Seiji expands his palate in Nakajuban.

There’s a ton of variety in the Tokyo restaurant scene. Aside from countless Japanese restaurants specializing in one particular dish or another, if you’re in downtown Tokyo odds are you’re not very far from an American-style burger joint plus French, Italian, Chinese, Indian, and Thai restaurants.

But as our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa was strolling through Tokyo’s Nakajuban neighborhood on a recent afternoon, he noticed a restaurant that serves something he’d never tried before: Palestinian food.

The restaurant, called Bisan, is a cozily dimensioned place that appears to have been converted from a bar, as the seating consists of a long counter and two benches. His interest piqued and his stomach growling, Seiji stepped inside, where he was greeted by the owner, Sudki Mansour.

Mansour informed Seiji that the restaurant is usually open for dinner only, with lunch offered on weekends only by reservation. But just as Seiji was about to say he’d come back another day, Mansour said that since they had an empty seat right then, sure, they can serve him too.

This being Seiji’s first time in a Palestinian restaurant, though, he didn’t know what he should order, so he had Mansour, who has specialized ingredients shipped to Japan from Palestine, help him navigate the menu. Seiji asked what the most commonly eaten Palestinian foods on the menu were, and Mansour pointed him to the lunchtime falafel and humus set. The 1,500-yen (US$10) set also comes with comes with salad, soup, and pita bread.

Like most Japanese people, Seiji has eaten a lot of edamame (soybean) and anko (sweet red beans) in his life. Chickpeas, though, he’s less familiar with, so he wasn’t sure how he’d like falafel, basically chickpea croquettes, and humus, chickpea dip.

But it turned out he liked them very much! Following Mansour’s recommendation, he put the falafel into the pita and ate it like a sandwich. Seiji was worried this might be to starchy, but compared to Japanese-style potato croquettes, the falafel had a lot more crunch to it, maxing for a nice mix of textures between it and the pita. The humus, meanwhile, was pleasantly creamy and tasty.

Wanting to sample a little more of the menu, Seiji added on an order of chicken sausage for 1,000 yen.

Sausages made with chicken aren’t something you see very often in Japan, but Seiji was impressed by these too. Their texture was tenderer than pork sausage, and Seiji even felt like he could taste egg mixed in, almost like he was eating an omelet in sausage form.

So Seiji’s first Palestinian restaurant experience was a great one, and between this and how much he liked cooking and eating Lebanese hushwee, maybe he’ll find even more Middle Eastern food he likes in the future.

Restaurant information
Bisan / ビサン
Address: Tokyo-to, Kita-ku, Nakajubam 2-21-1
Open 5 p.m.-1:30 a.m.
Lunch on Saturdays and Sundays (reservations required)
Closed Wednesdays

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