Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo – Sardines Lunch at One Michelin Star Restaurant

Priced around Yen 880 (S$15), the set meal at Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo (新宿割烹 中嶋) is probably one of the cheapest in a one MIchelin star full-service restaurant in Japan and possibly in the world. Dinner at Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima is much more pricey, costing around 13,300 JPY for the omakase course meal. Lunch seems to be the way to go, but there is a catch – be prepared to eat sardines.

Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo

Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo Restaurant

Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo - Sardines Restaurant

The Nakajima restaurant is centrally located in the basement of a building in the busy Shinjuku area. No reservations are available for lunch. So be prepared to queue. The better solution is to arrive early so as to be part of the first wave of customers to be served. Lunch starts at 11.30am. We arrived at 11.10 am and a queue from the restaurant to the road level had formed (above picture). We were among the last few to get in as the first wave. When we left, there was only a short queue (picture below), but these diners have to wait till those inside finish their meal.

Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo
Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo

The Restaurant

Once inside, Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo looks like a typical Japanese restaurant – neat, simple and uncluttered. Seats are available at the counter and in some small rooms.

Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo
Counter seats
Dining room

Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo Menu

The lunch menu at Nakajima is quite simple – different types of sardine dishes are available as main courses, served as a set meal. A few appetiser options are available such as sardine sashimi. We selected sashimi and fried sardine appetisers (385 JPY each), a Yanagawa Nabe Set (990 JPY) and a Nizakana Set (880 JPY).

Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo Menu
Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo Menu

Appetisers

Not the most enjoyable type of sashimi we have eaten, but we certainly recommend it as it is not everyday that we encounter sashimi sardines. The sardine is cut into small strips and seasoned with a mildly salty and sour marinade. The sardines were fresh and not fishy, but they still have the characteristic sardine flavour. The bones have been removed but some of the tiny ones remain. It was ok for us but I know of some who might not enjoy this dish because of the leftover bones.

The fried sardines is a more mainstream dish. Deep-fried in batter, this looked and tasted like something from a fish and chips shop. Bones have been removed and any few remaining small bones are hardly noticeable in the deep-fried sardines.

The Set Meals

The highlight of our lunch at the Shinjuku Nakajima Tokyo restaurant was the Yanagawa Nabe set (990 JPY). Each set meal comes with rice, soup, pickles and a main dish. This was an absolutely enjoyable dish. Large chunks of sardine fillets (deboned) were served in a bubbling casserole dish. The taste of the gravy and the sardines was amazing. This is probably the best value for money dish in Tokyo that we can think of. Having tried the other sardine dishes for experience. We will simply order this dish and nothing else on any future visits.

Our other set meat was the Nizakana set (880 Yen). The main dish of this course was sardines simmered in a soy based sauce. The taste of the fish and the sauce were good but we were bogged down by the bones. This was the only dish where the fishes were cooked whole with all the bones inside. As you can imagine, the fish was a mess by the time we separated the bones with our untrained hands. It is a dish that is worth a try on a first visit, but which we will avoided in future.

Ratings:
Food: 4
Service: 4
Value: 5
Atmosphere: 4
Overall Rating: 4 TOPs

Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima 新宿割烹 中嶋
3-32-5, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Opening Hours:
Lunch: 11:30~14:00 (L.O. 13:30)
Dinner: 17:30~21:30 (L.O. 20:00)
Closed on Sunday, Public holidays

Website

The Ordinary Patrons | Real Dining Experience of Ordinary People
an independent Singapore food blog

Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster.
- Ferran Adria quote
Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster. – Ferran Adria

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