Don’t laugh, but I adore tofu. I didn’t until I moved to Japan and learned that those large strained blocks of mush could actually be turned into something delectable. Since then, however, I detour for good tofu, which is how I found myself at Sasanoyuki in Tokyo’s Uguisudani neighborhood, a short walk from Ueno.
Sasanoyuki has been around since the Edo Period, and has even supplied tofu to the Imperial family. Despite these lofty credentials, this is an eatery that isn’t out of range for the budget of most travelers, particularly if you come for lunch.
The menu is mostly course-based, with a few a la carte options (mostly in the form of drinks). The least expensive lunch course clocks in at ¥2400, and the priciest at ¥3900. I chose the middle option (¥3000), which consisted of five or six separate courses. I had plain tofu served with simple soy sauce and ginger, sesame tofu with a to-do-for yuzu miso glaze, fried tofu with ginger and radish, and a somen (thin noodle) dish served with yuba (tofu skin) and meatballs, all steamed in a soy milk broth.
While I thought this was the end, the rice course arrived in chazuke style, with rice and tea and tofu all mixed together (delicious). It was rounded out by the obligatory plate of pickles but then surprisingly followed by tofu ice cream with a tangy plum sauce.
I’d had my hesitations about service when I slid open the door, as Sasanoyuki’s doorman (yes, they have a doorman) took one look at my … casual … attire (jeans and puffy jacket) and raised his eyebrows in a manner that had me thinking I wouldn’t be enjoying tofu after all. However, the serving staff couldn’t have been more kind and while the diners around me were certainly dressed in more business casual and even dressier attire, the main staff had no qualms about my more dressed down appearance. Note that you’ll have to remove shows at the door, but all seating is at actual tables and chairs.
There is a view of a Japanese garden to enjoy (if you’re seated in the front room at least), but Sasanoyuki isn’t going to win any awards on décor. It’s one of those aging restaurants that invests in its food, not its interior design, so it won’t compare with many of Tokyo’s more modern offerings.
If you’re a tofu fan, I’d definitely put Sasanoyuki on your itinerary. If you’re not, this is a place that may actually convert you. For more information, visit the Sasanoyuki webpage (click on the top right corner for English).