Konichiwa, Kneidlach: Tokyo's Israeli Food Scene Is Thriving

Chana's Place is likely to be ready to greet the public next week, but don't forget the other Israeli food joints in the Japanese capital, even if they lack kashrut status.

 Rotem Maimon
Rotem Maimon
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Hummus, Pita and Eggplant at the David'S Deli restaurant in Tokyo.
Hummus, Pita and Eggplant at the David'S Deli restaurant in Tokyo.Credit: Yusuke Kawasaki
 Rotem Maimon
Rotem Maimon

Israeli tourists and businessmen who keep kosher know the problem well: Tokyo is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the shopping is wonderful if expensive, the nightlife is exciting — but where can you find kosher food? Tokyo is a major culinary capital, reflected by its solid presence on the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants, but one type of cuisine has been absent.

In fact, even vegetarians and vegans are in better shape than kashrut observers in the Japanese capital. Tokyo does have Israeli and Mediterranean restaurants, but they aren’t kosher.

So a tiny new place is opening to fill that void. As in the case of Chiang Mai in Bangkok, Mumbai and Katmandu, the new restaurant, Chana’s Place, will be located at a Chabad House — in central Tokyo’s Takanawa neighborhood in the Minato ward. Many restaurants at Chabad houses in various cities have been pioneers that launched a trend of flourishing kosher restaurants.

The initiative for the new place came from the Chabad emissary to the city himself — Rabbi Mendi Sudakevich — who named the restaurant after his wife. Although the idea for the business came up several years ago, and it was supposed to open in May, it began operating only in recent weeks due to administrative delays.

Tokyo.Credit: Bloomberg

It went through a trial period for private events and next week will probably open to the public. The place will include 15 seats inside and about 50 in the garden.

Minato, Tokyo. Chana’s Place, will be located at a Chabad House.Credit: Indrik Myneur

Sudakevich told JTA that although the number of Jews in the city had declined in recent years, and the number of Israelis visiting Japan had shrunk after the tsunami, he’s optimistic. He has behind him the recently signed cooperation agreement between Israel and Japan designed to bring more Israeli tourists to the country.

Currently 13,000 tourists arrive annually. The agreement also lets Israelis visiting Japan receive a one-year work visa more easily.

But let’s talk about food — the kosher Israeli food at Chana’s Place. Among the highlights: grilled meats, hummus, shakshuka and eggplant. Now let’s see how this major culinary center of the world deals with a kosher restaurant on the roster.
Address: Takanawa Minato-ku 1-5-23

What other Israeli restaurants can be found in Tokyo?

David’s Deli. Perhaps Tokyo’s best-known Israeli restaurant offers “fresh food from Israel” — it serves the most popular Israeli and Jewish dishes but without a kashrut certificate. What can you eat there? P’tcha, gefilte fish, stuffed vegetables, hummus, meatballs, kebab, schnitzel and of course finely chopped Israeli salad.

Shamaim. The oldest Israeli restaurant in Tokyo offers the most familiar Israeli dishes like bean soup falafel, skewers, hummus, tahini, shashlik and majdera.

TA-IM. If you come across the sign TA-IM (a play on words that means “delicious” in Hebrew) you’ve come to the right place. There may be no big surprises on the menu, but they serve Israeli dishes with a creative touch. So you’ll get stuff like kebab on cinnamon sticks, matbucha, hummus with meat and scorched eggplant with tahini.
Address: Ebisu, Shibuya-ku 1-29-16

The Great Pita. Another upgraded falafel stand that has accumulated a large group of fans thanks to pitas prepared on site and the vegan falafel that attracts young Japanese. The place opened in 1993 and is considered one of the oldest joints in Tokyo serving falafel. To attract the locals they make not only Israeli salad, hummus and French fries, but also crisp tofu, pumpkin and broccoli.
Address: ATT Shinkan 2F, Akasaka 2-11-7, Minato-ku

A variety of Israeli food.Credit: Aviad Herman

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