Kyushu specialty gets the senmonten treatment in Tokyo’s otaku district.

When looking for a restaurant in Japan, an important word to keep in mind is senmonten, or 専門店 if you’re looking for the kanji. Senmonten translates as “specialty shop,” and it’s a sign that the restaurant specializes in one particular dish or ingredient.

Senmonten aren’t necessarily expensive, but their culinary focus has earned them the reputation that their food is tastier than what you’ll find at restaurants that serve a variety of fare. So when our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun came across his first chance to eat at a chicken nanban senmonten in Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood called Himuka Shokudo, his lunch plans were set.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, chicken nanban is a dish that originated in Miyazaki Prefecture and consists of a fried chicken cutlet with a sweet and sour glaze and tartar sauce. Tartar sauce isn’t exactly a commo ingredient in Japanese cooking, but the word nanban originally referred to the Europeans who came to Japan as merchants and missionaries during Japan’s feudal period, and the dish’s invention is a result of the cultural and culinary exchanges that took place as a result, particularly on Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, of which Miyazaki is a part.

▼ The vertical sign above Himuka Shokudo’s entrance confidently just says “Miyazaki Chicken Nanban”

These days, chicken nanban has spread across Japan, and you can find it on the menu at a lot of Tokyo’s casual restaurants and pubs. But Himuka Shokudo, which opened this fall, makes chicken nanban the entire focus of their kitchen, with the restaurant’s Miyazaki-born owner putting his heart, soul, and a dozen years of experience as a cook into the food it serves.

P.K. opted for the Authentic Miyazaki Chicken Nanban Set Meal with Young Chicken Breast for 1,300 yen (US$9.35) and, big eater that he is, tacked on a piece of chicken thigh too for another 300 yen.

Starting with the breast, he was amazed by how tender and juicy it was. When it’s poorly prepared, chicken breast can get tough and dry, but this was perfect. It might be hard to see under all the tarter sauce in the photo, but the breading was generously soaked with sweet and sour sauce, with no unpleasantly harsh crispiness. But even with the double-dose of sauces, the protein-packed flavor of the chicken itself was still nicely noticeable.

It was all so good that even though P.K. has had chicken nanban several times before at other restaurants, he felt like he was just no truly eating it for the first time.

The thigh was excellent too, but if your stomach isn’t as big as P.K.’s and you’re only going to eat one, the breast is the way to go.

▼ And if you’re looking for even more flavor, you can add some yuzu kosho citrus chili paste (the green stuff in this photo).

Though it’s only been open for a few months, Himuka Shokudo has already built up a very positive reputation among local foodies, and there’s often a line stretching out the door at lunchtime. It’s worth the wait, though, if you’re looking for a place to recharge after a shopping/sightseeing expedition through Akihabara, or if you’re craving a taste of Kyushu while on the opposite side of Japan.

Restaurant information
Himuka Shokudo / ひむか食堂
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Soto Kanda 3-16-13
Open 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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