Good Eats: Waentei-Kikko (Tokyo)

Asakusa is such a well-trampled neighborhood (and deservedly so, it’s one of my favorite in Tokyo) that it’s difficult to find an eatery off the beaten track. Yet that’s exactly the description I would apply to Waentei-Kikko, my choice for lunch on one of my recent weekend trips to Tokyo.

Waentei-Kikko sits far enough off of Nakamise-dori that most tourist traffic passes it by. Those who stop are curious as to why a Japanese farmhouse sits incongrously in the middle of a modern city block. The restaurant is truly authentic in that regard, as the old building was transported here from Gifu Prefecture. Inside, old wooden beams and a low ceiling contribute to the atmosphere, though those with knee problems shouldn’t panic at the tatami seating – there are a few seats at the long wooden bar.

The exterior of Waentei-Kikko
The exterior of Waentei-Kikko

Waentei-Kikko offers bento-style kaiseki lunches and full course kaiseki dinners. I sprang for the ¥3500 bento and was fairly pleased with the contents, but diners with more sensitive palates might be put off by some of the tastes (raw snail and some more interesting tofu and pickle dishes, to name a few).

Waentei-Kikko's bento-style lunch
Waentei-Kikko’s bento-style lunch

While lunch was good, it wasn’t the real reason I’d come. Rather, every day at certain times, the owner of Waentei-Kikko puts on a shamisen performance, demonstrating his very capable skill with the Japanese three-stringed guitar. On the day I went, he also had a young “apprentice” player from my home city of Kumamoto join him for several numbers. It was an intimate concert for perhaps a dozen of us diners, and all the while the crowds outside passed by, completely unaware.

Shamisen players at Waentei-Kikko
Shamisen players at Waentei-Kikko

Waentei-Kikko has both an English website and English-speaking staff, so making a reservation (which I recommend) shouldn’t be difficult. Or, contact me for a Samurai Itinerary and I’ll do all the calling for you.

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