"Tonsui" and "Chigusa" are two of the oldest Teishokuya (restaurant specialized in cheap set menus of Japanese fares) in Shimokitazawa. Chigusa, now a true institution in the area, probably attracts more clients as it's a stone throw from the station, but I have a preference for "Tonsui" which is smaller and more convivial.
Still, conviviality and hospitability is the catch-phrase in "Chigusa". A big wooden sign outside the eatery that says "Shizen-Shoku No Teishokuya" (literally Natural Food teishokuya), which I always assumed to be an allusion to the organic ingredients they use, actually refers to the cuisine you can eat here in a natural and unpretentious atmosphere, just like at your mum's. Japanese man (more than woman) put a lot of emphasis on the "Ofukuro No Aji" (the taste of mum's home cooking) and this eatery takes pride in satisfying such needs with its female staff all comprised of tired-workers-and-hungry-students understanding and cuddling mothers.
If you visit this place which has been in business for 30 years, you should probably opt for their popular Ninniku-Joyu No Age Buta (fried pork with garlic and shoyu sauce) from among their rather extended menu.
The Teishoku (affordable ¥900) consists of a big bowl of rice, a miso soup (which you can refill as many times as you want), a Hiya-Yakko (fresh cut of Tofu with grated ginger and shavings of dry bonito Katsuo-Bushi), some Takuan Daikon radish pickles and the main pork dish.
The pork they use here is a SPF (specific pathogen free) one from the Iwate prefecture in northern Japan, region known for its good pork farming environment. For your information, SPF pork are known for their tenderness and lack of smell.
The meat is two slices of fillet quickly deep-fried with a thin batter, then seasoned with an appetite-stimulating garlic and soy sauce glaze. It has some fatty parts, but it doesn't have the heaviness in taste and the greasiness that beef fat can have.
The topped sauce has the quality of slightly soaking the fried batter, making it even more tender to the teeth. The garlic flavor is delicate and the salty and little bit sweet soy sauce is perfect with the white rice. This dish has a definite Chinese recipe feel to it.
It doesn't look like a lot of food at first, but you will see that you actually get quite full.
It's far from haute-cuisine but if you want some good, quick, relatively filling Japanese food that's available a minute away from the station, this is an option.
Chigusa is closed on Thursdays and open the rest of the week from 11:30am to 22:00pm
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-11-4
Click here for a MAP