...an expat libertine with a penchant for sparkly dining partners, jazz bars and izakaya.
Opinions here expressed are not necessarily shared by any with whom I associate. Fault for errors and any offense caused is entirely my own.

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Entries in Itabashi-ku (10)


Kokaiya, Tokiwadai  航海屋、常盤台

Kokaiya ramen are famed for their chashu ramen in particular, and also their “double” soup, which successfully blends chicken and fish stock to create a robust broth in which the equally tasty ramen swim

At some point, several years ago judging by the fading photos, the jolly fat guy and debuya star off the TV visited, along with a whole gaggle of “talent” who followed after him.

There are five Kokaiya stores: Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Asagaya, Numabukuro and Tokiwadai. I did the later, which just happens to be located next door to the ramen shop Men Don Fuku-Iken.

The tonsoba were quite excellent. The tasty soup aside, the ample slices of pork and firm, juicy noodles proved to be deeply satisfying.





Men Don Fuku-iken, Tokiwadai 麺・丼 二・一軒、常盤台

Fukuiken is one of several reasonable ramen shops in Tokiwadai. It’s located on the main shotengai on the south side of station, next door to another ramen shop (the name escapes me) instantly recognizable for the window full of photos of various TV “talent” and other famous visitors. 

A family business, Fukuiken closes at 6pm on Saturdays – plenty of hapless souls were turned away whilst I wolfed down a ¥900 ramen set consisting of a good-sized bowl of shoyu ramen, three paltry little gyoza (which after lunching at Kitchen Tachikichi earlier in the day were laughable) and a nice mound of cha-han.

The gyoza aside, both the fried rice and ramen were good, although after seeing the less generic ramen ordered by other customers I got the feeling that those included in the set were probably the most mundane on offer.



Men Don Fuku-iken


Daisuki Nippon, Naka-Itabashi  だいすき日本、中板橋

After being turned away from the the local kaitenzushi place as it was full, and then taking a wrong turn and missing the raman shop, my dining partner and I almost ambled passed Daisuki Nippon (no points for the name) without noticing it. 

The fresh, spicy-sweet aroma caught our attention. Not much to look at from the outside save, perhaps, that kind of bare bones, “it might not be much but we love it” appearance, upon peering through the door the packed tables promised a decent Nepalese lunch. 

Clean, simple and cheerful, the tables were all covered in clear plastic, beneath which hand written notes and messages from visiting diners were carefully arranged. Turns out people have visited from Okinawa to Hokkaido. Again, this promised great things and further reading revealed that many had popped in due to a clearly successful - and far reaching - Twitter campaign.

The master of the house, a muscular, mild mannered looking gent named Bikasu, attended to our needs, proffering a menu outlining the lunch sets for the day as well as evening options and a la carte offerings. 

I did the Double Curry Naan, while my dining partner had the Double Curry Rice with Tandoori Chicken. Both were enjoyable and value for money, coming in at under ¥800 a piece. 

Although no at large as some, the naan was light and fluffy and not at all oily. The two small bowls of curry fine, but hardly divine. The chicken curry was a little too light tasting and the morsels of chicken small. The keema was the star of the show - less gritty feeling than some and flavoursome, the minced meat not overpowering the flavour of curry itself. All in all, these were curries cooked for Japanese taste buds. The less said about the salad the better. 

Decent enough for lunch, and probably worth a look for dinner while the 7-8 course meal for ¥2,000 coupon (available on Daisuki Nippon’s website) is in force, but not even close to usurping Manakamana’s Tobu-Tojo Line Napalese curry crown. 



Daisuki Nippon  

(No Facebook like button as the code is always crap and never works properly.)



Toritetsu, Tokiwadai  とり鉄、常盤台

For some reason I’d got it into my head that Toritetsu was a local affair. Actually it’s a sprawling chain covering much of the archipelago. It seems somehow less formulaic than many of the better known, much reviled chains that spring to mind. 

On the night my dining partner and I ventured in, it was packed. “Must be good,” said I. Turns out that the crowd had gathered to take advantage of an “everything for ¥100 night,” the menu’s specials included.  

Truth be told, Toritestu does a lot of “special” nights. There’s ladies’ night, men’s night, pensioners’ night, Thursday night, Friday night, etc. You get the picture. 

Bubbly staff and a cozy atmosphere went a long way to making the evening an enjoyable one, despite the length of time between orders placed and orders served... 

The food - for the most part yakitori standards - isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s not going to put you off the stuff either. I should know. After a month or so of almost nothing but yakitori I should be sick of the stuff. 

The otoshi, a very soft, creamy dollop of tofu, was quite tasty but almost impossible to eat with chopsticks. On the verge of punching someone after five minutes with it, spoons seemed in order.  

Many of the skewered morsels were on the teeny side. The ginko nuts especially so. The liver was tender, but pretty tasteless, too.

