Meet Paul, an American Working in Tokyo
Q. What do you do for work?
A. "I work for a marketing company based in West Shinjuku. I spend a lot of my time at work making articles and videos targeted at inbound tourists."
Q. What do you normally eat for lunch?
A. "There are a lot of office buildings in Shinjuku, which means there are so many restaurants with affordable lunch menus. I like to mix it up and try new restaurants as often as possible, but there are a few that I go to regularly."
Q. If you had to pick a favorite lunch spot, where would it be?
A. "There's a great little shop called Fukuro that has a dish called 'niku soba' that is super delicious."
Paul's Recommended Lunch Spot: Fukuro
Fukuro is a restaurant near Shinjuku's Chuo Park (next to the Metropolitan Government Building with the two tall towers) that serves a special dish called 'niku soba'(肉そば = meat soba in Japanese). Apparently it's basically like ramen, but with soba noodles instead of normal ramen noodles. Paul showed us which one to order from the ticket vending machine inside the door.
When it's hot, he recommends getting the chilled version of the dish, but during Tokyo's cold wintertime, hot is the way to go. The pink buttons on the machine show which dishes are hot. There's no English written on the button, but luckily there are pictures for those of us who don't read Japanese.
After handing the ticket to the server, we waited for just a couple minutes before the bowls were brought out to the table. The basic 'niku soba' is topped with a pile of green onions and four slices of roast chicken. The soup broth is also chicken-based, and has an amazing aroma that wafts up at you as you look at the bowl.
Paul gets right to work on the bowl, noisily slurping the noodles like a pro. The soba noodles at Fukuro are a bit thicker than standard soba noodles and have an almost smoky flavor and a wonderful chewiness to them. Typical ramen noodles are delicious, but far from healthy (they're made from white flour, so what do you expect?). Soba noodles, on the other hand, are filled with protein, minerals, and other nutrients, and actually have a similar nutritional profile to whole wheat spaghetti.
The clear soup looks quite light but is actually surprisingly rich thanks to the chicken fat, and the broth has a deep flavor that packs a punch. According to Paul, the cold version can also be ordered with sansho peppercorns, which add a citrusy accent and make your lips tingly. He recommends getting that dish on hot summer days.
If you're looking for a great lunch spot in Nishi Shinjuku, we can definitely recommend Fukuro after having tried it ourselves! There isn't any English on the outside of the shop or on the menu, but it shouldn't be too hard to find and it's easy enough to figure out what to order thanks to the pictures. Paul says that there's sometimes a line outside during peak lunchtime, but that it usually moves pretty quickly. Check it out next time you're in the area!