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Given Tokyo’s reputation as one of the most expensive cities on the planet, you might think that dining out in Japan’s capital requires either a large fistful of yen or the fortitude to put up with a growling stomach after an undersized meal that leaves you only half-full. That’s not always the case, though, and it’s not like budget dining restricts your options to Yoshinoya or 7-Eleven, either.

We recently found a restaurant right in the heart of Tokyo that has filling, delicious lunches that are so cheap, we sort of felt guilty eating there.

Once upon a time, many restaurants in Japan that were open for dinner didn’t serve lunch, which meant you’d sometimes find yourself surrounded by restaurants in the afternoon but with precious few that you could actually eat at. But as the Bubble Economy waned, it started taking more effort to make ends meet, and many of these dinner-only establishments realized it made more economic sense to start serving a limited lunch menu, too.

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That seems to be the story behind Kabuki Honten, in Tokyo’s Kanda neighborhood. Glancing up at the wall, we saw over 30 different dishes on offer that feature sardines, the restaurant’s specialty.

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There’s not quite so much to choose from in the afternoon, but there are about a half-dozen set lunches offered daily. When we stopped by, the options included grilled bonito, fried sardines, and pork cutlet.

All of the set lunches are an extremely reasonable 500 yen (US$4). We decided to go with the extra-large chicken cutlet, so we were a little surprised when we placed our order and the waitress turned towards the cook and called out “Tomato!” which produced another hearty “Tomato!” in reply.

The mystery was solved once our food arrived, though, and we saw that the chicken cutlet comes topped with tomato sauce.

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We also saw that the cutlet is huge. We’d have been pleasantly surprised with something quite a bit smaller than this, but don’t think this is a case of Kabuki Honten going with quantity over quality. We took a bite, and not only was the chicken itself delicious, the tomato sauce had just the right amount of tanginess to compliment it perfectly.

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In addition to the generously large cutlet, our set also came with rice, miso soup, and pickles, making it not just a bargain but a complete, balanced meal. As a matter of fact, we found ourselves getting a little misty-eyed, thinking of how hard Kabuki Honten’s staff is working to deliver such a tasty lunch at such a low price. Thankfully, everything tasted so good that we’d cleaned our plates before our salty tears affected the flavor.

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Restaurant information
Kabuki Honten / かぶき本店
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Uchikanda 3-5-5, Daido Building 1st floor
東京都千代田区内神田3-5-5 大同ビル 1F
Open weekdays 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5 p.m.-midnight, Saturdays 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Closed Sundays/holidays

Photos: ©RocketNews24