Saturday, September 18, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Midnight Diner

Every now and again I stumble across a TV series on Netflix which I haven't heard much about or, in this case, have a series recommended to me. If I'm lucky once I start watching it, I can't help but continue. This week was one of those fortuitous occasions and it also coincided with me having a week off work so I could indulge to my heart's content.

Midnight Diner is a Japanese series predominantly set in a small diner down a small laneway in Tokyo. It opens at midnight each night and seats no more than 10 people around the counter. Each episode features the stories of the regular patrons who come to eat. In theory, there is only one item on the menu (Pork Miso Soup Combo) but Master, the owner and cook, will make you anything else you want as long as he has the ingredients.

As much as it is about the people and culture, it is also about Japanese comfort food, how food reminds us of people and places from our past, as well as how it helps us to make new connections and memories. Interestingly, it is based on an anime series called Shin'ya Shokudō. There are actually 5 series of Midnight Diner but be careful because there are three series called Midnight Diner and then another two that are called Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. They are linked and feature many of the same characters. I did originally confuse myself by watching the first three episodes of Tokyo Stories and the remaining episodes from the first series of Midnight Diner. I couldn't quite figure out why what I was watching didn't match the descriptions I could find but I figured it out eventually.

The Master is an enigmatic character, ever present, but never revealing much about himself or his past, but he offers a friendly ear and a word of advice where required. Most of the time though, he cooks and observes, and sits in his tiny kitchen puffing away on cigarette (there is a lot of smoking in this show). There is also some adult themes. 

At the end of most episodes there are handy little tips about the dishes that were featured during the episode. Plenty of food porn as well!

In the first series of Midnight Diner, the episodes were:

Akai wiener to tamagoyaki - A yakuza gang member and a gay man bond over weiner octupuses and sweet omelets. I have never heard of weiner octopuses. Basically you take cocktail sausages and slit them through without cutting all the way through and then fry them up so that they curl up and have tentacles.

Neko Mamma - An enza singer visits the diner early in the morning to have Cat Rice -  rice with bonito flakes and soy sauce. The Master invites her to perform with the hope that he can help connect her to a lyricist.

Ochazuke - Three women regularly visit the diner and always have Ochazuke and therefore are called the Ochazuke Girls. One always has salmon ochazuke (rice with green tea topped with other ingredients), another with cod roe and the third pickled plum ochazuke. In the description they are described as middle aged but honestly they look about 30. 35 tops. They are always looking for true love, talking about men, but their friendship suffers when one of them goes to see a marriage broker. They continue to appear throughout the series. 

Butter Rice - A famous food critic comes to the diner and eats the simplest of dishes, butter rice, which is steamed rice topped with butter. When it is melted, add just a touch of soy sauce. At the same time, a travelling singer visits. The food critic keeps returning with the hope of meeting the singer again. 

Potato Salad - A famous porn star meets a young man at the diner. The Master's potato salad reminds him of home, a place he hasn't visited for many years..

Katsudon - A boxer celebrates every win with a pork katsudon (pork cutlet and eggs served with rice and broth) at the diner. He meets a young widow and her daughter in the diner. 

Tamago sando (egg sandwich) - A young actress meets a poor but hard working man and they strike up a relationship after they share egg sandwiches. 

Sauce yakisoba - A former pop idol is trying to become an actress but her current role seems to be very reminiscent of her own life.

Aji no hiraki-(horse mackerel) - One of the regular customers that we have met in the series previously is Marilyn who is a stripper. She meets a mysterious older woman at the diner who tells Marilyn the story of her life.

Ramen -  Gen is a member of the yakuza who takes revenge on a rival gang member and then goes into hiding.

And now I want to eat some Japanese food!

Weekly Meals

Saturday - Fancy dinner
Sunday - 
Monday - Steak, mushrooms and broccoline
Tuesday - Soup
Wednesday - Beggars Chicken
Thursday - Pork Nachos
Friday - Dinner from the pub

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page


  1. That series sounds WONDERFUL! Thank you! It seems to be available on the US Netflix too. I have a huge reading list right now because so many good new books are scheduled for Sept. and Oct. but I hope I can watch a couple of episodes.

    best... mae at

    1. I hope you get a chance to watch at least a couple of episodes Mae.

  2. That sounds like such a cool show, I need to look for that.

  3. I always love your reviews, I will have to look for this one! We are all quite involved with horrible colds here, but I couldn't let another weekend go by without a visit! Have a great week ahead.

  4. Replies
    1. I hope you enjoy it if you do get to watch it Jackie!

  5. Oh what fun! I hope we can get it here in the US. I know I would LOVE this.

  6. what an amazing show this sounds. i love anything japanese (I studied it at uni) so this appeals mightily.