‘Hisamaru’ is the first name of the owner, a former professional wrestler who has swapped the ring and ropes for the kitchen stove and chef’s hachimaki (headband). He now runs two restaurants side by side in the well-to-do neighbourhood of Nakano-Sakaue (Rikyu being the other), but this eponymous eatery is the one that attracts regulars. With only ten or so seats at the kitchen counter, it feels very convivial and cosy, with Hisamaru and his cheerful waitress chatting away to customers. At lunchtime the kitchen serves udon dishes, but in the evening the menu switches to oden. These slow-simmered dishes are served as winter specialities in izakaya and yakitori joints, but at a dedicated oden-ya like this, you'll get it all year round. The staff speak no English and the menu is in Japanese, so you may need to resort to pointing unless your culinary Japanese is good. Ingredients – boiled for many hours in a kombu seaweed stock to ramp up the umami hit – are likely to include different colours of rubbery konnyaku, lotus root, fried tofu and – a Hisamaru speciality – a type of fried dumpling with sweet onions in it. The flavours are clear and clean, quality high. The sashimi is also well above average, the mackerel, buri (mature yellowtail) and hokki-tai (chewy surf clam) notably good on our visit. Other dishes might include shirako (soft roe, the sperm sacks of male fish), or boiled ginkgo nuts. A list of decent sakes helps the evening glide along smoothly. Make sure you visit the smallest room before leaving, to admire Hisamaru’s collection of magazine cuttings and photos from his wrestling career.
Across City Bldg. 103, 1-38-1 Chuo, Nakano-ku
|Opening hours:||Lunch 11.30pm-2pm, dinner 6pm-11pm / Closed Sun & hols|
|Transport:||Nakano-Sakaue Station (Marunouchi, Oedo lines)|
|Price:||Meal for two with sake: around ¥10,000|