Matsuya serves up an incredible breakfast deal, and maybe even a lunch one if you’re eating it early.

Up until pretty recently, if you were wanted to grab a quick, affordable, relatively healthy breakfast in Japan, a couple of onigiri (rice balls) from the convenience store was probably your best bet. But with prices continuing to rise in Japan, convenience store onigiri are approaching 200 yen a piece, and if you need more than one to fill yourself up, we’ve stumbled across a much more satisfying, yet still super-cheap alternative breakfast at fast food chain Matsuya.

Matsuya is a gyudon/beef bowl chain, and sure enough, beef is part of its Morning Special Beef Plate Set (Tokuasa Gyusara Teishoku, if you’re asking for it in Japanese, or 得朝牛皿定食 if you’re looking for the button to push on an order touchscreen).

For restaurant diners looking for a good deal in Japan, the standard is usually a “one-coin” meal, something 500 yen or less (the 500-yen coin being Japan’s biggest). Matsuya’s Morning Special Beef Plate Set, which is offered between 5 and 11 a.m., does even better than that, though, coming in under the 400-yen line at just 380 yen (US$2.50) for all this.

So what do you get? The star of the show is a plate of simmered beef and onion, the same mixture that tops Matsuya’s gyudon. Sharing space with it on the tasteful and tasty plate is a cabbage salad.

Also part of the set is a bowl of miso soup, pickles, a pack of nori (dried seaweed)…

…and, last but not least, steamed white rice. How much rice? Well, that’s partly up to you. When ordering the Morning Special Beef Plate Set, you’re asked to select whether you want a small, regular, large, or extra-large portion of rice, and in a generous way to start the day, there’s no change in the breakfast set’s 380-yen price for the larger sizes.

▼ The buttons for regular (ライス並盛), large (ライス大盛), extra-large (ライス特盛), and small (ライス子盛) rice. We opted for the large on our visit.

Now, the rice and simmered beef/onions are served separately, but if you’re thinking having them both on the tray gives you the ingredients you need to make a beef bowl of your own, you’re absolutely right.

With the savory protein of the beef, the crispness of the salad, and, as an especially nice touch at a time of the year when the mornings are cold, the warmth of the miso soup, this was a delicious and filling meal, plus one with a pretty good nutritional balance too, and at a near-negligible price if you’re on vacation in Japan. It was incredibly speedy too. Matsuya knows what they’re doing whipping up beef, rice, and soup, and our breakfast was ready after hardly any wait at all.

Apparently Matsuya has been running location tests for the Morning Special Beef Plate Set since a few months ago. It was enough of a hit, though, that it’s now graduated to full-fledged regular menu item, and we’re glad it has since this is definitely a breakfast, and maybe even an early lunch, that we can see ourselves eating regularly.

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