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Experience the comforting flavours of a school lunch, and enjoy all-you-can eat Japanese curry as well!
Japan is only second to France when it comes to the countries with the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. However, for locals like us, nothing beats the taste and value-for-money of a casual eatery, and it’s even better when it’s a great find that few people know about.
So when Mr Sato came across an unusual cafeteria in the heart of Shinjuku in Tokyo, he was in two minds about sharing it with the world. On one hand, he wanted to shout about how good it was from the rooftops, but on the other hand, he wanted to keep it a secret amongst those in the know.
In the end, though, Mr Sato knew this place was too good not to share with his fellow foodies, so he’s given us the lowdown on where it is and what’s on offer, and why it’s so special to eat there.
First, you’ll need to head on down to the S-tec Information Building, and head on up to the fourth floor, where you’ll find the eatery, called “Otona no Gakushoku Y’s Lunch“, with “Otona no Gakushoku” translating to “Adult’s School Cafeteria“.
Posters out the front of the cafeteria show a few of the set meals they have on offer, which change daily, just as they do at staff and school cafeterias where people eat on a daily basis. Y’s Cafeteria is operated by Nilux, a member of the Skylark Group, which also runs family restaurants like Gusto and Jonathon’s, so the meals you get here are similar to the meals at a family restaurant.
▼ Set meals are priced from 550 yen (US$3.70), which is cheaper than a family restaurant, and when Mr Sato visited on 13 October, the A set meal was Fried White Fish with Vegetable Sauce.
Looking closely at the sign, Mr Sato spotted the words “adult school cafeteria” at the top in small print. If Mr Sato was running the joint, he’d print these words in a much bigger, bolder font to draw everyone’s attention to it, as there aren’t many adult school cafeterias in Japan. In fact, come to think of it, Mr Sato couldn’t think of any other such cafeteria in the country.
The cafeteria itself is all self-service, so diners buy a meal ticket before receiving their food at the counter. Then you can go and fill up on rice and miso soup from the pots provided, serving yourself however much, or little, you like.
▼ The contents of the set meal are plain and simple, as you’d expect from a school cafeteria.
Don’t be fooled by the plain and simple look of the meal, though, as Mr Sato tells us the flavours were a cut above what you’d expect to find at a humble cafeteria like this.
▼ The fish was served with a fantastic tartar sauce containing chopped vegetables.
The fried fish wasn’t anything fancy, but it tasted like it was home-cooked, giving him a sense of nostalgia and comfort that warmed his heart as well as his belly.
It’s been 30 years since Mr Sato last ate a school cafeteria, but these places are usually only open to students and graduates. The food here flooded his mind with memories, making him think back on the fond times he had with fellow students over a simple meal like this.
Mr Sato doesn’t know of any other “school cafeteria” that’s open to the general public, so Y’s Cafeteria is a great find. And if you happen to be hungry afterwards, you can always stop by Agora next door, which offers all-you-can-eat curry from just 1,000 yen.
▼ 45 minutes for 1,000 yen and a full hour for 1,200 yen.
So next time you’re looking for a cheap lunch in Tokyo that’ll also introduce you to the homely comfort food flavours of Japan, head on over to the S-tec Information Building in Shinjuku. If you’re in Osaka, you’ll be able to eat at a similar cafeteria hidden deep inside Namba Station.
Y’s cafeteria / ワイズキャフェテリア エステック情報ビル店
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku0ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-24-1 S-tec Information Building 4F
Open 11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday), 11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. (Wednesday and Friday) Last orders 30 minutes before closing
Closed Saturdays and Sundays
School Cafeteria for adults is a great place to go for cheap Japanese food in Tokyo
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