In 1891, Tamahide was an established diner with over a century's history, specializing in savory shamo (chicken) sukiyaki. Patrons flocked from all over Japan, eager to try their famous dish. There was just one minor problem, however. Patrons would finish most of their meat, leaving the rich, salty stock and small bits of chicken. Having come so far to dine at Tamahide, the patrons asked if there were any way for them to finish up the rest of the dish.
The 5th generation proprietress of Tamahide, Yamada Toku, thought long and hard. Drawing from the depths of her imagination and culinary experience; she took the leftover stock, grabbed an egg, a bowl of rice and then proceeded to masterfully mixed them up.
TA DAH! The oyakodon was born!
Today, Tamahide continues to thrive in no small part thanks to their oyakodon. The establishment continues to whip up exquisite chicken sukiyaki, but the star attraction here is undoubtedly the oyakodon.
Although the oyakodon can be found everywhere around the world today, Tamahide differentiates itself with its use of shamo, a breed of chicken unique to Japan and home-bred by the diner. The shamo is lean and juicy, if less tender, and absolutely delicious. Pair this with eggs cooked to runny perfection - they have been doing this for over a hundred years after all - and the result is an oyakodon that draws lines at Tamahide's doors every single day.
The lunchtime queue here is almost as legendary as the dish itself. There's really no way to avoid it, no matter which day you choose visit Tamahide, with hungry patrons lining up long before the restaurant opens for lunch at 11:30 AM. Once the doors open however, the lines shuffle along swiftly, and I was able to enter the Tamahide after a 30-minute wait.
The interiors of Tamahide feel as traditional as Japanese restaurants come, reflecting the long history the restaurant has witnessed. Remove your shoes at the entryway, make your order and pay at a small counter near the entrance. You will be quickly but politely ushered to the dining area. The dining area is a tatami room, with large wooden tables and privacy screens. If you come alone like I did, you will probably be sharing a table with three other equally excited patrons, and thus four times the oohs and aahs when your oyakodon arrives.
For lunch, you can choose from 5 versions of oyakodon. By far the most popular would the be the Original Oyakodon(¥1,500), using the same recipe handed down for generations. Tamahide also offers the "Three-Taste" Oyakodon(¥1,900), combining thigh, wing and breast meat, the White Liver Oyakodon(¥2,000) or the Ultimate Oyakodon(¥2,200), in which the chicken is first lightly grilled Tamahide-style before being added into the egg. No matter which version you choose, you will first be served a cup of shamo broth to whet your appetite, then the oyakodon will be served in a unique gold laquered bowl along with a saucer of tsukemono.
Dinner is a entirely different affair at Tamahide. The oyakodon cannot be ordered à la carte; rather it is served as part of a multi-course shamo feast, where the spotlight returns to the sukiyaki that Tamahide was originally famous for. From May to September, Tamahide also offers shamo shabu-shabu sets. Dinner will cost you however, with the cheapest set starting at ¥6,800.
Whether you decide to brave the queue for the lunchtime original oyakodon, or to break the bank for a once-in-a-lifetime shamo extravaganza, Tamahide will not disappoint you. It serves the best oyakodon I have ever tasted, and I will definitely visit again.