The Deep Fried Tofu that Will Cure Your Tokyo Jet Lag—and Infiltrate Your Dreams

Deep Fried Tofu at Tatemichiya
Photography by Ella Quittner.

Twenty-two years after Yoshiyuki Okada opened his punk rock izakaya Tatemichiya in Tokyo, it remains the most perfect place on earth to spend 90 minutes of feverish jet-lagged bliss. On your first night in Japan—in those often moments between gentle micro-sleeps—sip whatever sake Okada recommends. Order a half-mackerel, any kushiyaki on the daily specials, and his magnum opus: a quivering, tender block of deep fried tofu crowned with punchy natto and a spire of bonito flakes. Do as he says and shower the dish with soy, which will deflate the bonito and soak into the blistered surface of the tofu. Allow yourself to drift off for a second as you watch Okada bounce around behind the counter, brushing various bits with nikiri and mouthing the words to a Sex Pistols song. The only time you will see him truly stay still is the second right after he lights a cigarette, as he holds in the first inhale. Then Okada softens, blowing the smoke out and up, allowing it to join the haze above his grill. And then he gets back to work.

Ella Quittner is a screenwriter and Family Style‘s writer-at-large. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Man Repeller, Bon Appétit, and across many group chats.