After reading about Kohrinbo in the Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide I'd been meaning to check out this little place for quite some time. When the lure of Nakano's used camera shops brought my companion and I to the area, I finally got my chance.
Located on the second floor of an aging mall, Kohrinbo's neighboring shops are filled with the stuff otaku and collectors' dreams are made of: Gundam models, cosplay getups, old movie posters, and original figurines from 1980's kids shows that are now worth more than I make in a month. Although the merchandise ignites no yearning in me, I loved the atmosphere of the place, living in a city where so much is shiny and new, there's something comforting about a place where most shops look like they haven't changed in decades.
Kohrinbo is a tiny place with a small menu. Check out the photos and (if your Japanese is decent) the 本日の定食 (today's set meal) board outside to see what's being served. Step inside, take a seat at the counter, and the owner will pour you a cup of tea and take your order. While all food is vegetarian, some dishes are made with eggs, so let the lady know if you'd like yours without. (For those who don't speak Japanese, a simple way of saying this is "tamago nashi-de onegaishimasu".)
One of the things that struck me about Kohrinbo is the feeling that I was having dinner at someone's long lived in house rather than at a restaurant. In the family photos on display, I recognized a younger version of the lady cooking our dinner, and wondered about the laughing baby- a grandchild perhaps? whose photo sat on the shelf amongst cups and an accumulation of trinkets. A TV mounted in the side of the shop was playing a reality TV show about a 12 member (nuclear) Japanese family, and I let go of my tendency to irritably resist the television's lure, and allowed my mind to slip into that confortable zone of passive entertainment.
My meal, the 精進カツ定食 (shoujin katsu teishoku 1100¥), was a pleasantly salty omelette with renkon chunks tucked inside, a sweet miso eggplant dish, a simple clear soup of enoki mushrooms and wakame, and a delicious katsu (breaded cutlet) stuffed with mushrooms and vegetables. Accompanied by a bowl of rice and pickle slices, this made for a filling meal with the satisfying level of fattiness I associate with Taiwanese veggie cuisine.
My companion's set, the 日替わり定食 (higawari teishoku 940¥) included goya chanpuru, a popular Okinawan dish of stir fried veggies and tofu, featuring the squash known in English as bitter melon. A hijiki, bean, and vegetable salad, a bowl of the enoki and wakame soup, rice, and pickles were served aside a few slices of vegetable tempura. Both meals had a definite home cooked taste, and being a real one-dish-dinner cook myself, I left with great admiration for the lady that whips everything up singlehandedly in Kohrinbo's small kitchen.
how to get there: From Nakano station, take the north exit, head straight out and into the shotengai (covered shopping arcade). After a few minutes, the shotengai ends at a mall called Nakano Broadway, head inside and take the stairs to the 2nd floor (avoid the escalator as it goes straight to the 3rd floor!). Once you get to the 2nd floor, take a right from the stairs, then the next right shortly after, and follow the lane to the very end.
Nakano Broadway 2F, 5-52-15 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo
hours: 11:30-3pm (last order), 5pm-8:00 (last order), closed on Sundays
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