On a humid afternoon, L and I went to Taitō to buy a yukata for our nephew – Jack the Lad. Taitō is best known for its zoo, parks, museums and bustling street shopping. After we picked out a new kimono, we sought refuge from the heat and crowds.
I searched Yelp for a nearby bar and found Towa. Towa specializes in craft beer and soba noodles. Located on the second floor, the restaurant is tucked under Ueno train station. At 2:00 p.m., the restaurant was packed. In Japanese, L politely requested two seats. As there were no empty tables, the bartender told us we would have to wait up to half an hour. We nodded and said we would be happy wait. In less than ten minutes, we received a spot at the bar.
I could hear the train rumble overhead. The ceiling shook slightly from the vibration. For this post, let’s listen to The Passenger by Iggy Pop.
The restaurant was filled with locals, though tourists have gotten wind of this place. At 2:30 p.m., we saw a couple come in with a baby. They made no attempt to speak any Japanese and they insisted on a specific table in the back. I could tell that the employee didn’t really want to seat them. He told them it would be half an hour for a table and he couldn’t guarantee the table they wanted. The couple sighed and left without the courtesy of a bow and a sumimasen. I guess they couldn’t find another restaurant because they returned. The server ignored them for ten minutes and then coldly seated them in the back, which was by this time completely empty.
There were two pages of Japanese craft beer. I picked #262 Mahoroba Wheat Kai – Ushitora Brewery (1150 Yen) and L picked Struggle IPA – Isekadoya Brewery. My beer was clean and refreshing. L’s beer had a refined hoppy note to it.
We saw locals dining on cold soba noodles along with sides of tempura and sashimi. After our beer, we indulged too. I picked soba with grated radish (670 Yen). The soba was chilled and chewy. As instructed, I poured the cold soba sauce over the crisp vegetables and wet mound of white radish. Then I dipped my noodles into the sauce before slurping away.
Service was lovely after we attempted to order in Japanese. My advice for foreigners? Not learning a few basic Japanese phrases (which is rude), being demanding, and expecting locals to speak English doesn’t get you very far. You can expect to be denied service through various excuses, such as you need reservations or they are all booked up. L and I would happily return to Towa again. The food was well-priced and refreshing on a hot day.