As far as budget yakitori goes, the sasami - plum and wasabi-topped - wasn’t bad. The tsukune was reasonable, and the slices of raw chicken flesh safe but a little bland. 

Better than Watami, not a patch on Kappa-chan.







Noa, Tokiwadai ノア、常盤台 

Like most snack bars, Noa - just a few strides from the south exit of Tokiwadai station - is a time capsule. Although the unwitting pedestrian has no idea what lurks within, he need only step over the threshold to be confronted by Showa. Showa style, Showa songs, Showa decor and Showa fashions. Oh, and lots of nostalgia, for the Showa era. 

Not that it’s not entertaining. A sizable otoshi of stewed pumpkin, seemingly endless bottles of chilled Kirin beer - served by a charming Mama-san and/ or the affable gent behind the bar (the Papa-san?) - old guys crooning enka about long missed home villages and the pains of being far from the farm and left adrift amidst the big city, older gals chain smoking and guzzling Cutty Sark. 

The Mama and I did an Eric Clapton duet. Great days. 




Kushiyaki Bar Char-Co, Tokiwadai  常盤台

This pleasing little kushiyaki/ yakitori joint has only been in business for a few months, so it’s difficult to to see what lies in store for it and the young gentlemen running the place. It, and they, deserve to do well if for nothing more than opening one of the better looking, more considered establishments in this neighbourhood. 

Simple decor, mostly in a nice black-grey charcoal theme (kind of blackboard-like), and the warm, welcoming counter around the open kitchen provide, in combination with some energetic service, a relaxing setting. The young chef, in combination with his small charcoal brazier and mountain of refrigerated, skewered morsels, provides simple yakitori with some interesting kushi and other dishes available thrown into the mix for good measure.  

Not the best price to volume ratio, for either the food or drinks, but not bad. The beer list deserves mention, as Guinness and Hoegaarden, among others, are rarely seen in this neck of the woods.

The standout dishes were undoubtedly the sanma no hone sembei and the sanma shiso maki with leek, both of which were delicious. The Halloween parfait proved to be popular, too.

Sanma no hone sembei.

Chicken liver with tare sauce, and chicken and leek.

Bacon wrapped tomato. 

Tsukune and hearts.

Bacon wrapped cheese.

Sanma shiso maki 

Spicy celery. 

Halloween parfait.

One of the go to places at this station.




Suryashi, Kami-Itabashi, スルエシー、上板橋

Yet another Tōbu-Tōjō line budget Nepalese/ Indian restaurant doing a fine line in value for money lunches, Suryashi is a few minutes from Kami-Itabashi station's north exit. Although not in the same league as Ōyama's Manakamana it surpasses Tokiwadai's Taj Palace on all counts.

The restaurant's facade is actually far more inviting than the photo here would lead you to believe. Something equally homely and "ethnic," almost befitting locations such as Shimo-Kitazawa or Sangenjaya, with just enough effort having been put into the lavishly illustrated (i.e., brimming with photographs) street-side menus to suggest equal attention might even be given to the goings on in the kitchen.

My dining partner and I stopped by for lunch on a Saturday, just before noon. Although we were the first customers through the door, within half an hour or so not a table remained empty. The interior decoration is simple, with a rude bar and kitchen hatch to the rear of space, above which are arranged a collection of wines, spirits and sakes. Tables are set with baskets containing napkins, cutlery and menus. Promotional materials suggest some kind of Everest beer.

The service was good; the owner waiting the floor while a rarely glimpsed other manned the kitchen. The lunch menu was good, too. A selection of simple lunch sets, in several configurations of size, composition and price, were available for under ¥1,000, with tabehōdai rice and naan, as well as a choice of teas, coffee and soft drinks included.

An appetizer of seasonal vegetables curried with white sesame was delicious, even though the flavour of the sesame was less prominent than I'd have liked. My dining partner's Suryashi set was almost identical in size to my Tandoori set apart from the lone tandoori chicken drumstick set in the midst of my large stainless steel platter and surrounded by curries, salad, rice and naan. Despite my distaste for meat on the bone, this drumstick was surprisingly good. Perhaps a little too dry, but no gristle of fat to speak of. The chicken curry also managed to avoid any unfortunate gristle, and no doubt leaving the meat on the bone adds to the flavour. Still, I miss large, succulent pieces of chicken breast in my curries. The curry itself was okay, but lacking in substance. Too smooth, too thin.

The beef curry had more body; thicker, richer tasting and spicier. The meat made no lasting impression, but neither did it offend. Combined with the adequate, if uninspired naan, it was the highlight of the meal. My dining partner's mutton curry was, by all accounts, delicious, although not as well received as the chicken (bones being a favourite...). As is often the case, the rice was pitiful. Coffee - far better than I'd have imagined - brought the meal to its conclusion.

I'm interested to find out what evening dining at Suryashi is like. I expect it might not hold up well when compared to more refined experiences, but for a casual lunch there's little to find fault with.