Just what exactly are those peculiar looking food simmering in large containers of broth?
Well, it’s a hodgepodge of distinct ingredients which includes daikon radish, boiled egg, a variety of fish cakes, a variety of tofu, rooru kabyetsu (cabbage rolls), tsukune (fish or meat balls), konbu (edible kelp), plus a few other things. Collectively as a dish, this unique hot pot is called Oden. Best enjoyed during the winter months, it is sold everywhere – from food carts and convenience stores to izakayas and specialty restaurants. It’s warming and comforting, not to mention, a rare culinary experience for non-Japanese.
Curious to sample this classic Japanese comfort food? Check out this list of the 10 best places to try Oden in Tokyo:
1. Tanaka (田中) – Ginza
This rather small basement restaurant in Ginza is quite popular among the locals. At the center is an open kitchen where the shop’s proprietor, Mr. Tanaka vigorously passes plates of Oden and drinks to his customers. He’s been doing this for the past fifty-plus years, starting as an Oden yatai (food cart) vendor, and looks like there’s no slowing him down.
3 min. walk from Tokyo Metro Higashi-Ginza Station
3-10-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
Monday to Friday 5PM – 10PM
Saturday 5PM – 9PM
Closed on Sundays, Holidays
2. Ogura (おぐ羅) – Ginza
Another basement establishment in Ginza run by a lone chef, Ogura is a place for bite-sized meals including Oden. His style stands out from other oden places in Tokyo because of his salt-based broth, instead of the usual soy sauce. It is a trademark recipe since the shop’s foundation in 1986.
5 min. walk from Tokyo Metro Ginza Station
B1 6-3-6 Ginza Chuo Tokyo
Monday to Friday 4PM – 11PM
Saturday 4PM – 9PM
Closed on Saturdays, Holidays
Tel: +81-3-3574-8156 (for inquiry), +81-50-5869-0590 (for reservations)
3. Oreno Dashi (俺のだし) – Ginza
There are several variations of Oreno restaurants in Tokyo – French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Yakitori, Yakiniku, and Dashi, but what’s common to all of them is that they serve gourmet food prepared by chefs with Michelin-starred restaurant backgrounds at one-third the price of a fine dining restaurant!
The catch: Oreno restaurants are standing restaurants.
Currently, this chain has over 30 branches in Tokyo; three of which are Oreno Dashi restaurants. If ever you wonder how a traditionally simple dish like Oden is taken to a Michelin-level quality, you’ll find an answer here.
6 min. walk from Tokyo Metro Ginza Station
7-6-6 Ginza Chuo Tokyo
Tuesday to Friday 4PM – 11:30PM
Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays 4PM – 11PM
Closed on Mondays
Tel: +81-3-3571-6762 (for inquiry), +81-50-5590-7702 (for reservations)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/おでん-俺のだし-634730149915969/ (Japanese only)
4. Otakou (お多幸 新宿店) – Shinjuku
Otakou is most famous for their Toumeshi dish – rice swimming in Oden broth topped with a huge slab of Oden tofu. Simple but hugely popular among locals!
As a specialist, Otakou doesn’t leave the quality of their Oden dishes to anyone else. Most of their ingredients are made in-house, which basically is a testament to the high level of dedication they put into being the best in their niche.
3 min. walk from JR Shinjuku Station
3-20-1 Shinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo
Monday to Saturday 3:30PM – 11:30PM
Sundays, Holidays 3PM – 10:30PM
Website: http://www.otako.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
5. Tokuichi (とく一) – Shinjuku
Oden is great to partner with alcohol so it’s quite usual for izakaya bars to have it on the menu. One such establishment is Shinjuku’s Tokuichi. It serves Kansai-style oden, which is characterized as having a light clear broth, and offers Hayashi-oden (cold oden) too during the summer.
Have a drink while snacking on Oden. Kampai!
3 min. walk JR Shinjuku Station
1-14-4 Nishishinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo
Monday to Saturday 4PM – 4AM
Sundays, Holiday 4PM – 12AM
Website: http://www.juttoku.com/ (Japanese only)
6. Konakara (こなから 本店) – Akihabara
As expected of a specialty oden restaurant, Konakara ups the experience by creating original Oden items. Among the popular ones are Kyo-ganmo (deep fried tofu mashed with seaweed and carrots, and a surprise quail egg at its core) and Tori Supaisu Tsukune (spiced chicken meatballs), while the standard Oden offerings like daikon radish are of course highly rated by their customers.
But wait, there’s more. The additional charm of dining at Konakara is the ambiance. It is set up like an old traditional house providing a warm and cozy environment along with its heartwarming meals.
5 min. walk from Tokyo Metro Ochanomizu Station
11 min. walk from JR Akihabara Station
1-9-6 Yushima Bunkyo Tokyo
Monday to Friday 6PM – 10:30PM
Saturdays 5PM – 10:30PM
Holidays 5PM – 10PM
Closed on Sundays
Website: http://konakara.com/ (Japanese only)
7. Nakagawa (なか川) – Akihabara
Nakagawa is one of those shops under the train tracks. It’s a no frills establishment that stands out for the quality of its Oden offerings, and on top of that, quite a good selection of beer for a small shop.
4 min. walk from Iwamotocho Toei Shinjuku Line
2 Chome-12 Kanda Sudacho Chiyoda-ku Tokyo
Monday to Friday 5PM – 9PM
Saturdays 5PM – 8:30PM
Closed on Sundays, Holidays
8. Azabu Ichigo (あざぶ 一期) – Azabu Juban
Azabu Ichigo is the only Michelin-starred Oden restaurant. Their Oden is prepared by using eight different kinds of broth, and you can enjoy them a la carte or opt for the fancier Omakase (chef’s recommendation) set menu.
6 min. walk from Tokyo Metro Azabujuban Station
2-5-14 Azabujuban Minato Tokyo
Tuesday to Sunday, Holidays 5:30PM – 11:30PM
Closed on Mondays, 1st & 3rd Sunday of the month
Tel: +81-3-5772-2936 (for inquiry), +81-50-5868-9451 (for reservations)
Website: http://www.azabu-ichigo.com/ (Japanese only)
9. Otafuku (大多福) – Asakusa
Over a hundred years in the business of serving Oden, Otafuku is a dining institution in Tokyo. Time stood still inside this restaurant – its wooden interiors are a throwback to an old Japan, and the shop’s recipes handed down through generations never changed either. There are over 50 different kinds of Oden on the menu. Trying them all could be your next challenge!
10 min. walk Tokyo Metro Iriya Station
1-6-2 Senzoku Taito Tokyo
Monday to Saturday 5PM – 11PM
Sundays (November – February) 12PM – 2PM, 4PM – 10PM
Sundays (March – October) 5PM – 10PM
Holidays 5PM – 10PM
Closed on Mondays (March – November)
Website: http://www.otafuku.ne.jp/ (Japanese only)
10. Hide (ひで) – Shibuya
Hide is an upscale traditional izakaya bar with a relaxing atmosphere. They serve a wide assortment of Oden and other traditional Japanese dishes. Far from the usual dizzying crowd of Shibuya, it is a great place to take a break and have a few drinks.
2 min. walk from Shinsen Station Keio Inokashira Line
9 min. walk from JR Shibuya Station
15-5 Maruyamacho Shibuya Tokyo
Monday to Friday 5PM – 11PM
Saturdays 5PM – 10PM
Closed on Sundays, Holidays, all weekends in August
Website: http://www.ne.jp/asahi/oden/hide/ (Japanese only)
Thumbnail image is from Flickr