It was during the New Year holiday, almost every restaurant was closed and the two choice diners we had earmarked in our tourist book seemed not to exist anymore. Hungry and lacking in choice, we stumbled around the streets of Nara trying to find somewhere for lunch – by this point, any old thing would have done. So you can imagine our delight (after having resigned ourselves to a rudimentary meal) when we discovered a charming little Japanese restaurant with lunch sets in abundance. So if you too arrive in Nara on the midday train, make a beeline for Igokochiya for a real taste of Japan.
The English version of the menu lists 7 set options for set lunches, ranging in price from 1,580 yen (plus tax) to 2,890 yen (plus tax). It may seem a little pricey, but for the amount of food you get and also the quality of it, it’s really not that expensive, particularly if you get one of the better value deals.
Nigiri Sushi Set – there are two types of nigiri sushi sets. One comes with just one type of fish (mackerel?) on the sushi, and the other set had 8 different pieces of sushi, including salmon, tuna, and prawn. The fish is served in generous choice cuts and tastes deliciously fresh.
Assorted Nigiri Sushi – if you don’t fancy all the other bits and pieces that come with the set and just want plain sushi, this is the plate for you.
Fried Food Platter – for a less healthy option, this dish is loaded with delicious fried delicacies. If you’re a fan of Japanese karaage (fried chicken), this will be your top choice!
Tempura Platter – another hot option, the tempura platter offers a basket of fish and vegetables fried in a light, crispy tempura batter.
Sirloin Steak – this meaty option has great hunks of beef as its central piece, expertly cooked and well garnished.
Assorted Sashimi – for the purist, this is it. A plate of delicious, unadulterated raw sashimi – generous wedges of ice-cold fish will be sure to sate your appetite.
All of the sets come with a variety of side-dishes which transform this simple luncheon into a feast of flavours. Side-dishes include a crisp green salad with citrus dressing and slithers of salmon, marinated pieces of fish and greens in a crunchy fish-egg dressing, a generous bowl of udon noodles in hot broth, chawanmushi (savory egg custard) and a plate of seasonal fruits for pudding.
Nara is a lovely little city with plenty of fine diners, but on my next visit, I’ll certainly be returning to this restaurant prior to trying anything new. The lunch set was filling and delicious, and if you can read Japanese then there are plenty of other options on the menu too.