Of all the good food we had during our three-day Golden Week vacation in Tokyo, one particular dining experience stands out, not only because it was a type of cuisine not commonly found in Japan but also because of the way it was served and the unusual atmosphere of the restaurant. Later, months after we had been, I saw it reviewed on Japanese TV. There may be line ups at the door now, thanks to the media coverage, but when we visited, we only needed to wait about five minutes to be seated.
Let me tell you a little about how we found ourselves sitting on the floor, eating off the floor and wearing hats that were not our own. From Annex Katsutaro Ryokan in Taito, Yanaka (behind Ueno Park, close to Nippori Station), we strolled along a charming narrow avenue known as Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, in search of our dinner. We came upon Restaurant Zakuro at the end of this pedestrian avenue. Restaurant Zakuro serves Turkish, Persian and Usbek dishes.
Outside the restaurant is a boxes of oranges, an orange squeezing machine, and a colorful. hand-painted billboard depicting a portrait of the propreitor. Also crowding the entrance is a jumble of Middle Eastern goods: spices, teas, pickles, lanterns, belly dancing costumes and accessories, ceramic plates, imported ingredients, water tobacco, smoking apparatus, woven and patterned carpets, spreads, and cushion covers. There are no tables or chairs. Everybody sits on the floor, in close quarters, beside their jackets and bags, while waiters pussy foot around with large trays loaded with dishes. The proprietor is particularly boisterous. He loudly teases the diners, like nowhere else in Japan. He happily handed us Turkish hats to wear while dining.
Lunch is served 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., and dinner is served between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. Lunch is ¥1,000. The all-you-can eat dinner course costs ¥2,000 with many meat dishes such as kababs and lamb stew. Although it’s been a year now since we visited, I recall the lamb was succulent, the stew rich with flavor but not spicy, the tea was pleasant and the orange juice thick with pulp, large and sweet. A vegetarian course can be prepared if one calls in advance. For ¥1,000 more you can dine with unlimited alcoholic drinks (Turkish beer and wine available). Although I am not a smoker, I would have liked to have tried water tobacco - available for those who make a reservation for three or more diners.
At 8 p.m. daily (closed Wednesdays) one can see a belly dancing show in this small crowded restaurant. Restaurant Zakuro also hosts mosaik lamp making workshops. Check out their homepage!