With a footprint of over 2,000 square meters Tofuya Ukai sits on the site of a defunct sake brewery. Walking through the restaurant you'll see old sake brewing vats, one that held a 1,000 bottles worth of sake and another that held 3,000 bottles.
The grounds were originally part of the Tokugawa (shogun) clan's holdings and on the far side of the grounds Zozoji Temple is another popular Tokyo attraction. In the late 16th century the shogunate's grounds comprised an area of 826,000 square meters.
The restaurant is surrounded by peaceful gardens, a waterfall, and Momiji (Japanese maple) trees that turn beautiful shades of red and gold in autumn.
Tofuya Ukai offers a variety of separate dining rooms that can hold anything from a single diner to large groups. I know of one company that held a gathering there for 50 people. The floors of the rooms are tatami, but diners are given a comfortable Japanese chair - a chair with a backrest, but no legs - and one’s legs go into the foot well under the table (this is known as a “horigotatsu”).
Price wise it is not for the faint of wallet. Lunch, served from 11:00 - 15:00, offers a choice between two set menus at 5,500 or 6,500 yen. We had the “take” (bamboo) course (5,500 yen) and it was plenty of food. The dinner menu gives you a choice of 3 courses from 8,400 yen to 12,600 yen. In addition to the expected tofu dishes the menus include other dishes such as sashimi, beef, and a variety of vegetables.
Tofuya Ukai is located a pebble-throw away from Tokyo Tower and makes for a wonderful, and very tasty, Japanese dining experience. Plan to spend a reasonable amount of time there. It’s not the sort of place you rush through a meal. Dishes are served one at a time and the waitresses somehow know when you’ve finished your current course and they’re there and ready with the next course.
The restaurant is part of the Ukai chain of restaurants, each with a different theme, and some located outside of Tokyo. Another one to explore, if you have time to get out of the city, is Ukai Toriyama, which is located on the slopes of Mount Takao, about a 90 minute train ride from Shinjuku Station on the Keio Line.
Editor's note: For another take on this fabulous restaurant, read here.