Rub shoulders with government officials at this cheap eatery that feeds the ministry.

We’ve been eating off the beaten path recently, enjoying a taste of staff food at cafeterias that serve employees but are also open to the public.

These hidden gems are usually only known by people who work and eat there, but we’ve been sharing our secret finds with you and now we have another great discovery, over at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Tokyo.

As the administrative agency that oversees everything food-related in Japan, we had high hopes that this staff cafeteria would be one of our best finds yet, so we sent our reporter Mr Sato over to the ministry in Kasumigaseki to check it out.

Restraining the urge to scream “Give me all your delicious food!” as he walked through the entrance to the building, Mr Sato put on his best manners, quietly telling the security guard “Shokudo ni ikitain desu kedo” (“I’d like to go to the cafeteria“).

The guard told him to head over to the reception desk, where Mr Sato filled out a form with his name and contact information and showed staff his license as a form of photo I.D.

He was then handed a pass (pictured below), which reads: “Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Temporary Pass (Cafeteria)“, with instructions in small print to only use the staff cafeteria and return the pass in the returns box in the foyer when leaving.

The cafeteria, named “Afu Shokudo” is located on the first basement floor of the building, so Mr Sato headed downstairs, where he was greeted by this humble entrance.

▼ Looking at the signboard, Mr Sato could hear his stomach begin to rumble at all the fantastic meal options.

According to the restaurant’s official website, the meals here use domestically sourced ingredients as much as possible, with a focus on produce from Fukushima Prefecture. Two kinds of daily set meals are offered throughout the working week, from Monday to Friday, and the menu includes noodles, rice bowls, curries, and specials that change weekly.

▼ The rice currently used in the meals has been freshly harvested from Fukushima Prefecture.

As always with staff cafeterias, it’s best to visit outside of peak lunchtime hours to avoid long queues of employees, so Mr Sato suggests stopping by either before 12 p.m. or after 1 p.m. Mr Sato visited before midday and didn’t have to wait to be served the Special Afu Set Meal that he selected and paid for at the vending machine.

▼ Once you choose and pay for your meal at the machine, you’ll receive this meal ticket, which you’ll need to hand to staff at the kitchen counter.

Mr Sato’s Special Afu Set Meal was priced at 1,200 yen and limited to only 30 servings per day. When he visited, the set meal was the Fukushima Hayama Plateau Butadon, which comes with butadon (pork rice bowl), along with two small sides of your choice and soup.

Hayama Plateau Pork is a Fukushima brand of pork produced exclusively by designated farms within the prefecture. Raised with carefully selected, purely plant-based feed, which is said to suppress the odour of the meat, this is a premium brand that’s gaining a reputation for being particularly delicious.

When Mr Sato tried the meat, he was impressed by its soft texture, and amazed at the complete absence of any pork odour. Despite being odourless, it had a strong and delicious flavour, and was nicely complemented by the sweet soy-based sauce and mild seasoning.

The entire meal was well-balanced and left Mr Sato feeling recharged in a healthy way. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries certainly has a reputation to uphold as the protectors and promoters of local produce, and Mr Sato could feel that sense of pride and dedication in the carefully designed meals offered at the staff cafeteria.

After finishing his meal, Mr Sato stumbled across a store near the cafeteria, and he couldn’t resist buying a T-Shirt for 2,900 yen as a souvenir of his visit to the ministry.

▼ “No rice no life” was printed on the front of the T-Shirt, and on the back …

▼ …the kanji for “rice”!

It’s a fun and unusual shirt that’ll certainly turn heads on the street, but Mr Sato plans to wear it when he next visits the cafeteria to add an extra dash of fun to his meal. With lunch sets starting at just 650 yen, Mr Sato would eat here every day if he was in the neighbourhood, but for now he’ll have to make do with the school cafeteria for adults in Shinjuku.

Cafeteria Information

Afu Shokudo / あふ食堂
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kasumigaseki 1-2-1, Tokyo Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Main Building B1F
東京都千代田区霞が関1-2-1 農林水産省本館B1F
Hours: 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Closed: Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays
Website (Instagram)

Images © SoraNews24
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