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Open since 1949, this classic yoshoku shop serves legendary fried-rice omelettes, Hamburg steaks, and many other standards. The chicken fried-rice omelette (Y1750 at dinnertime) is reasonably substantial, the flavorful rice studded with tasty chunks of chicken and mushrooms surrounded by a soft, almost runny layer of egg. There's a rather assertive ketchup-type tomato sauce for those who like that sort of thing, but we found it unnecessary.
They also do an unusual "torotoro" rice omelette (Y2000) where they mix the rice, egg and crabmeat filling together before cooking, then serve the rough-textured omelette with two contrasting types of tomato sauce. The dining room is rather old-fashioned in style and brightly lit, up on the second floor past the ground-floor open kitchen.
Some of the best horse sashimi and grilled horse in town are served at this lively after-work spot, all at very reasonable prices. The assorted sashimi platter featuring five different cuts of meat is most highly recommended (Y1080 for two) - all the cuts are very tender, and this is a great way to compare the different flavors. Yukke, minced raw horsemeat mixed with raw egg, onions and soy sauce, is sweeter and less spicy than your typical Korean beef yukke, and also worth a try.
Bakuro is set up like a yakiniku restaurant, with a small grill and exhaust chimney at each table, so you can grill your chosen cuts of meat and vegetables at your own pace. The big "oba" steak is quite good - a thick cut of meat with a good amount of fat, seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Our waiter prepared this for us at the table, cutting the meat into bite-size chunks with a pair of scissors. Kimchee and namuru are available as side dishes, just like in a Korean-style yakiniku spot.
Shochu is the main drink here, but they usually have a few seasonal craft sake available upon request, as well as Korean makkoli. The dining room is attractively appointed, with sufficient space around tables to keep it from feeling crowded. Budget around Y3000 for dinner with drinks.
There are lines to get into Motomura day and night, and it's easy to understand why once you've tasted their very popular gyukatsu (deep-fried beef cutlet). Served rare in the middle with a thin, crunchy layer of breading around it, the lightly marbled beef is tender and very flavorful. Season it to taste with rock salt, pepper, onion sauce, soy sauce and wasabi; you can even grill it for a minute on the small hibachi at your table or counter.
A single portion of beef, with a set meal of rice, soup, potato salad, cabbage and pickles, is Y1200; add an extra Y700 for a double-sized portion of beef, and Y100 for a side dish of grated yam for dipping. No reservations or credit cards; English-language menus are available, along with rather detailed instructions on how to eat your gyukatsu.
Tiger's menu is devoted to gyoza dumplings, both fried and boiled. The signature dish is their extra-large Banana Gyoza, so named because of their elongated shape - these come with a voluminous pork filling wrapped in a thick, chewy, lightly charred casing.
Also worth checking out are the boiled dumplings (suigyoza), filled with an interesting mix of pork and chopped greens and wrapped in a green-colored hand-made casing. Dumpings are served a la carte or as part of a set meal with rice, soup and pickles; budget around Y1000 for a meal.
This popular Osaka-based izakaya is the complete opposite of your typical Tokyo gourmet kushiage shop - the atmosphere is lively and often raucous, with every inch of the tightly packed tables crowded to overflowing with trays of food and drinks. And, true to their Osaka roots, prices are very reasonable - most deep-fried skewers are Y100-120 each, with luxury items like asparagus and scallops just Y200.
There are assortment platters if you want to start with the basics (pork and beef cutlets and various vegetables), or you can jump right in with the more unusual items among the menu's forty choices - deep-fried ginger root, garlic cloves, pickles, liver, shishamo. Fried bananas are always a nice idea, and the ones here make a great dessert course alongside deep-fried mangos and "cookies and cream" - two battered and fried Oreo-like cookies.
Drinks are also quite inexpensive, which helps to explain the impressive noise level of the room - whiskey-based cocktails start at Y350, and Tanaka has their own label of rough but serviceable one-cup sake, also Y350.
One important thing to note is the shop's sauce policy - double-dipping is strictly prohibited. You can dip each skewer into the communal sauce container only once, before you take a bite. If you want a bit more sauce after that, you can use a raw cabbage leaf as a dipping utensil to transfer more sauce to your plate.
(Open from 2pm weekends; LO 12:30am Sundays and holidays.)
The roux at this curry-udon shop is dark brown in color and spicy, with a flavor profile that approaches the Platonic ideal of Japanese curry. There's a bowl of syrupy, spicy sauce on the table if you want to add some extra heat. But what makes Norabutaya stand out from the crowd is the quirky selection of toppings that accompany the udon noodles - grilled chicken, chicken tempura, cheese, potato croquettes, and fried oysters among them.
