Oden tastes best when simmered in flavorful history.
The world reeled in shock when Kim Jong-nam, eldest son of the deceased leader of North Korea, was murdered in Malaysia on February 13, 2017. Even in Japan, many people mourned the loss of a man who, unlike some of his kin, had a surprisingly gentle and friendly personality.
Not only did Kim Jong-nam harbor a fondness for Tokyo Disneyland, he also loved Japan, and was seen frequenting an oden shop called Otako, located in Tokyo’s Shinbashi district.
Takashi Harada, our Japanese-language reporter, would not have known all of this had he not picked up a copy of the book My father, Kim Jong-il, and I which was published by journalist Yoji Gomi in 2012.
▼ The book covers extensive interviews with Kim Jong-nam, and in it,
the name “Otako” stood out among the list of his favorite stores.
One would think a man of Kim Jong-nam’s status would prefer high-end shops in Shinjuku or Akasaka, but on the contrary it seemed that he favored the salaryman’s district Shinbashi instead. Our reporter decided to go check it out.
What surprised Takashi was the fact that long-standing Otako was first established back in 1932. The store moved just two streets down to Shinbashi Sanchome in August 2008, and for an oden store to last more than 80 years in the heart of Tokyo, its food must have been extraordinary.
Since Takashi’s quest for food took place on a Saturday, the streets were pleasantly quiet from the lack of salarymen bustling about. A few minutes’ walk from the JR Shinbashi station landed him right in front of an inconspicuous entrance. He carefully descended the flight of stairs, and the doors of Otako appeared before him.
▼ The road to paradise can seem daunting at times.
A nostalgic atmosphere greeted our reporter as he entered the store. Apparently, the counter looked exactly the same before its relocation, allowing Otako to preserve much of its history in both appearance and quality. The store resembled a high-end restaurant from the exterior, but Takashi noted that its relaxed atmosphere would certainly help customers unwind after a hard day at work.
The menu was filled with an assortment of fare besides oden, such as sashimi, grilled, and deep-fried dishes. Takashi opted for a 12-piece oden combination platter (2920 yen, US$26), as well as the recommended chicken dumplings, wakame seaweed, and beans. The recommendations varied according to season, which our reporter noted was a nice touch.
▼ That’s some luxurious oden.
The oden turned out to be pretty dark in color, which was clearly a result of careful simmering in extremely yummy liquids.
As expected, all that incredibly rich and flavorful dashi broth had seeped into the oden ingredients, with each bite followed by tasty, mini Kanto-style soy explosions in Takashi’s mouth. This would certainly pair perfectly with an ice-cold beer or some sake.
▼ You can see all the deliciousness packed right in there.
The top-quality oden ingredients like daikon, egg, tofu, potato, fried tofu and ganmo (deep-fried tofu with vegetables) tasted truly exquisite. Our reporter was convinced that this was indeed the famous store that Kim Jong-nam fell in love with, and recommended that anyone with a soft spot for delicious oden to pay a visit to Otako.
Shinbashi Otako / 新橋 お多幸
Address: Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Shinbashi, 3-7-9, Kawabe Building, B1
Open: 3 p.m.-11 p.m. (Weekdays) 3 p.m.-11:30 p.m. (Saturday)
Closed: Sundays and public holidays (Open 7 days a week from October to March)
[ Read in Japanese ]