An affordable luxury that’s a great way to start your day of Tokyo travel.

With the first part of its name sounding so much like “dorm,” you might not expect much in the way of amenities when staying at Japan’s Dormy Inn chain of hotels. But the dormitory-sounding name belies the fact that Dormy Inn is widely considered one of the nicest chains to stay at within Japan’s budget-conscious “business hotel” class, and part of the reason why is their outstanding food.

Dormy Inn’s breakfasts, in particular, are much-loved among travelers. They’re all-you-can-eat buffets with roughly 50 different dishes you can mix and match to your liking, and individual hotels also often have special items representing their region, making use of local ingredients or culinary traditions.

So while we’re not averse to grabbing a quick onigiri at the convenience store for breakfast when travelling, when we recently spent the night at Dormy Inn’s Korakuen location in downtown Tokyo, we made sure to hit the breakfast buffet the next morning.

Dormy Inn Korakuen, by the way, is within manageable walking distance of Kasuga, Korakuen, and Suidobashi Stations, serviced by JR train and Mita, Oedo, Marunouchi, and Namboku subway lines. It’s also conveniently close to Tokyo Dome, making it a great accommodation option if you’re attending an event that ends late at night or starts early in the morning at the venue.

But again, what we’re here for is the breakfast, which is served inside the restaurant named Hatago, located on basement level 1 of the hotel. Breakfast is available from 6:30 to 9:30, but you have to get there by 9. That’s a little on the early side for night owls like us, but as soon as we got to the buffet, we saw that it had been worth it to drag ourselves out of bed.

As the staff brought out food from the open kitchen, our eyes were drawn to Dormy Inn Korakuen’s current special menu item: kuwayaki, a teriyaki chicken dish popularized by farmers. The dish gets its name from kuwa the Japanese word for “hoe” and yaki, meaning “grill,” because it was originally a dish that farmers would prepare out in the field by using the metal part of their hoes as a flat grill to cook the chicken.

In addition to sliced chicken, the kuwayaki has tsukune, minced chicken meatballs, negi (green onion), and shishito (a kind of green pepper). The mix of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors was absolutely delicious, so you bet we went back for a second helping.

We resisted the urge to eat a third portion of kuwayaki, though, so that we’d have room for the other great stuff on offer, like unagimeshi.

Unagi is freshwater eel, and meshi, by itself, means rice. In this context, though, meshi refers to the style of cooking rice along with other ingredients in the same pot at the same time with a broth, so that the flavors of the unagi soak into the grains of rice.

Unagi is ordinarily an expensive delicacy, and folk wisdom also says that it’s supposed to help your body stave off the strength-sapping effect of Japan’s steamy summer weather. Eating it first thing in the morning felt like a special kind of luxury.

Next, we dished up some mapo tofu from a large pot.

Mapo tofu is a spicy tofu dish enhanced with ground meat. According to the staff, the Dormy Inn Korakuen serves mapo tofu because the hotel’s sauna is popular with guests, and they claim that after a long sweat your sense of taste is heightened enough to unlock the full flavor of the dish. We’re not sure how accurate their science is, but the mapo tofu did taste great.

There were also all sorts of other small plates, featuring both Japanese and Western-style recipes, to pick from.

▼ This section of the buffet line, called Kobachi Yokocho (“Small Bowl Alley”), had dishes including cucumber radish, and ginger salad, fishcake, and seaweed…

▼ …while over here there were fried chicken, fried shrimp, and French fries.

For those craving even more veggies, there’s a make-it-yourself salad bar…

…and we felt extra-healthy when we found slices of eggplant, which is in season right now, in our miso soup.

So healthy that we didn’t feel guilty about finishing our meal with a couple of small cakes from the dessert and fruit section.

At 1,800 yen (US$13) the Dormy Inn Korakuen breakfast buffet is a little on the pricy side for a business hotel breakfast. But hey, they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so doesn’t that also mean it’s the best one to splurge on? Plus since it’s all you can eat, and all tastes so good, you just might end up stuffing yourself full enough that you don’t need anything more than a very light lunch later that day.

Hotel information
Dormy Inn Korakuen / ドーミーイン後楽園
Address: Tokyo-to, Bunkyo-ku, Hongo 4-23-14

Photos © SoraNews24
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