Higashi-Azabu 1-29-1, Minato-ku, 106-0044 Tokyo
Tel: 03-3583-4855
Open 11:30-13:15(Tue-Sat)
Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays closed

Uoyu - popular lunch restaurant for office workers

PM00:15 +++ Middle-aged and somewhat younger office workers stand in a queue for fish dishes.
Those at the head of the queue look in and check whether there are vacant places.(above)

The view from the entrance (right)
The price level of the Japanese popular restaurants is without doubt one of the lowest among advanced countries. I am confident that they have no match in the world, if we take the cost-performance into account as a factor for evaluation. For a limited amount of money - say less than US 10 $ - you will be served with excellent food quality and volume.

Many office workers take lunch in nearby eateries. They are mostly private owned and very limited in space. An eatery can accommodate at most two or three dozen guests and they usually have to share a table with unknown people.

I would like to leak here a secret tip, my favorite fish restaurant within a walking distance from the office.

"Uoyu" is an eatery run by a fishmonger. It is open only during lunch time between 11:00 and 13:15 and offers set-menus with fish as main dish. Fish is perfectly prepared and served in a large portion.

Menu board
Rice is also very tasty and side dishes are carefully cooked. Uoyu has a counter and thee tables and maximum 19 people can sit at the same time.

Therefore, it is very natural that many guests have to wait for their turn in a queue in front of the entrance. However, you don't have to worry about the waiting time. It almost belongs to the Japanese office workers etiquette, not to let other people wait too long. Once lunch is served, well behaving office workers eat it up within 5 minutes.

I was happy when I saw the menu table hanging on the outside wall of Uoyu, because there were a number of menus with braised or roasted fish. Foreigners might think that Japanese people usually eat raw fish. That is a misunderstanding. It is true, that sashimi, sliced raw fish, is popular. But, cooked fish is also popular. Japanese people usually ate grilled or braised fish in the past, when the technology for transportation and refrigeration was not much advanced.
From top left clockwise: Ohitashi of spinach topped with shaved katsuobushi (dried bonito), braised gindara, miso soup, pickles of chinese cabbage, thinly cut squid dressed with mentaiko and rice
The price of this "gindara set-menu" is 900 yen. The small bowl of squid 100 yen.
Braised sawara "Sawara set-menu" is 800 yen.

Squid filets and internals are dried in a bicycle basket.

Sashimi is nowadays very easy to get. Sliced fish is sold in supermarkets or specialized fish stores. We can only buy them back home, unpack and eat. Even unskilled people can simply prepare good sashimi. But, if fish is to be cooked, its taste depends not only on the fish quality, but also cooking technique. Therefore, it is a pleasure to try good cooked fish in good restaurants. I believe that many Japanese, in particular the majority of older people prefer cooked fish. And among different cooking styles they prefer braised fish.

Today, I happened to meet a colleague of my office in the queue of Uoyu. She ordered a set menu with gindara (sablefish) and added a small side dish - thinly cut squid dressed with mentaiko (cod roe spiced with red pepper). My dish is with sawara (Spanish mackerel). In both cases fish is assorted with rice, miso-soup, pickles and a small side dish - today it is ohitashi (parboiled and pressed) of spinach.

Usually such an izakaya-like eatery is crowded only with men. But, the quality of Uoyu's fish dishes attracts also women, though mostly elderly women.

The eatery is crowded only for an hour or so. Then, everybody goes back to his or her office. In some restaurants, set menus are coupled with a cup of coffee or tea, so that their guests can finish the entire lunch with dessert and coffee within half an hour. You must remember that the Japanese people are accustomed to such speedy service of restaurants. They get nervous and irritated when they have to wait for meal or even service staff. It is out of question that we spend an hour or more for lunch.

Tasty food, low price and speedy service are the three conditions for good restaurants, especially for lunch in Japan.
Guests come alone or in a couple and they sit at a counter or share a table with other guests. If you go to Uoyu in a party of four or more, you should not expect that you can sit together.

Uoyu broadcasts classical string chamber music as background music. When I entered the restaurant today, it was the first movement of Haydn's Emperor Quartet.