[Tokyo] Nakajima is probably the cheapest Michelin star meal you can get at Tokyo, Japan.
This is how affordable it can get. A lunch set is priced at 800 Yen (SGD$9.90, USD$7.40), and we are talking about one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Finding this restaurant can be easy as it is near a train station, yet difficult as it is hidden from sight at the basement of a non-descript building.
About a short 10 minute walk from Shinjuku Station south exit, look out for a Hihara Building with a possible queue coming from a flight of stairs.
My advice: Go early slightly before lunch at 11:30am rather than late. The Japanese server actually put a stop-queue sign BEHIND me at 1:30pm. I would have a rude shock if he stopped me from eating this. (As how most Singaporeans would go… “Heng ah!”)
The star of the lunch is to my amazement… sardines.
Not quite what you would have expected from a Michelin restaurant, only because we are so used to eating sardines out of cans.
The Iwashi (sardines) are presented in 4 different ways – the Furai deep fried sardines with panko, raw sashimi-style with seaweed and sesame, the Nizakana simmered in dashi with soy sauce, or the Yanagawa Nabe served in a hot piping eggy casserole for a 100 Yen extra.
This includes Japanese rice, pickles and miso soup.
Noting how almost every table was having the Yanagawa Nabe, I just had to order it.
The shallow earthen pot was simmering almost throughout, keeping the egg warm, wet and fluffy.
But what was amazing that the deep fried sardines was moist and didn’t taste quite like sardines actually, almost like a flakey form of unagi. Also without that typical fishy taste.
The Furai deep fried version was kind of more expected, but how the chefs maintain the batter so light, crisp and oil-less definitely required both a good recipe and skills.
A friend commented that the meal was so-so. I could imagine why. This felt like a no-fuss, no-frills meal cooked in a Japanese home.
I didn’t try the sashimi, but followers on my Instagram said it was the best. Mental note: next time.
In the evening, Nakajima is transformed to served exquisite kaiseki starting from 8,000 Yen (SGD$99.50, USD$73.90). Reservation then is a must.
Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima 新宿割烹 中嶋
B1F, Hihara Bldg, 3 32-5 Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture 160-0022, Japan (Shinjuku Station South Exit)
Tel: +81 3-3356-453
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2pm (last order 1:45pm), 5:30pm – 9:30pm (last order 8pm)
Closed mid-August, late December-early January, Sunday and Public Holidays
Google Maps – Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima