Soul Food House brings Southern cuisine to Tokyo
By THERON GODBOLD | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 20, 2020
Embedded in episode six of the Netflix show “Ugly Delicious,” hosted by award-winning chef David Chang, is a short segment on fried chicken at Soul Food House, a restaurant in the Azabujuban neighborhood of central Tokyo.
My tastebuds perked up. Is there actually good Southern-style food in this city?
After watching Chang speak with the owners of Soul Food House, I decided on a visit to the restaurant to find out for myself.
Founded in 2015 by Atlanta natives David and LaTonya Whitaker, Soul Food House is a family-owned restaurant born “out of a desire to bring authentic American Southern and Cajun cuisine to the hearts and stomachs of those that live and visit Japan,” according to its website.
About a 15- to 20-minute stroll from Hardy Barracks or the U.S. military’s New Sanno Hotel, this small eatery was hard to find at first. I passed the small sign about three times while Google Maps insisted I’d arrived. Down a narrow, covered entryway, I finally found the elevator to this sixth-floor dining experience.
Living in Tokyo for more than a year now, my expectations for Southern cuisine are rather low, but I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and quality served at Soul Food House.
My order of chicken and waffles, a Coke and a side of mac and cheese came to just over $20.
When my food arrived, I was surprised by the small Caesar salad and a small bowl of French onion soup that came with the meal. The waffle — large and fluffy with a light dusting of powdered sugar — filled the plate. The mac and cheese arrived piping hot, fresh out of the oven, with a crusted layer of sharp cheddar on top. Just the right amount of pepper spiced up the dish. Everything was good, but the mac and cheese was really great, reminding me of a family meal at my grandmother’s when I was a child.
With food this good and a few inches of space left in my stomach, I figured I would try something else. Not really in the mood for dessert, I opted for a fried fillet of catfish and sweet tea.
A few years ago, I was living in a small town in Texas. My friend Rusty took me noodling (a form of fishing for catfish where you let them nibble on your hand and then pull the whole fish to the surface) for the first time and we pulled an 84-pound catfish from a local lake. We took it to his place and fried it up for dinner. That was one of the best fried catfish experiences of my life. Until I tried the catfish at Soul Food House. It was perfectly crusted, not too crispy and had the perfect amount of spice.
A Soul Food House regular told me I was smart for coming during lunch because the crowd gets big for dinner and reservations are a must.
“It’s a taste of home, and once you meet the owners, you’re family,” the Dallas native said.
Location: 2-8-10 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0045 Tokyo.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Wednesday through Friday. 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday.
Prices: About $4 for a side dish to about $20 for the country fried steak meal
Directions: About a 3-minute walk from Azabujuban Station on the Oedo or Namboku lines, or about 20 minutes on foot from Hardy Barracks or the New Sanno Hotel.
Information: Phone: 03-5765-2148; Online: soulfoodhouse.com