Best place for street food in Japan? New eating alley in Shinjuku is an Asian foodie’s paradise
Take a look inside Ryu no Miyako Inshokugai, the newest restaurant complex you need to know about.
When some people think of Asia, they think of Asian food stalls, where people eat out on crates under ramshackle awnings on the street. Visitors to Japan might be disappointed to find that those types of eateries are few and far between here, but now there’s a place where you can enjoy the atmosphere of all sorts of Asian food stalls, in a new eating alley that just opened up in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.
Called Ryu no Miyako Inshokugai — Shinjuku Higashiguchi Yokocho, this new complex was created by Hamakura Shoten Seisakusho, who also gave us Shibuya Yokocho, a similar eatery in Shibuya’s Miyashita Park.
Ryu no Miyako Inshokugai translates to “Dragon Palace Food and Drink Quarter“, while the latter half of the name refers to its location — Shinjuku East Exit Alley.
As the name suggests, this new food and drink quarter is filled with places to eat and drink, and it’s located close to the east exit of Shinjuku Station. The four-storey complex consists of two basement levels, classified as the Shinjuku Higashiguchi Yokocho area, while the ground and first floor levels (known as first and second floors in Japan) are the Ryu no Miyako Inshokugai section.
There are a whopping 17 restaurants to choose from here, featuring food not just from Japan but from across Asia, with a few Western dishes thrown into the mix as well.
With seating for around 1,000 diners, this is a huge complex with a lot of options to choose from. Our reporter Mr Sato arrived to check it out before midday, when only the two 24-hour upper levels were open for business — the lower levels close from 8 a.m. to noon — and he found that the five restaurants on the ground and first floors specialised in Japanese, Korean, Italian, Chinese, and Thai food.
The restaurant that really caught Mr Sato’s eye was the very first one on the first signboard he saw, which was named “Nihon Zenkoku Tabe Kurabe“, which translates to “Eat and Compare All Around Japan“. So he stepped inside to look for it, and was welcomed to the area by an impressive dragon surrounded by red lanterns.
▼ Welcome to the dragon’s palace.
Taking a seat outside the restaurant, or “stall”, Mr Sato found he would be able to order from any of the five restaurants and take his meals back to his table, so he imagined he might order a set meal from this joint, while ordering side dishes from the other eateries.
However, the moment he turned the page on the menu, he totally lost the desire to eat anywhere else, as there was an enormous amount of regional Japanese specialties to choose from.
▼ And this was only the selection from Kyushu!
Flipping through the pages, Mr Sato travelled from the southern island of Kyushu right up to the northern island of Hokkaido, gobsmacked at all the specialties on offer.
▼ Eat and compare Yakitori from different Japanese regions! Eat and compare karaage from different Japanese regions!
▼ Eat and compare gyoza from different Japanese regions! Eat and compare yakisoba from different Japanese regions!
▼ Eat and compare rice bowls from different Japanese regions! Eat and compare ramen from different Japanese regions!
You’d usually have to travel far and wide to compare dishes like these, so Mr Sato was excited to see them all here under one roof. Naturally, he wanted to order everything on the menu, but instead he settled on one dish — hanton rice, a local specialty from Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture.
▼ Hanton Rice (1,099 yen [US$7.56]), Oolong tea (329 yen), and a side of fresh spring rolls (659 yen) from the Thai restaurant next door.
The fresh spring rolls were filled with prawns and a whole lot of lettuce, but they tasted fantastic all the same.
After polishing off his fresh spring rolls as a healthy starter, Mr Sato moved on to the hanton rice, a Japanese-style Western dish that’s similar to omurice, only it’s topped with with fried fish and tartar sauce.
This was Mr Sato’s first time trying hanton rice, and he was pleased to find that beneath the mountain of tartar sauce there was a fried mackerel and a fried prawn.
The fried mackerel was freshly fried and crispy, and it paired perfectly with the eggy tartar sauce. It tasted like a true B-class gourmet dish, the name given to no-fuss comfort food often sold at festival stalls, and the omelette-covered rice infused with tomato sauce beneath it all made for a very hearty meal.
In fact, it was so hearty that Mr Sato found he had no room left in his stomach for anything else after eating it. He then realised he’d have to visit more than once to truly eat and compare everything on the menu here, plus visit all the restaurants on the other levels, but he’s more than happy to take up the challenge.
Both the food and the atmosphere was fantastic, so Mr Sato highly recommends stopping by to check it out if you’re in the area. And if you’re over at Shibuya Yokocho at Miyashita Park, be sure to try the ramen themed after the famously loyal dog Hachiko.
Ryu no Miyako Inshokugai Shinjuku Higashiguchi Yokocho / 龍乃都飲食街～新宿東口横丁
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-36-12