This Little Eskinita In Tokyo’s Omotesando Is A Great Spot For A Long “Transatlantic” Lunch
When on a short holiday, it’s always a good idea to have a specific destination in mind before stepping out. But there’s something to be said, too, about places one chances upon while aimlessly walking, or while on the way to another pre-planned stop; a nice spot one discovers without the help of Google or Condé Nast Traveler.
Which is how we ended up spending a few good hours in this little alleyway just off Omotesando avenue, Tokyo’s posh, tree-lined shopping stretch. We were really going to Yoyogi Park but lunch time hunger pangs struck as soon as we got down from the Harajuku Station.
Two servings of takoyaki at the first stall we saw was a quick solution. But since we can’t just have takoyaki for lunch, we set park-time for later and explored Omotesando, which eventually led us to one of its side streets where we found three food haunts very different from each other. And because two out of the three specialized only in light meals, we were able to try all of them, virtually hopping from New York to Japan to Vietnam in the span of an editor’s lunch (that’s about three hours, for you non-publishing peeps).
First stop: Luke’s Lobster Roll
Nothing piques one’s interest than a sizeable line outside anything. And there was quite a line for this lobster sandwich stall with origins in the Big Apple’s East Village. It serves Maine-style lobster and clam sandwiches (the bread is soft with a lightly crunchy crust, the lobster tastes fresh and there’s a lot of it) which one can pair with a clam or lobster-and-corn chowder. This Jingumae branch has a little patio just outside the counter, with low benches where customers can enjoy their snacks. The mother company boasts of its advocacy of sustainability, choosing only to open in areas where it’s possible to make sure that the seafood is responsibly harvested (meaning not putting the ocean life in the area in danger) and that they work with conscientious fishermen who also take care of the sea.
6-7-1 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
Luke’s Lobster Roll
Lobster and Clam sandwiches
Second stop: Harajuku Gyozauro
A few steps away from Luke’s, just before this side street ends, is one of those Japan joints that serve just one thing they specialize in. Harajuko Gyozauro takes pride in its gyoza, or Japanese dumplings, and while they do look delicate and involve the simplest ingredients (because that’s how it looks when you crack one open), they are prepared in front of you (steamed or fried) by a vigorous team of cooks in grey shirts and bandannas. Watching the kitchen in action is a side treat to enjoying this tasty, no-frills, very affordable (290Y for six) nuggets of pork and cabbage in a wrapper. Full disclosure: we were also drawn to this eatery by the line at the door.
6-2-4 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
vigorous team of cooks in grey shirts and bandannas
Third stop: Chao! Bamboo
Even if we spotted it while lining up for gyoza, we did a little vintage shopping first around the corner before coming back and completely yielding to the call of this charming open-air Thai food spot. By then, the queue was gone and a nice table for our party of five was free. It wasn’t the line that caught our eye with this one, though. It was the chic-ness of the entire thing: a street eatery with rustic interiors and mismatched furniture, taking you back to edgy Bangkok while you’re in very pleasant, First World-clean Omotesando—in the spring!
That the food was good, too, made our decision to do a third meal (fourth? Fifth? There was ice cream along the way, and flaky, delicious custard apple pies. Is it possible we lost count?) worth the extra pounds. We ordered four dishes: the eggplant with pork; a cold, steamed chicken, and a saucy, stir-fried one; and pork fried rice that beautifully glistened in the afternoon light. And of course we took a lot of pictures. We left gloriously full, ready to commit to the long walk to Yoyogi.
6-1-5 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
A noodle dish at Chao! Bamboo
Fried rice and cold chicken at Chao! Bamboo
This beer shot on IG gives you a glimpse of the kitchen.