Our Japanese-language reporter follows a hot tip to a mouth-searing offer he can’t refuse.

If you’re familiar with the deep lore of Doraemon, you’ll recognize Dorami as the titular cat’s little sister (and before asking how a robot cat can have siblings – she’s made from the same oil can, okay?). But for those in Akihabara, Dorami has a second definition: “local restaurant that will plate up as much delicious, spicy tofu as you can bear to gulp down”.

Thing is, this second Dorami isn’t an especially well-known chain or famed gourmet hangout spot, so we’re lucky that our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa is well-connected enough to have heard of it. Seiji first heard of Dorami from his Akihabara informant, Jeff Akitatsu (not his real name, no relation to Seiji’s amp of the same name) who has been working in the Akihabara area for over 20 years.

“That place has amazing value for money,” he told Seiji, who practically ran to Dorami mid-sentence. He can never pass up a good bargain, especially when food is involved.

Dorami keeps lunch hours from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then re-opens in the evening as a combination diner and izakaya. Roomy and spacious, it’s a great spot to unwind; and Seiji was delighted at the ease with which he grabbed a seat for lunch, which is no mean feat in one of the busiest sections of Tokyo.

▼ But enough talk! There are menus to peruse!

Seiji’s eyes dashed straight past the informative guide on how to correctly season and consume xiao long bao dumplings. No, his attention was arrested at once by the lunch menu’s main, and indeed only, dish.

▼ The 600 yen (US$5.52) “Dorami Set Meal”!

Seiji admits he isn’t the most decisive eater, so the limited menu was a point in the restaurant’s favor. And what a dish to offer up! The set meal comprises of mapo tofu, a delicious mix of tofu and black beans in a spicy sauce; a bowl of rice, two xiao long bao dumplings (so that’s what the guide was for!) and a bowl of soup. Crucially, the mapo tofu and rice can be refilled at your leisure at no added cost.

No stranger to spice, Seiji was ready. And that was a good thing, because his set meal arrived almost immediately after he placed his order.

The refills for rice and mapo tofu are available at their own designated refill table, where two towering steel pots keep their delicious bounties toasty hot.

Seiji was especially pleased with the dumplings and soup that accompanied the staples, elevating it from a mere cheap lunch to a gastronomic bargain. He turned his gaze to those plump little xiao long bao and licked his lips.

Lest we forget, Dorami’s menu comes with a guide for eating these dumplings, and it recommends splitting the dumpling with your chopsticks. This lets the gravy inside it escape, so that boiling hot liquid doesn’t jettison down the back of your throat and scald your esophagus. Opening the dumpling also treats you to the extremely salacious sight of a disrobed meatball, so sensitive viewers may want to rush past this tantalizing GIF:

▼ Ooh.

Goodness! The gravy gushed out, just as promised, and left a glistening pearl of meat amidst a nest of folded dough. The perfect start to any meal!

Now for the main event. Seiji stared at the bountiful plate of spiced bean curd before him…

▼ Reminder, refills are free!

No matter how delicious the mapo tofu may be, it needs a bed of sturdy white rice to temper its heat. What a treat, then, that the free-flowing rice offered at Dorami is high-quality and delicious enough that you’ll want to come back for dish after dish!

▼ Just because this rice is plentiful doesn’t mean it’s not perfect.

The two marry perfectly in the bowl, blending the heady spice with a healthy serving of Japan’s favorite carbohydrate. One thing’s for sure at Dorami – its customers won’t be going home hungry.

▼ Seiji’s first bowl of mapo tofu and rice.

▼ Seiji’s second bowl of mapo tofu and rice.

▼ (Presumably) Seiji’s final bowl of mapo tofu and rice.

There are all kinds of incredible bargains waiting to be discovered on the wild streets of Akihabara – and throughout the rest of Japan, for that matter. Let’s not forget the tantalizing tantanmen ramen we encountered just last year!

Restaurant information
Dorami / ドラミ
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda, Izumi-cho, 1-1-8 Kobayashi Building 1st Floor
東京都千代田区神田和泉町1−1−8 小林ビル 1F
Open: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Lunch Hours)
Closed: Sundays, Holidays

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