Tofuya Ukai is Japanese restaurant specializing in tofu dishes in a traditional house with garden and koi fish pond located at the foot of Tokyo Tower. It is a place for high level government and business dinners, established in 2005 by the Ukai Group for luxury dining.
I had the pleasure to visit this place several times and I must say everything is taken care of in every detail. The building is carefully maintained, the service is immaculate and the food is pretty good indeed. When you enter through the gate and follow the winding path amidst green shrubs and koi pond, you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
The food at Tofuya Ukai: the dashi-seasoned soy milk (top middle) is their signature dish
But let me start of with a warning: as a visitor to Tokyo, I do NOT recommend coming here. If you break down the components of what you get here (tofu, traditional setting, great service), you can also get this easily elsewhere. While I appreciate the efforts of the Ukai Group to recreate this traditional setting, my heart longs for a bit more authenticity.
Sake brewery from Yamagata prefecture
Tofuya Ukai houses in a 200-year-old sake brewery. This brewery building was transplanted in 2005 all the way from Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture. It is divided in 55 rooms and can host up to 500 people. Many small rooms, several bigger rooms. Mostly tatami rooms, but also some with regular tables. Massive polished beams, winding passages, this old brewery has it all.
view from the window into the garden
So why did they bring this building to Tokyo? It’s about the product that the Ukai Group is offering. This group has 17 restaurants (autumn 2018) and offers fine Japanese dining in a traditional setting. No buildings were suitable for their new operation, so they transported a building to Tokyo from the countryside (please note restaurants in traditional buildings do exist in Tokyo, such as Hantei). The food on offer at Ukai depends on the restaurant and ranges from charcoal grilled chicken to teppanyaki.
As part of their expansion they opened this place at the foot of Tokyo Tower in order to provide this luxury dining experience in the centre of Tokyo. However, Tokyo Tower is not an attraction point, from most seats inside the restaurant you mainly see the garden.
- Tofu dishes: Sasanoyuki (Tokyo’s traditional Tofu restaurant) or the Ume no Hana tofu chain has also great tofu dining in a traditional setting.
- Traditional setting: can be experienced at many places in and outside Tokyo such as Hantei.
- Great service: widespread in Tokyo, even at much cheaper restaurants. Getting served by kimono-clad ladies is still common at many traditional restaurants and onsen.
The food and the clients
The food is great. The two specialities here are Tosui-tofu (tofu in a dashi and soymilk soup) and age-dengaku (fried sliced-tofu cooked with wood charcoal). It’s all presented in kaiseki style, beautiful arrangements as a multi course meal.
Car from the Imperial Family, you can see the crest on the front bumper
When I passed by the other day, I saw a car from the Imperial Family. This is a good example of the type of clients who come here. High level officials take their foreign guests for a taste of traditional Japan. Many business dinners take place here as well.
In conclusion, Tofuya Ukai is unique with regards to its size in central Tokyo, there is no other place like it. Nevertheless, it’s a picture-perfect place that will awe any visitor. Just keep in mind that this is not a really representative for Old Tokyo.
Address: 4-4-13 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Budget: cheapest lunch starts from around JPY 6500
Names in Japanese: 東京 芝 とうふ屋うかい (Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai)