A Japanese restaurant with a whole lot of food…and a whole lot of heart.

The other day, our reporter Yuuichiro Wasai was feeling peckish on the streets of Ikebukuro in Tokyo when he passed by something that caught his eye — a restaurant with photos of delicious-looking food out the front.

What made this sight particularly unusual was the fact that these weren’t professional photos, instead they looked to be taken by the restaurant owner, with shadows and simple compositions that let the food speak for itself, without any fancy filters or editing.

▼ Some of the photos even had the side dishes out of frame and the edges of the main meals cropped off.

Rather than dissuade Yuuichiro, the amateur look of the photos had such an appeal that they struck a chord with him, and he found himself immediately stepping closer to find out more.

Any restaurant owner who goes to the trouble of photographing the meals themselves must surely have a passion for what they do, and that’s a type of person Yuuichiro is more than happy to give his money to. His warmth towards the place grew even more when he spied a sign next to the photos that read: “毎日手作り” (Mainichi Tedzukuri”), which means “handmade every day”.

Looking at the photos, Yuuichiro could really sense the handmade feel of the place, and as he browsed the display, he figured that if they were able to save money by taking the images themselves, instead of hiring a professional photographer, those cost savings would allow them to spend more money on ingredients, meaning the food would likely be delicious.

Plus, the place was called “Restaurant Satsuki”, which made it feel like the person making or serving the food was a motherly type of figure.

There were so many meals to choose from that Yuuichiro was unable to list them all, but a few that stood out to him were the Chicken Cutlet Set Meal (950 yen [US$6.05]), the Pork Cutlet Set Meal (1,050 yen)”, the Salted Grilled Pacific Saury Set Meal (1,200 yen), and the Tomato Cheese Hamburger Steak Set Meal (1,250 yen).

That was a wide variety of dishes in itself, and after a long while of choosing, Yuuichiro settled on the Jumbo Fatty Horse Mackerel and Big Fried White Fish Set Meal, for 1,100 yen.

▼ Ordering is made easy, as you simply have to press the button that corresponds with the number next to the photo of the dish you want to eat.

After paying for his selection at the machine and receiving his meal ticket, Yuuichiro walked through the front door of the restaurant, where a female staff member immediately called out to him, saying, “Table for one? Please come this way!” Her voice was so bright and joyous that it instantly lifted his spirits, and he felt as if he was about to eat a meal at a friendly relative’s house instead of a restaurant.

Handing her his meal ticket, Yuuichiro took his seat at the table he was shown to, where he looked around and saw that the place had a homely feel, with a vibe that was somewhere in between a set meal restaurant and an izakaya tavern. The wait to receive his food wasn’t short but it wasn’t long either, which is what you’d expect for a place that serves up handmade meals.

▼ When he received his order, it had everything you’d want in a set meal — main dish, soup, and rice, but this one even had a couple of side dishes as well.

The main dish was much larger than he though it’d be, and what’s more…

▼ …the fish was thick!

The rice was another nice surprise, because though he hadn’t requested a large serving of rice, it looked like he’d been given one — it was as if the server had read his mind!

Everything was delicious, and the side dishes really added some extra weight to the meal.

As he was finishing off his plump and juicy fried mackerel, the waitress, who appeared to be the proprietor of the store, stopped by his table to remark on the fish, saying:

“Isn’t it tasty? Even someone with a small appetite will want to eat two of those!”

Yuuichiro, who could’ve eaten three of them, heartily agreed, saying: “Absolutely! The taste is really satisfying.”

The lady seemed like a friendly and talkative type of person, so Yuuichiro took this opportunity to ask her what the story was behind the photos at the front of the store.

She replied with a smile, saying:

“I took those photos! I snapped them before serving the meal to the customer. I can’t ask a photographer to do it because it’s too expensive.”

Yuuichiro told her that the photos are what drew him to step inside the store, and she humbly played down the appeal, telling him that they’re just a typical set meal restaurant, like any other.

Upon hearing this, Yuuichiro, who’s eaten at many set meal restaurants in his time, earnestly told her that this wasn’t true. However, she continued to remain humble, lamenting over how prices had recently gone up, making things harder for restauranteurs like her in Tokyo. Then she went on to say something that broke Yuuichiro’s heart.

“Young people these days prefer ramen. They prefer ramen to set meals.”

Yuuichiro understood what she was saying, as he knows many people himself who would choose ramen over a set meal. Noodles are quick to slurp up and have a cool type of appeal, whereas set meals might feel a bit staid, like something you’d eat if you were a working parent eating out with your family and wanting a cheap yet well-balanced meal.

The photos outside Restaurant Satsuki, however, act as a reminder of how great set meals can be, and anyone on their way to eat ramen might find themselves stopping to reconsider their food choices. Yuuichiro told the waitress he would spread the word about Restaurant Satsuki, and she seemed delighted, but equally humble, saying, “That would be wonderful, but we know people have different tastes. We’re happy to serve everyone!”

Yuuichiro thanked her for her kindness and as he took his leave, he found himself leaving with a full belly and a full heart. The warmth of the restaurant, its staff, and the amateur food photography made this a meal to remember, and he looks forward to visiting again soon.

Restaurant information
Restaurant Satsuki / お食事処さつき
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Higashiikebukuro 1-26-4, Sunflower Building 2F
Open 11:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays

Images © SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]