The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


February 2014

A Quality, Tasty, Approachable Lunch?

By Terry White

Food1.02.14Business entertaining in Tokyo can, at times, be difficult. I have set myself the following challenge for this month’s column.

  • Scenario: visitors from head office or investment banks
  • Timing: lunch, weekdays
  • Location: Chuo/Minato area
  • Budget: around ¥5,000 per person
  • Initial reaction: the challenge immediately suggests we’re looking for “approachable” Japanese cuisine that scores highly on taste and presentation.

The food needs to be reliable in terms of quality, and score very low on the squeamish meter for any gastronomically challenged visitors.

Good value and visible service would be a plus.

Suggestion: Tokyo Shiba Tofuya-Ukai (near Tokyo Tower), 4-4-13 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011; phone: 03-3436-1028;

The Ukai group run a number of good restaurants—12 at last count—mainly in the Tokyo area.

All of them focus on Japanese cuisine, but the Shiba outlet specializes in tofu dishes balanced by old favorites such as sashimi and tempura. Rice and miso soup are a given.

The appeal of Ukai for the proposed business lunch is threefold:

  • The food is always approachable, but carries enough authenticity to satisfy the expat luncher and visiting foodie alike
  • The location is central (close to the ACCJ and TAC), yet comes with a remarkably peaceful and self-contained working Japanese garden that will amaze visitors (allow time for photos)
  • Private rooms are available with dedicated service, so you can be as animated or confidential as you wish

Food2.02.14I always have the Take Course (¥5,500) as it is enough to satisfy, yet has sufficient variety to delight all five (or six) senses.

As the challenge specifies lunch, I don’t imagine many will be interested in the restaurant’s extensive wine and sake list, but rest assured that it is ample enough to satisfy even the most demanding evening diner.

The land in and around Ukai used to be the property of Zojoji Temple (a Tokugawa family temple) during the Edo period (1603–1868). Lunching at Ukai makes it hard to believe you’re in downtown Tokyo; the background noise is a pleasant mix of running water and birdsong, and each room has a unique and fascinating view of the surrounding manicured Japanese gardens.

Ukai is built on the site of what used to be the Tokyo Tower Bowl and, I believe, is a wonderful improvement to the site.

Remember to book one day ahead as I’ve never seen Ukai take walk-ins. But for the business lunch with visitors from overseas, it’s worth taking a little trouble. Trust me, the return on investment will be great!

For more ACCJ member-recommended restaurants, please visit:


DividerTerry White is a long-term Tokyo resident with body-shape challenges brought on by his passion for food and wine. Feel free to suggest a challenge!