Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima is a fine-dining Michelin-starred Tokyo eatery that offers one of the cheapest lunch sets in town. The star? Sardines.
Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima, like many of its fine-dining peers in Tokyo, is renowned for a steadfast adherence to classic Japanese kaiseki culinary traditions with its offerings during the evenings. But the Michelin-starred restaurant is actually better known among gastrophiles for their tremendously affordable lunch sets, with a simple menu built around sardines.
That’s right. Don’t do Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima if you don’t eat fish. Nakajima landed its Michelin chops by serving iwashi or European pilchard (a member of the sardine family), which it prepares in different ways omakase-style during dinner from ¥13,310 per person.
But for pure affordability, visit during lunch hours when it gets more casual. Here’s when they serve four set meals (priced from around ¥1000 yen), each of which presents the sardines differently.
For the more squeamish, the Furai lunch set – where the fish is battered in panko crumbs and then deep fried, and served with curried, pickled vegetables – is the best bet. But the signature version here would be the Yanagawa Nabe, which sees the sardines fried as above but then braised and served with egg in a claypot; a fabulous way to eat it. Then there’s Nizakana, which sees the fish simmered in dashi and soy sauce, and finally a Sashimi version if you want to taste the fish in its most natural form.
We’d recommend the Nizakana and the Yanagawa Nabe options. The portion for the sashimi is middling, and why bother to eat the deep fried version when you can have it deep fried and then elevated with egg in a hotpot?
Be prepared to queue, as they don’t take reservations during lunch. And don’t expect them to roll out the red carpet while you wait. Service here borders on ruthlessly efficient. In fact, don’t go if you abhor curt service, or hate queuing. Definitely don’t bother if you plan to come as a big group, or worse, with children. You just get turned away.
But if you want to taste iwashi in all its glory, Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima is worth a visit. Drop in during summer and autumn, when the sardine is in season.
Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima (新宿割烹 中嶋)
Address B1F, Hihara Bldg, 3 32-5 Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture 160-0022 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 11.30am to 1.30pm and 5:30pm to 9.00pm Monday to Saturday; closed on Sundays
Tel +81 3-3356-4534