I do believe I've found the best lunch deal in Tokyo. Or if not the gold medalist, then at least a podium place. Just round the corner from Yaesu Book Centre on the east side of Tokyo Station, Sofia is an appealing Bulgarian restaurant with an ¥1100 lunchtime buffet that's a grave danger to diets - not because it's unhealthy, but because you just won't want to stop eating.
You're greeted at the entrance by a nearly life-sized picture of Bulgarian sumo wrestler Kotooshu, then the interior is lively and colourful. There are attractive wooden fittings and bright tablecloths, Japanese and Bulgarian flags dotted around, lots of (probably plastic) roses decorating the walls and furnishings, and pictures and paintings of people in what I assume are traditional Bulgarian costumes.
It attracts a very cosmopolitan lunchtime crowd: while I was there I heard people speaking English, French, German and a language I presume was Bulgarian. On each table there's a neat little Japanese-Bulgarian phrase guide, so you can learn a few phrases between bites.
The buffet is laid out in the middle of the room, and has a good range and balance of dishes on it. For your carbs there's bread, pasta or rice pilaf, and for the greens there are some enjoyably tart pickles, and salads with a couple of choices of dressing, one made from paprika. There are also tender, juicy meatballs, herb and paprika omelette, tender sliced ham, and a couple of salad pastes, one of them a very delicious concoction of potato and tarako (mildly spicy cod roe). And you can wash these down with a couple of interesting drink options, rose water and a slightly sweet jelly drink.
I could have happily feasted on the buffet and still been comfortably full well within the 90-minute time limit - but the lunch deal also includes a main dish. There's a choice of four: moussaka, spinach kofte (meatballs, though the 'spinach' part may mean they're vegetarian), and a couple more that I can't work out from the katakana on the website. I went with the moussaka, and very tasty it was too, finely cubed potato and ground meat flavoured with paprika, topped with a creamy layer of egg and yoghurt sauce.
If you're there in the evening, they have a full multiple-course dinner for ¥4800, a two-hour party plan for ¥5000 including food and all-you-can-drink alcohol, and a joshikai (girls' night out) party plan for ¥3800, which might seem discriminatory to those who don't know quite how much Balkan men like to drink. The a la carte menu I found on the website seems pretty limited: tarator (garlic and yoghurt soup) is ¥540, shopska salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and white cheese) is ¥1100, snejanka salad (cucumber, yoghurt and garlic) ¥940, and main dishes ¥1800 each.
It's the lunch that's won me over, though, so whenever I'm around that part of town at lunchtime, Sofia is probably where you'll find me.
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I came to Japan from Manchester, England in summer 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I`m not working I write satire at www.iothern.blogspot.com and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check my youtube channel `CunningPunster` for a taste.