Iseya is a diamond in the rough-and-ready neighborhood that lies to the north of Asakusa. Set between the sleazy, winking red lights of the Senzoku soaplands and the grim and grimy flophouses of San'ya, this is far from tourist territory. And Iseya is no tourist restaurant. But without doubt it's a shitamachi classic.

Dote-no-Iseya they call it, since it was built on the dyke that marked the farthest limits of the city's largest, most infamous pleasure district. Just spitting distance from where the great gate of Yoshiwara used to stand, it has provided sustenance to the denizens of the nightless city since 1873.

These days the evenings are quieter, and Iseya keeps more regular hours. But the building itself, constructed entirely of timber 75 years ago, has somehow, miraculously, survived intact. Its handsome frontage, with its gables and tiles, looks impressive enough. Slide back the slatted door, duck under the noren and you will find the interior even more atmospheric.