Perhaps the most appealing is the "toro toro buta" - fatty grilled pork cheeks with a nice smoky flavor. Thin slivers of pungent scallion create a good counterpoint to the rich flavors of the curry. The noodles themselves are thick and plain, functioning mainly as a delivery vehicle for the sauce. (A not entirely efficient delivery vehicle, we might add, which is why paper bibs are provided.)
Curry udon starts at Y723, with various permutations of topping ingredients available in set combinations or a la carte. The menu also offers curry rice, katsu curry rice, takoyaki and chicken karaage, the latter two as inexpensive side dishes. The interior has a rustic decor, with heavy dark-brown wooden furnishings. Most of the menu is also ready for take-out.
Oden is known as a fairly humble cuisine, but it reaches new heights of sophistication at Konbuya, where it's paired with well-chosen craft sake and shochu in an elegant dining room. In addtion to oden you'll find a good selection of seasonal small dishes - mostly simple fare like horsemeat sashimi and fried ginkgo nuts that rely on high-quality ingredients rather than fancy recipes.
As for the main attraction - the oden menu features some three dozen individual items, ranging from your typical fish balls and daikon chunks to more unusual choices like gyoza dumplings, kakuni stewed pork (wrapped in fried tofu), and grilled tarako (cod roe).
You may be tempted by the twelve-item moriawase menu (Y3600), but it's really worth the extra effort to peruse the menu and order a la carte - the more unusual items here are what set Konbuya apart from other oden shops. For example the ume tsukune is a very tasty chicken-meat patty such as you'd find at a yakitoriya, livened up with a refreshing infusion of sour minced plum.
The anago no yuba-maki (grilled eel wrapped in tofu skin) is another standout, while the savory simmered apple slices make a nice finishing touch. The simpler items do provide a nice contrast - the daikon chunks are soft and succulent, delivering the konbu-rich flavor of the broth, while the hanpen is light but not bland, and pleasantly fluffy.
Note that the prices on the menu do not include tax or 10% service charge; budget around Y4000-6000 for ample food and drink.
A yoshoku-style Hamburg steak with cheese, in hefty sizes ranging from 200-300g, is one of the best selling dishes at this popular steakhouse. The ground steak is served with mashed potatoes and turnip, covered in chives and bits of toasted onion, and drenched in a very tasty garlic-butter sauce that really brings out the flavor of the meat.
The menu also features regular beef, chicken and pork steaks and roast beef as well a few fried dishes and donburi items at lunchtime. The restaurant is spread out over two floors - the ground floor for smokers and the basement for non-smokers - and they do a lively lunchtime business.
Hamburg steak with cheese starts at Y1380 at lunchtime, Y1728 at dinner. No dinner on Saturdays.
Located in an attractively furnished Kagurazaka basement, walls decorated with colorful sake and shochu bottles, Agezuki feels more like an upscale izakaya than a tonkatsu shop. And indeed they offer a well-curated list of more than a dozen craft sakes, in either standard 1-go flasks or 65ml tasting sizes, along with sake-appropriate snacks. Several types of shochu, a few inexpensive wines and the usual beer round out the drinks options.
Tonkatsu is still the main draw, of course, and the cutlet here is first-rate, made from a hybrid breed of pork sourced from a small farm in Miyazaki, Kyushu. The pork is fried in a mixture of imported Dutch lard and vegetable oils, resulting in a light-colored, thin but flaky crust. Diners are encouraged to try their first bite of cutlet with salt alone, to savor the rich and pleasantly fatty flavor without sauce. Bowls of tasty pickles are supplied on each table.
Dinnertime main dishes include the usual rosu, hire and menchi cutlets, as well as ginger-pork, chicken, prawns and Hokkaido scallops. Mains can be ordered a la carte or as part of a teishoku set with soup, pickles, rice and a dab of potato salad.
Lunches are priced from Y1100, with four options including pork rosu and chicken breast. In spite of the posted closing time of 2pm, they seem to often run out of ingredients at around 1pm, so it's recommended that you show up early and wait on line. Likewise, reservations are probably a good idea in the evening.
One of the draws of this retro-style Japanese spaghetti chain is the ability to customize your bowl almost endlessly. Spaghetti comes in tomato-based, cream-based and Japanese-style (soy sauce-flavored) sauces, with more than fifty variations in basic ingredients, twenty-five optional toppings, and four different portion sizes. To simplify things for confused diners, the menu features a top-ten list.
The Japanese pasta section features ingredients like tarako and mentaiko (cod or pollock roe), asari clams, ikura and natto in various combinations. Nicely toasted garlic chips are a recommended topping, and condiments include bottles of red-pepper oil rather than Tabasco.
