin Stewhouse fills the quiet, cozy alleys behind Togoshi Ginza with the unmistakable scents of the holiday season: slowly simmered lamb, seared sausages, freshly baked bread. It’s enough to make anywhere, even this Irish pub’s outpost on Tokyo’s most eclectic shopping street, feel like home. Alan Fisher, an Irish immigrant, opened Kyojin Stewhouse in 2015 as a love letter to his native country. Pictures of rolling green hills line the walls, Guinness Stew is practically married to the menu, and Alan even imports Irish ales from the Mourne Mountains. He has also taken a liking to winter feasts. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, reservations are open each year for a ballistic winter banquet of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, and all the classic sides you can imagine. To top it off, a nomihodai (all you can drink) dispenses two hours of free-flowing craft beers, wines and Irish gin cocktails to make the holiday all the merrier. Holiday meal reservations required.
1-3-11 Yutakacho, Shinagawa-ku
10 min. walk from Togoshi Station
Considering the way the antiquated interior jostles with rowdy crowds at all hours of the evening, you’d never suspect The Bellwood is barely a year old.
This conceptual cocktail bar, a sister lounge to the world-renowned SG Club, combines the aesthetic of a Taisho-era kissaten with prohibition-era libations. Two worlds plucked from the same time period. It’s this inspired idea that allows The Bellwood’s cocktail menu to crescendo into a caffeine-fueled euphoria. True to its classic cafe roots, house drinks are built on bases of tea, coffee and shochu. The espresso martini cleverly incorporates clarified milk and miso, while the Sazerac is reborn as a barley shochu drink infused with truffle and browned butter. December sees the arrival of “Jingle Bellwood,” the bar’s incredibly popular holiday celebration. Expect radical riffs on eggnog, mulled wine and hot toddies, along with exclusive seasonal dishes and an extended happy hour.
41-31 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku
9 min. walk from Shibuya Station
As the chill of winter swallows the city, Tokyo’s 38 million residents begin to collectively crave one thing: oden. This traditional dish of simple ingredients simmered in a subtly seasoned dashi begs to be paired with cloudy skies and freezing temperatures. While oden can be found around nearly every corner at this time of year, few iterations are as storied and inspired as Otafuku’s. For over one hundred years, Otafuku has been serving oden in an intimate countertop setting. All the tasty morsels that inhabit the house dashi are displayed before you. Just point at what you want and it quickly arrives in your personal oden bowl. The sheer range of edible options here is dazzling, from comforting carrots and tofu to the unexpected and outlandish whale’s tongue. Luckily for those easily overwhelmed by such an epic array, there are omakase (chef’s choice) meals available for both omnivores and vegetarians.
1-6-2 Senzoku, Taito-ku
10 min. walk from Iriya Station
Soul Food House
There’s something magical in good service, when the meal you’re presented is just as comforting and flush with substance as the people preparing it. LaTonya and David Whitaker, owners of Soul Food House in Azabujuban, are humble wizards of this arcane art, and we simply couldn’t talk about comfort food in Tokyo without featuring Soul Food House. Dining here is like dining with family; the flavors that leap from the plate feel like old friends. Their transcendental chicken and waffles have made them a darling among the expat community, and their mac’n’cheese has become a holy grail. The Whitakers also make a habit of putting their signature soul food spin on annual holiday dinners. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Soul Food House serves a massive meal replete with roast turkey, pumpkin dressing, pomegranate and beet salad, garlicky green beans and more. If you can’t be with family on Christmas, this is the next best thing. Holiday meal reservations required.
2-8-10 Azabujuban, Minato-ku
7 min. walk from Azabujuban Station
When the biting wintertide currents sweep through the Sea of Japan, they carry with them the ocean’s most intimidating luxury: monkfish. Tanabe-san, who, along with his wife, entertains throngs of regular customers at their 10-seat izakaya, maintains a profound obsession with this wicked bottom-dwelling predator. As service begins, Tanabe hoists a massive 10-kilo monkfish up to a hook fastened above the bar. There it remains for the entirety of the evening, leering at diners with its menacing maw while Tanabe lops off fresh hunks. Every dish derived from the mucus-coated alien creature is a triumph: steamed liver, fried spare ribs doused with house ponzu, and the monumental monkfish nabe — the price of which has not changed since the store opened 43 years ago.