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Jiyugaoka and Futako-Tamagawa: A foodie’s guide to Tokyo’s popular suburbs

Jiyugaoka and Futako-Tamagawa: A foodie’s guide to Tokyo’s popular suburbs

While lesser-known to tourists, Jiyugaoka (自由が丘 Jiyūgaoka) and Futako-Tamagawa (二子玉川) are two Tokyo (東京 Tōkyō) suburbs that are popular amongst local youths and families. In fact, in 2017 Jiyugaoka and Futako-Tamagawa took 2nd and 3rd place respectively in a ranking of “Most Attractive Towns to Live in the Kanto (関東 Kantō) Region”, with 1st place belonging to Ebisu (恵比寿). While you won’t find many awe-inspiring tourist spots in these suburbs, there’s a unique buzz of energy as you wander through the area alongside locals on their weekend break. Much of these two suburbs are pedestrianised, full of shops and, of course, restaurants. There are many unique offerings in these suburbs that you won’t find elsewhere, and smaller local enterprises as opposed to the chains that you find in major Tokyo neighbourhoods.

 

Both of these suburbs are easily accessible from Shibuya (渋谷), with Jiyugaoka being an 8-minute ride on the Tokyu Toyoko Line (東急東横線 Tōkyū Tōyoko-sen) Limited Express (特急 Tokkyū) and Futako-Tamagawa only a 10-minute ride away on the Tokyu Den-en-Toshi Line (東急田園都市線 Tōkyū Den'entoshi-sen) Limited Express. You can also easily commute between the two via the Tokyu Oimachi Line (東急大井町線 Tōkyū Ōimachi-sen), on a trip that takes 8 minutes on the Express (急行 Kyūkō) trains. But if you have some time to kill, an hour-long leisurely stroll between the two stations certainly wouldn’t hurt.

 

So without further ado, here’s a foodie’s guide to Jiyugaoka and Futako-Tamagawa with six of my personal recommendations.

 

1. Cut into a thick juicy pork steak at Mallory Pork Steak

Counter seats on the 1st floor allow you to see the chef at work, as they flambé the pork steak. (Image credit: Chan Qiu Qing)

 

When I first chanced upon this restaurant, I wasn’t too sure on what to expect from pork steak. Turns out, as with many types of meat in Japan, what I got was a thick juicy chunk of meat, pan-seared with a crispy, slightly charred exterior, and a juicy succulent slightly-rare interior. Mallory Pork Steak (マロリーポークステーキー) features a British pub-inspired interior, and fits in well with Jiyugaoka’s nickname of “Little Europe”, originating from the Western-style architecture present in the neighbourhood. The restaurant specialises in pork steak, and names them after mountains by size, with the smallest being Mount Takao (高尾山 Takao-san) at 270g (¥990), and the largest being Olympus (オリンポス) at 2kg (¥5,990). The portions are designed to be shared, so a single person might be more than satisfied with a Mount Takao, while Olympus is recommended for a group of seven to eight people. The dish also comes with a side of mashed potatoes and cream spinach, both of which complement the pork steak well. For that extra kick, I recommend getting a side of garlic rice (¥330), packed with umami (旨味) and teeming with the fragrance of garlic.

 

Mallory Pork Steak (マロリーポークステーキー)
Address: 1-25-3 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-0035
Nearest station: Jiyugaoka Station (自由が丘駅)
Access: 5-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 11:30am–3pm, 5pm–10pm
Tel: +81 80-8545-8092

 

2. Go on a milk pilgrimage at Milkland Hokkaido

The sample image really resembles the final product really closely, and doesn’t disappoint on taste. (Image credit: Chan Qiu Qing)

 

For lovers of Hokkaido (北海道 Hokkaidō) milk, Milkland Hokkaido→Tokyo (ミルクランド北海道→東京) gathers the best under one roof with a cafe, a desserts takeaway counter, and a small grocer. You can get a sampler platter of milk for ¥190, consisting of three different types of milk from different farms. I personally recommend the taste platter that focuses on taste, because it has a rich creaminess and milky taste that really makes the taste stand out from ordinary milk. If you’re dining in at the cafe, their signature dish is the Secret Double Cream Pancake (¥990) which features a souffle pancake filled with cream cheese and yoghurt, topped with fresh cream. You can also get a variety of milk-based products at the grocery including milk jam, cheese, cheesecakes, yoghurts and more.

 

Milkland Hokkaido→Tokyo (ミルクランド北海道→東京)
Address: 1-26-16 Jiyugaoka, Meguro City, Tokyo 152-0035
Nearest station: Jiyugaoka Station (自由が丘駅)
Access: 5-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 11am–7pm (Closed on Wednesday)
Tel: +81 3-3723-5700

 

3. Sip on the incredibly clear broth of Ayu Ramen

The dish really embodies the Japanese love for minimalism. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

A hole-in-the-wall ramen joint loved by locals, Ayu Ramen (鮎ラーメン) presents an assuming bowl of ramen that packs a huge punch. Their broth is made from ayu (鮎 freshwater trout), chicken bones, and vegetables. The unassuming soup is extremely clear yet sweet and rich in taste, and goes well with the thin and light noodles used. It is then topped with a grilled ayu (焼き鮎 yaki ayu) that you can order in quarter (¥600), half (¥800), or whole (¥1,000) with your noodles. The restaurant uses ayu specially caught from the Maze River (馬瀬川 Maze-gawa), a tributary river from the Hida River (飛騨川 Hida-gawa) that flows through Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県 Gifu-ken) in the Japanese Alps. Their grilled ayu has also won the top prize, 10 years in a row, at the annual Ayu Special Convention in Tokyo (全国利き鮎会スペシャル in TOKYO Zenkoku Kiki Ayu-kai Supesharu in Tōkyō).

