Although it's best known in its convenience-store and yatai manifestations, oden can be a cuisine of great subtlety and refinement, and Konbuya in Nishi-Azabu is an excellent place to investigate the mysteries of upscale oden preparation. The oden here is inspired, with over three dozen individual items to choose from, nearly all in the Y300-500 price range. And the sake list is a nice mix of familiar favorites and more unusual labels to explore.
Good oden starts with good broth, and the strongly konbu-flavored broth here is made with chicken and konbu from Hokkaido suppliers. Even the simplest items show a careful touch - the hanpen is fluffy and light but firm and never bland; the daikon is succulent and intensely flavorful; the various fish balls are all distinct and nicely textured. The half of the menu devoted to seasonal non-oden dishes is worth studying as well - original creations like a mizuna salad with crunchy toasted buckwheat seeds and bits of ham (Y1000); plump marinated chicken and very fresh eggplant in a slightly smoky, gingery ankake sauce (Y1000); sansho-peppery lotus root and yama-udo (Y550); turnip salad with smoked salmon (Y1000).
The restaurant itself is sleek and modern, with the wood-glass-and-stone interior organized around a large open kitchen and central counter area. There are comfortable tatami areas along the outer walls and more private tables in the back, where you're provided with buzzers to summon the waitress; each area evokes its own distinct atmosphere. The staff are helpful and very knowledgeable about the sake and food, ready to give advice if you ask. For those who must, there's a small selection of wines, with bottles arbitrarily priced at four, six, eight and ten thousand yen. But sake is much more suited to the food; the sake list offers 17 different types, most at Y800-1100 per cup, and there's even a selection of five different shochu.
No English menu or English-speaking service; average budget Y5000-6000 with drinks; reservations recommended.
This book will introduce you to more than twenty of Japan's favorite specialty foods that are less well known abroad, along with a guide to the best places in Tokyo to try them and expert tips on what to order. From Bento.com.