We nearly gave up trying to find this restaurant. But boy are we glad we kept walking around in circles (damn you, Google Maps) until we spotted a signboard with the words 'Natural Food Studio', which turned out to belong to Tamana Shokudo. You would never guess from the unassuming exterior, but this is a beautiful, inviting space that gets packed at lunchtime yet still retains an intimate atmosphere. It really is like finding the treasure at the end of a long hunt.
The food, of course, is just as much a part of the reward. Their signature set lunch, Tamana Teishoku (¥1,890), includes about 40 different ingredients to maximise nutritional balance and incorporates traditional recipes. It’s one of those meals that forces you to slow down on chewing, so tantalising is every morsel. There are a few secrets to the flavours at play here, one being shoyu koji (soy sauce rice malt). This sweet and salty fermented (read: good for your gut) dressing takes two to three weeks to prepare and you can buy a tub to take home for ¥570. As part of this lunch set, it’s used as a topping for the fried tofu squares, but you can marinate chicken, meat or fish with it too. The lunch side dishes include brown rice served with black sesame and salt for sprinkling, five kinds of natto beans (served with soy sauce rice malt and four other kinds of beans), tempeh salad, pickled veg and miso soup.
Tamana Shokudo, which is 100 percent organic and vegetarian, also sells a great range of organic goods like olive oil and beans, hosts a vegetarian cooking school and informal one-day cooking courses (in Japanese). Note that their lunch menu is only in Japanese (there are pictures, though), while their dinner menu comes in English.