 

Ayu Ramen (鮎ラーメン)
Address: 3-15-12 Tamagawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-0094
Nearest station: Futako-Tamagawa Station (二子玉川駅)
Access: 5-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 11:30am–2pm, 6pm–1am

 

4. Enjoy the fusion of beef and pork at Yamamoto no Hamburg

The mentaiko mayo hamburg also comes with potatoes that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. (Image credit: Chan Qiu Qing)

 

While hamburg steak (ハンバーグ hanbāgu) might seem like an unhealthy dish, Yamamoto no Hamburg (山本のハンバーグ) focuses on making it a well-balanced meal while still being very tasty. They use a mixture of Japanese beef, and the branded Yume no Daichi Pork (夢の大地豚 Yume no Daichi Buta) from Hokkaido in their hamburg patties. All hamburg steak also comes with a complimentary house-blended vegetable juice that aids your digestion and cleanses your palate for the meal. Their signature dish is the Yamamoto no Hamburg (¥1,880) served in a hot stone bowl with spaghetti, potatoes, vegetables and an egg on the side, topped with demi-glace sauce, and cheese. Unlike some hamburg steaks that can be dry and dense, their patties are light and bouncy, and leave you just wanting more with each bite.

 

Yamamoto no Hamburg (山本のハンバーグ)
Address: 1-13-4 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-0035
Nearest station: Jiyugaoka Station (自由が丘駅)
Access: 3-minutes walk from the North Exit of the station
Opening hours: 11am–9:30pm
Tel: +81 3-6421-2241

 

5. Grab a cuppa at Latte Graphic

A great place to chill in the afternoon sipping on a cuppa. (Image credit: Chan Qiu Qing)

 

If you’re in the mood for a pick-me-up, Latte Graphic (ラテグラフィック) is serious about the quality of their coffee. Inspired by the cafe culture in Melbourne, Latte Graphic actually has baristas across 9 levels of skill from rookie to top barista, and also sells their own blend of beans wholesale. Their specialty is the Latte Graphic (¥580), which is a perfect blend of coffee and milk where the aroma of the beans shines through. Their Iced Cafe Mocha (¥530) also comes highly recommended as it harmonises the taste of the coffee and dark chocolate well to give a rich chocolatey taste, punctuated by the aroma of coffee.

 

Latte Graphic (ラテグラフィック)
Address: 2F 1−8−18 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-0035
Nearest station: Jiyugaoka Station (自由が丘駅)
Access: 1-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 7am–10:30pm
Tel: +81 3-6421-2242

 

6. Get a taste of the sea at Kuramu

You can just see the beauty of the different elements in the bowl. (Image credit: Chan Qiu Qing)

 

Kuramu (貝出汁中華そば くらむ Kai Dashi Chūka Soba Kuramu) was highlighted as one of the best new ramen shops of 2021 in the Ramen Walker Tokyo 2021 (ラーメンWalker東京2021) and it is no surprise why. Their standout dish is the Ajitama Kuramu Shoyu Chukasoba (味玉クラム醤油中華そば) for ¥1,050 that compacts the taste and umami of asari (あさり clam) into a flavour bomb of a broth. The soup is light and refreshing, yet thoroughly packed with the essence of clam. It also comes topped with two types of meat, a rare slice of fatty beef and a tender slice of chicken breast, both of which help to augment the taste of the broth. I also recommend getting the Asari no Mazegohan (あさりの混ぜご飯) (small bowl: ¥150, regular: ¥250). The rice has been boiled and infused with the taste of asari, and further elevates the taste of both when you mix it into the leftover soup from your ramen. 

 

Kuramu (貝出汁中華そば くらむ)
Address: 3-20-2 Tamagawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-0094
Nearest station: Futako-Tamagawa Station (二子玉川駅)
Access: 5-minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 11am–3pm, 5–9pm
Tel: +81 3-6822-6154

 

Explore a foodie’s paradise at Jiyugaoka and Futako-Tamagawa

(Image credit: Wpcpey / CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Just a stone’s throw away from Shibuya (渋谷), these are beloved neighbourhoods for locals and a breath of fresh air from the typical tourist sights that you might visit in Tokyo. There’s just something different about the atmosphere and energy of these neighbourhoods, and the vibe that you get when exploring the area. Apart from the amazing food haunts, Jiyugaoka offers many small clothing shops that you can pop in to check out the latest fashion trends, while Futako-Tamagawa has towering malls including a Takashimaya (高島屋) Department Store. There’s also a beautiful park by the river at Futako-Tamagawa, with a Starbucks overlooking the riverbank, so it’s a great place for people watching on a sunny day. Don’t miss out on these areas, and come get a feel of what a day-off is like for the Japanese locals in the area.


Header image credit: w00kie / CC BY 2.0

 

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