Tokyo is one of the gastronomic capitals of the world. Boasting more Michelin stars than any other city (including Paris – zut alors!), Tokyo continues to amply tickle the tastebuds of both local and visiting gourmets. But it’s not just domestic cuisine that delights foodies. Tokyo also boasts some of the finest overseas dining, with all tastes catered for, from French haute cuisine, to rustic Italian, tantalizing Indian, to authentic kebabs – perfect after a heavy night out.
But one nation that was notably under-represented was good old Blighty. While “English pubs” can be found in many parts of Tokyo's 23 wards, the good old staple of British food, the one true dish that we all crave, was visibly and tragically missing. We’re talking of course, of the reliable chippie. But that all changed last July when, finally, an authentic fish ‘n’ chip shop opened in the heart of Roppongi, bringing with it a little slice of home to Tokyo’s No.1 party district.
Malins opened its doors last year and has quickly established a reputation as the place to go for real fish and chips. No more of the re-heated, greasy fish, and the microwaved, lifeless chips, served inexplicably with soy sauce. Malins brought freshly fried fish and chips to Tokyo, with an authenticity and attention to detail that true Brits will genuinely appreciate.
Named after Joseph Malin, the proprietor of the first ever fish and chip shop in the UK (in London, around 1860), Malins strives for authenticity in everything it does. Part of the “secret sauce” to Malins’ success is Phillip, the head chef. Hailing from Scotland and arriving in Japan just last year to take the reins at Malins, Phillip has over 12 years’ experience running his own shop back home, and came to Tokyo to bring the real thing to Japan. A trip to Malins will find him, or one of his carefully trained crew, frying everything to order and delivering a taste that has been embraced not just by expats, but by locals too, many of which are experiencing the heady vapor of malt vinegar on fresh-out-of-the-fryer chips for the first time.
Malins is open from 11am to 4am daily, so visitors can stop in for lunch or dinner (or even a very late night, post-Roppongi session). While there are a few seats to eat-in, it stays true to its roots by being primarily a take-away (although it makes a concession to Japan by also offering a delivery service). The counters are stocked with what you’d expect to find in a real chippie –salt, malt vinegar, ketchup, and also chip forks for the more refined chip eater. You can even sit and listen the British radio and forget, briefly, that you’re in the heart of Tokyo.
A subtle difference, perhaps (depending on your experience of your local chippie) is the friendly and efficient staff. Always happy to explain the menu and the concept to the uninitiated, they also keep the place clean and tidy. The shop is adorned with pictures and memorabilia from home, including a letter from Buckingham Palace wishing the restaurant well. Behind the glass, you can also watch everything being cooked fresh, something that you don’t always see in UK shops. No picking up a large cod that’s been sitting under a hot lamp for hours here.
The signature dish is, of course, cod and chips. The cod is sourced directly from a supplier in Japan, and they use only the highest quality spuds from Hokkaido. Mushy peas are also on offer, as well as the perennial fall back for those who prefer something a bit meatier, the battered sausage. Fishcakes and pies are also available, with the beef and ale pie being a particular favorite.
To further add to the authenticity, Malins boasts a Quality Certificate from the UK’s fish and chips trade body, the National Federation of Fish Friers. The President, Gregg Howard, actually came over from the UK last year for the opening ceremony, such was his surprise and delight that quality fish and chips was being made available outside the UK.
Prices are comparable to the UK, with a regular cod, chips, and mushy peas setting you back ¥1300, and ¥200 more for a large portion. However, the sizes are decent UK sizes, so for all but the truly ravenous, the regular set will usually suffice.
If you’re after a true taste of home, and need some real British comfort food, make your way to Malins. Then sit back, and feel proud that much-aligned British food finally has a worthy champion in the heart of Tokyo.