The salaryman is the everyman in Japan. Having worked for so long in a Japanese company, I know just who he is -- I worked with many of them for years. Salarymen are hardworking, loyal to the company and very dependable. They work from morning till night, taking only a quick break in the middle of the day. So -- they also know the fastest, cheapest and tastiest places to grab a quick lunch.
I always like to eat in these small lunch places. The food is always good and affordable.
You can find the salaryman's lunch places in busy commercial areas, amidst office and shopping districts. On this visit to Fukuoka, I found one in an intersection along Tenjin district.
This narrow building had restaurants from the ground to the top floor.
These lunch places have no english menus since they cater primarily to locals. But who needs
one when a picture menu is more than enough -- this appetising poster on the ground floor was for
a restaurant on the third. With a number of meals to choose from and none that cost over 1,000 yen, this was a salaryman's ideal lunch place indeed.
The tiny elevator stopped at the third floor and this door with the green noren marked the entrance
to En-ya -- how did I know the name? Simple, I asked the waitress!
We got the last remaining seats at the counter, where I had a worm's eye view of the dishes and the two cooks busy in the kitchen. Liquor bottles on the cabinet meant that the lunch regulars would normally have drinks here after office hours. Most places like these turn into izakayas or casual bars in the evening.
As you can see, the restaurant is rather cramped -- there are a few tables for four plus counter seating for six. Everyone eats a quick lunch then heads back to work so even if the space is small, turn over is quick and they can do several seatings for lunch.
Our orders came after a five minute wait. The grilled saba had been filleted and deboned and had a nice smoky taste. The setto (set) includes refillable rice, tsukemono or pickles, a small salad and of course the ubiquitous miso soup.
I had my favourite karaage -- hot, crisp and tender with a slight gingery tang. This very generous serving of five large chicken pieces (all thigh fillets, more expensive in Japan than breast fillets)
cost just 750 yen. What a great deal!
If you're taking a break from shopping in the Tenjin area, try a salaryman's lunch at Enya or any of the similar lunch places. The specials will leave you with more yen in your wallet for more shopping after.