Having a proper yum cha (dim sum brunch) in Tokyo without paying far more than necessary for the pleasure isn’t always that simple. Although Chinese restaurants offering the classic Cantonese spread are legion, many of these sit inside hotels or mega-malls and thus provide very little in terms of value. But there’s no need to travel all the way down to Yokohama Chinatown for a reasonably priced option: Ikebukuro’s Chakan satisfies most steamed dumpling cravings with aplomb.
Found just a few steps west of the station, in a quarter littered with pachinko parlours, ‘girls’ bars’ and dirty ramen joints, it doesn’t look like the most inviting place at first sight. When we visited, the somewhat worn second-floor hall was half-empty, with local geezers sipping on their oolong teas while staring intently at some afternoon variety show on the TV in the corner. But the friendly old lady behind the counter immediately showed us to a window-side table and all of our anxiety was blown away.
Our target was the weekday yum cha deal, which sounds almost too cheap to be true: ¥2,700 for two hours of all-you-can-eat action, with over 80 house-made dishes to pick from. Available for groups of two or more Monday to Thursday and four or more on weekends and holidays, it maintains a level of quality you’d usually expect at twice the price. We found the stir-fry dishes especially well executed, while the jellyfish salad, char siu bao (steamed pork buns), rabbit-shaped xiaolongbao and shrimp siu mai were equally excellent. Just avoid the sticky mayo shrimp.
Drinks aren’t included in the regular price, but it’s worth spending a little extra on a bottomless cup of fine Taiwanese tea. In addition to oolong – a regulars’ favourite, apparently – popular leaves include jasmine and chrysanthemum. If you’re in the mood for yum cha, Chakan is well worth making a trip across town for.
|Venue name:||China Chakan|
2F, 1-22-8 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku
|Opening hours:||11.30am-12midnight (last orders 11pm) daily|
|Transport:||Ikebukuro Station, west exit|