This is a more modern take on Japanese pasta than you'll find in other restaurants of this genre. The decor is up to date, and diners can supplement their pasta with appealing side dishes like arancini rice balls, bocconcini-tomato caprese, and garlic-sauteed spinach and kinoko. Pastas start at under Y1000, and side dishes and drinks are also quite reasonably priced.
A branch of the very popular Nagoya izakaya chain, Yamachan is a great place to sample local Nagoya delicacies in Tokyo. Recommendations include the awesome spicy chicken wings (we prefer the regular wings to the sauce-coated "black wings"); super-crunchy deep-fried prawns; and richly flavored dote-ni (miso-stewed pork entrails).
If you want something filling to finish off your meal, the spicy "Taiwan ramen" is a faithful rendition of another classic Nagoya dish. Drink options include a couple of local craft sake, miso-flavored beer, and the usual cocktails, shochu and draft beer. Budget around Y2000-2500 for dinner.
Note that this is one of the rare branches of Yamachan with a dedicated non-smoking section, and as such may be popular with families with children early on weekend evenings.
A very informal drinking spot, Hikaru serves cheap beers and cocktails along with a small but focused selection of snacks to go with your booze - grilled fish, grilled vegetables, deep-fried heirloom-breed chicken and an intensely flavored beef-tripe stew (motsu nikomi). The nikomi stew is a standout, showcasing five different beef organ meats in a rich miso-based broth.
Budget around Y3000 for food and drink, including Y500 per person table charge.
This unpretentious Chinese noodle shop has been preparing their famous gyoza dumplings in the same style for some five decades now, with minced pork, chives and bok choy but no garlic. The gyoza are crunchy on the bottom with an otherwise doughy casing, and a very juicy and flavorful filling. There's only one type of gyoza, and a plate of six pieces is priced at Y600.
If you're a big gyoza fan, two orders will make a reasonably sized meal, while a single order is a good-sized snack; you can also opt for a bowl of noodles to accompany your dumpling
Charcoal-grilled beef tongue is the specialty at this branch of a Sendai-based chain. You can choose from miso or salt-grilled, or you can get a combination of the two - we recommend the salt as it brings out the charcoal flavoring better. The tongue itself is pleasantly chewy, and comes in thick-cut and extra-thick-cut versions, in regular and extra-large portions, all with excellent pickles on the side.
The minced-tongue tsukune is another highlight here, although we prefer it without the accompanying spicy dip. Other specialty dishes are a tongue nikomi stew and a classic yoshoku-style tongue stew with a rich demi-glace sauce, both of them showcasing very tender braised meat.
The drinks list offers seven kinds of local Miyagi-ken sake and New World and European wines. Budget around Y2000-3000 at dinnertime.
Lobster rolls - lobster meat sandwiches in a toasted bun - are the specialty at this New York-based shop. All the lobsters come straight from Maine, and a display in front of the shop shows their fisherman suppliers and identifies the lobster of the day.
They also serve crab and shrimp sandwiches and combinations, but the lobster version seems to be the tastiest. Sandwiches are priced from Y980, with optional chips and drinks. There's a small bench in front of the take-out window if you want to eat on-site.
Thirty-one taps of craft beer are ready to pour here - both top-grade Japanese brews and solid US and European imports. The food menu ranges from simple tapas-style dishes like salmon carpaccio to original versions of Tex-Mex fare like tacos and nachos.
Beer prices are around the norm for Tokyo, with special discounts during the 5-7pm happy hour. Each beer is served in one size only, a bit larger than a typical glass but smaller than a pint, in style-appropriate glassware. The dining room is spacious and modern, with comfortable seating and a pleasant terrace area in front.
Surrounded by garish electronics shops and maid cafes, the curtained entrance to this old-school izakaya feels like a portal to another era. It's far from fancy inside, just an after-work drinking spot with a big wrap-around counter and ample table seating, with a TV set on in the background and cigarette smoke wafting from various tables.
The kitchen turns out a typical selection of sashimi, grilled meats and fish, but many people come here specifically for their tori motsu nikomi (chicken giblet stew). It's served steaming hot, with a richly flavored miso-based broth balanced by silky tofu, big sweet chunks of onion and pungent scallions.
The sake selection is also very old-school, so you might want to stick to beer or shochu cocktails. A serving of stew with a small beer will run Y1600, or budget around Y3000 for dinner with drinks.
Craft beer and craft meats make a great combination, and here you can enjoy them both in a very casual setting, with beers priced at just Y500 a glass. The meaty menu (from the folks at the former Magical Animal in Aoyama) includes pulled-pork sandwiches, great burgers, chicken wings and occasional special treats like cold-smoked lamb chops. The six taps dispense well-chosen beers from a rotating selection of Japanese breweries like Minoh and Brimmer.
