I recently had the pleasure of being invited to eat the food of some really talented people four degrees of separation from me. The food was free and I was able to say whatever mean things may have crossed my mind, so there’s your full disclosure. However, their concept is one that I dig on a deeper level than just good food. It’s also one that I think tourists and residents alike could really enjoy to the fullest and get an experience they’d have to dedicate a lot more time and travel to.
I’ve probably mentioned before that regional food is a huge thing in Japan. Regional differences can get a bit ridiculous sometimes when a small town claims it’s well known for good English more than the large city full of English speakers and international schools right next to it, but food is just one of those things where it’s usually true. It’s also a very nice complement to America’s realization that a horrible food industry has all but erased the idea of regional food and seasonal food from the country. The future hostel bar owners that I met have a strong vision of bringing local food from incredibly far away (for Japan’s standard) right into Tokyo. It’s a food tourist’s wet dream.
Obi promises to be a hostel bar near asakusabashi with some highly above average fare. In all of my experiences at less expensive accommodations, all of the great food I’ve been served up has stayed clear in my mind even to this day; some of these meals have even been among the best that I’ve had in Japan. This has almost always been the local food of wherever I was staying, but Tokyo has probably the least distinct local flavor in the whole country. Instead those behind Obi are offering up cheap traditional dishes from their hometowns, Fukui and Kochi. Most people who live and/or travel Japan will never end up in either prefecture. I myself have only been to the border of Fukui. Yet the food from each is unlike anything else you can easily find in the rest of Japan.
After spending about three hours trying to write and talk about everything I thought about each dish I’d rather not go too in depth. More importantly, most of these dishes are subject to change so my opinion on whether the tofu had too much sauce is kinda useless at this point. One thing I can stand by is that the chefs are indeed masterful, the best dishes had a great deal of balance with conflicting flavors, which is actually quite rare in some more traditional Japanese food. It made me enjoy things I didn’t think I would from the name or description. A lot of Yuzu, Katsuo, and Miso was used and that will be unlikely to change because they are staples of the regions in question. In general, if you’re looking to have Katsuo, you should at least be having it Kochi-style.
Only time will tell how well this concept will work out in the end, but things seem quite promising right now. As it stands, going to Fukui alone will cost around $150 one way and probably require an overnight stay, and Kochi is even further and harder to get to. Considering most people don’t have the time or money to hit up all of these places, the ability to get their food without setting your wallet on fire is pretty amazing. The only real question is, do you want to know Japanese food really tastes like?