The floor's sticky, the paint's peeling from the walls, and when your meal arrives there's a greasy thumbprint on the plate. But don't worry--the food at this restaurant lives up to its three stars.
No, not from Michelin. These stars are awarded by Japan's latest hit TV show, 'Kitanachelin,' in which Tokyo's cheapest, filthiest, but most delicious eateries are visited and rated by a bunch of comics and TV stars dressed in evening wear more suitable for dinner at The Ritz.
The title combines the Japanese word for dirty (kitanai) with the name of the hallowed French foodie guide, which launched a Tokyo edition in 2007.
The Japanese are renowned gourmets, but two decades of economic stagnation and the worst recession since World War II have put the finest cuisine beyond the reach of many wallets and expense accounts. The good news is that there are gems to be found at the other end of the cost scale, as long as you don't mind the odd filthy apron or wobbly table.
The Fuji TV show cheekily sports a riff on the Michelin man for its logo. It started as a segment on a popular comedy program and grew into a series of hour-long specials, tapping into a recent trend toward what locals are calling, B-kyu gurume, or B-class gourmet--good, cheap, unfussy food, That goes along with the wider trend of budget-conscious Japanese consumers shunning department stores and luxury goods in favor of Uniqlo clothing and 99-yen grocery stores.
富士电视台(Fuji TV)推出的“Kitanachelin”厚着脸皮借用了“米其林轮胎先生”(Michelin man)作为招牌形像。这档节目起初是个热门的喜剧栏目，后来发展成为每期一小时的系列片，专门介绍东京本地人所谓的“B档菜”，也就是那些好吃、便宜、也不太讲究的菜肴。这一定位正好契合精打细算的日本消费者越来越普遍的节俭之风，他们避免去百货公司和奢侈品专卖店买东西，转而青睐优衣库(Uniqlo)品牌的衣服，以及每件99日圆的杂货店。
Once featured on 'Kitanachelin,' the show's popularity means a restaurant will likely see a surge in customers. Aroyna Tabeta, a grimy but authentic Thai hole-in-the-wall joint under some train tracks near the Wall Street Journal's office, had a long line outside the night after it won two stars on the show.
The launch of the Michelin guide in 2007 caused a flurry of excitement in the Japanese media. But for many residents, it merely confirmed what they already knew: that the city has the best food in the world. In the 2010 edition of its guide to Tokyo, Michelin awarded its coveted 3-star rating to 11 restaurants--one more than Paris, and more than London and New York combined.
Michelin declined to comment on the Japanese TV show, but has said it continues to branch out in Japan.