It can be tough to find good pasta on a budget in Tokyo – at least something that’s not part of some big franchise ring. Usually with my pasta, I also enjoy some beer or wine. Luckily if you know where to look, you can get both at a reasonable price. Like this little “Mom and Pop” place that’s hidden in a Shinjuku back street.
One of my classmates first took me here one night, and I loved it. At first sight, it seems like it’s just a bar – a wooden, old American-style bar, with the romantic window in the front. But there’s so much more to it than the looks. A bite of the food will show you that.
This time, I got a plate of Tomato and Basil pasta with a little salad for 690 yen, and added a glass of ice-cold beer for 300 yen – scoring a full meal for less than 1 000 yen. The salad, which came first, was simple lettuce topped with a couple of strips of pancetta and my choice of French salad dressing. The pasta that arrived ten minutes later was a tasty mix of a tomato sauce with tomato chunks, mushrooms, and a little bit of ground beef, perfectly blended with parmesan cheese and a small amount of basil on top. It filled me up quickly, but I had to finish my date’s plate as well!
There are other pasta options to choose from too. Say you are really in the mood for some more meat with your pasta – for 290 yen they will add a meat of your choice, from chicken to ham to pork, to the plate. There is also a range of other dishes on the menu, like paella and an assortment of tapas. It’s strange, but the lunch menu can be a little more expensive than the normal, dinner menu. In fact, during lunch times, the set lunch menu is optional.
There is not much room inside – six stools at the bar, and just one table with four seats. It can get extremely crowded during lunch hours. But this is Tokyo, after all – and it kind of adds to the atmosphere. The menu is all in Japanese, but luckily several of the staff (and probably many of the friendly customers too) understand basic English. The service is fast – usually when I eat here, I’m in and out within 30 minutes, perfect for my in-between classes lunch break.
After hours, when it’s the general time to go drinking, Namahamu is a cheap watering hole. Since it’s not flashy, without many signs and down a fairly unknown alley, it’s usually not busy at night. Glasses of draft beer start at 300 yen, going up to 460 yen depending on the size: a small, half-pint, or a full pint. Any decent pasta place also needs wine options, which is what this place has. The house wine, with a couple of options available, is only 200 yen per glass, averaging about 150 milliliters .
Finding Shinjuku Namahamu is actually pretty easy. It’s right across the street from Lakeland College. Look for a Chinese restaurant sign that says [Fun] on it. This superb eatery is on the right.