Fried chicken reaches a whole new level of greatness at Tokyo Karaage Bar. First of all, you get to choose your favorite parts of the bird - wings, breast, thigh, fatty bonjiri (tail), liver, gizzards - which are then freshly prepared in the deep fryer. You also have your choice of various dips like shallot tartar, yuzu kosho and "death salsa," for a completely customized fried-chicken feast. The chicken itself is perfectly crisp on the outside, with a satisfying crunch and tender, juicy meat.
Prices are quite reasonable - an individual order is Y378 and includes a hefty portion of chicken, while toppings are either Y54 or Y87. Starters like smoked duck and pork rillettes can round out your meal if you want to get fancy. The setting is very casual - a counter surrounding the kitchen, plus a few barrel-tables up front with stools. Budget Y1200-2000 for food and drink.
Meaty, well-prepared tacos and burritos are served at this Tokyo outlet of an Australia-based Tex-Mex chain. For added structural integrity, the tacos are double wrapped in nice corn tortillas, and you can choose from a variety of fillings like pulled pork, grilled chicken, and beef flank steak, all of them noticeably spicy.
The setting (on the second floor of La Foret) is a slightly upscale fast-food shop, with some window seating overlooking Harajuku crossing.
Hakata cuisine - traditional cooking from Fukuoka in northern Kyushu - is the specialty of this rather boisterous izakaya in Nakano's bar zone. Besides serving excellent food, Jidoriya offers a respectable sake list of around fifteen premium varieties, available in tasting sizes (60ml) and three-part tasting sets (Y990) in case you want to compare different breweries and styles.
A more delicate than average gyumotsu nikomi (beef organ-meat stew) is one of our favorites here - the flavors of the various meats shine through, while blocks of tofu provide a nice balance for the rich soup. The deep-fried chicken skin is crunchy and surprisingly sweet, while the momo tataki (chicken thigh) is pleasantly chewy and delivers an intense charcoal flavor.
The staff is friendly and helpful with sake decisions, and the atmosphere is lively, with a prefab retro-style decor of corrugated metal paneling and old beer and sake posters. Budget around Y4000 for dinner with drinks. English-language menus are available.
Craft beers and whiskey are given equal billing at this small but well-stocked bar. Eight taps dispense mostly US craft imports, typically priced at around Y700-800 per glass and Y1000-1100 per pint, while whiskey drinkers can choose from some twenty varieties.
The food menu is a cut above average, with beer-friendly snacks like pulled-pork sliders and quesadillas. The small interior has around eight seats, plus standing room for another dozen or so.
If you don't mind the informal setting, this unpretentious back-alley izakaya is a great place to explore the mysterious delights of horsemeat sushi and other raw-meat delicacies. The ten-piece Kagurazaka sushi platter (Y3200) is a good starting point - it includes a few different cuts of horse along with lightly seared chicken and raw wagyu beef, all prepared as sushi.
If you want to supplement with individual pieces, the a la carte menu offers beef, chicken and lamb options as well as several cuts of horse. We can whole-heartedly recommend the rich "foie gras" sushi. To balance your diet and complement the meaty fare, you can choose from a selection of fresh vegetable dishes - ripe avocado sashimi (with pungent wasabi), raw turnip chunks and crisp cucumbers served with miso paste.
Drinks are reasonably priced and include a few premium sake brands as well as beer and shochu. Nikuzushi is located in the middle of an ancient-looking alleyway full of tiny drinking spots. There are around six counter seats on the ground floor and three small tables upstairs, reached via a steep and narrow stairway. Although it may seem like a casual, walk-in kind of spot, reservations are recommended if you're visiting at dinnertime.
In addition to the usual local food and booze, this large prefectural antenna shop offers a good assortment of crafts - tableware, glassware, wooden dolls and other decorative items. The sake area features more than 100 kinds of sake from Fukushima, some of them otherwise hard to find in Tokyo.
Food items include fresh produce; fruit jams and preserves; many types of miso and soy sauce; soba, udon and rice noodles; twelve kinds of packaged curry; kamaboko fish cakes; pickles and ice cream.
The seating arrangements here may be a bit tight, and the prices higher than average, but the grilled chicken here is outstanding. And unlike most yakitoriya in town, Isehiro serves full sets of freshly grilled skewers at lunchtime rather than just rice-based dishes.
Starting with premium heirloom chickens, the chefs grill every cut to perfection - gizzards and sasami are tender and moist, with a bit of wasabi kick to the sasami, while the tsukune is juicy and pleasantly crunchy in texture. The lunch set comes with a nice chicken skin broth to start things off, and first-rate pickles to accompany your rice.
Lunchtime menus are priced Y1550-3850; budget around Y8000 at dinnertime.
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