Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Yatsudeya, Kanda (八ッ手屋)

There's a lot of pleasure in visiting old places. The danger is that the theme-park attraction of them is often not met by anything resembling food, Alternatively, you can be forcibly reminded that the theme park is in your head, and the people who own and run these places aren't doing it to be retro or ironic or hip - they're doing it to make a living.
Hatsudeya is, yes, another old place in that peculiar corner of northerly Kanda that holds so many old-style delights (like Mimasuya, Matsuya, and Sakeya), and it's delightful if you don't go in expecting to be delighted.
There's not a lot of frippery inside; just a front room with bare tables and the strange ornamentation of a large mirror and a flower arrangement. 
In the back is this raised area with a distinct living-room feel. It could be the plastic tablecloth, or the size of the room, or the window to the outside world, or the people having lunch here, but doesn't it look at bit like the owners must sit there in the evenings, after closing?
A reasonable guess would be that there are 4 owners, or were at opening (the name is '8 hands store'). Or there were fewer, and some deformities, or more, and some bad accidents with the fryer. These days, this counter is where the magic happens. Like a fair few old places, they have a quirky system - pay at the counter as soon as you come in, no dallying over the menu, then watch as the cashier takes a plastic ticket from a tray and gives it to the kitchen. This is slightly more sensible than the places that give you a ticket and ask you to put it back on the other side of the counter immediately.
The menu was confusing - some things look cheap, while some things like the tempura set look expensive. But now we know why - it's the world's biggest tenpura lunch set. Scientifically proven. It's a boatload. Plus it comes with a solid plate of pickles, and a big bowl of rice, and a little bowl of fish-based clear soup with some wheat gluten and noodles in it.
Let's get a close-up of the fry, shall we? This isn't the best tempura ever; it's a little soft, and a little pale. But it's not greasy, and it was fried up post-order, so that must be how they want it. Looking this over, there was a huge piece of eringi (an odd, springy, buttery mushroom), an interesting patty of shredded carrots, half an eggplant, a largish fillet of eel, some shrimp, and some white fish. In short - more quantity and variety than any other tempura lunch set in the world. Most places would charge the same price as the whole set for an eel fillet that big.


  1. Jon, I really like your explanation regarding the origin of the name of this store. May I suggest a more mundane uninteresting alternative; “Yatsude” is also the name of the tree which has 5-9 deep indentations in their leaves. But again, your explanation is much more intriguing.

  2. Never let facts get in the way of a good story!

  3. Oof. I went, and that's a boatload of fry, all right. It even comes in a boat!

    The place felt rather sad to me. No doubt this is partly due to the fact that it was 1:30 and I was the only customer. Then my tempura ship came in, and I didn't mind so much. A little later, an older salaryman arrived, and that helped, too. It's always easier if you can amortize the sadness across multiple customers.

    Oof. Time for a nap.