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Located inside the Hiroshima Prefecture antenna shop, Sanshou serves Hiroshima's most famous foods, okonomiyaki and oysters, and offers a nice selection of local premium sake and shochu to wash it down. If you've got a good appetite, the Special Sansho Okonomiyaki (Y1660) is the way to go - it's packed with plenty of shrimp and squid, pork, vegetables and ramen noodles, and topped with two juicy fried oysters.
If you sit at the counter you can watch the rather complicated assembly process step by step - it's quite impressive. The finished product is nicely balanced in flavor and texture, from the thin layer of fried egg on top to the lightly charred bits of squid and the partially crunchy noodles.
You can fine-tune the experience with tangy sauce, spicy mayonnaise, red pepper, black pepper and garlic powder that are on the counter, or order toasted garlic chips as an optional topping.
As is typical for an okonomiyaki shop, there's also a selection of other items from the teppan grill - bacon-asparagus stir-fry, pork-kimchee, squid tentacles, moyashi (bean sprouts), steaks and several oyster dishes.
It's like a party in a chemistry lab every night at Science Bar Incubator. Drinks are served in beakers and erlenmeyer flasks, food is heated on wire-mesh stands over alcohol lamps, and customers can change into white lab coats for the duration of their visit. A tasting flight of red wine in a test-tube rack makes a cute photo op, as does the biology-lab microscope that's set up at one end of the bar.
Incubator's Y500 cover charge includes a snack (we were served several figs in a big test tube) and optional use of a lab coat. After that drinks are priced fairly normally - for example wine by the glass starts at Y750 and a 300ml Pyrex beaker of beer is Y900. The food menu features items like oysters, tofu and tomato salad with avocado oil, and cheese fondue heated over a lamp.
British-style meat pies and dessert pies are prepared by genuine English chefs at this cozy British deli and bakery. They also sell an appealing range of house-made relishes with flavors like peach-eggplant chutney, caramalised onion jam and sweetcorn relish.
The shop is only open Monday through Friday, but you can often find them at Farmers Markets around town on the weekend.
The all-pork Hamburg steak here is made from premium Iwanaka pork from Iwate prefecture, and it's remarkably tasty - a revelation in how good this simple dish can get. The ground meat is a mix of four different cuts - shoulder, skirt steak, belly and cheek - resulting in an ideal balance of flavors and fat content. The patties are quite thick and almost lozenge-shaped, cooked to a juicy medium-rare consistency with slight grill-charring on the surface.
Steaks are served with a choice of sauce - demi-glace, yuzu-kosho or creamy mustard - but the meat is so juicy and flavorful that the sauce seems superfluous. At lunchtime plain Hamburg steaks start at Y1000, while variations such as black pepper, mozzarella, pancetta and foie gras run a bit more. The mozzarella works quite well as a filling - the mild cheese enhances the flavor of the meat without competing with it.
Lunch comes with a nice cup of cabbage-tomato soup, and for an extra Y380 the set menu includes salad and coffee or tea. The salad dressing incorporates various fruit juices and the salad itself has bits of sausage hidden among the greens. Coffee comes with real cream. Other drink options include fruit juices, ginger-infused vinegar drink, and home-made fruit wines.
In general the gyoza dumplings at this small specialty shop are flavored with more Chinese-tasting mix of spices and ingredients than is typical for Tokyo gyoza. The namesake Pairon ("white dragon") gyoza here are small and lozenge-shaped, with a sweetish, slightly mushy filling and a hint of cinnamon in the chewy skin. The thin, rectangular shiso gyoza have a firmer, very savory pork filling and big shiso leaves.
There are several other gyoza variations, plus dim sum dishes like daikon mochi and shrimp with mayonnaise. The a la carte menu is more limited at lunchtime, but you can order lunch specials that include rice and soup and side dishes alongside your gyoza.
Charcoal-grilled skewers of pork and chicken are the main draw at this very informal after-work drinking spot, along with some decent sake and quite a bit of shochu. While there's some tatami seating upstairs, it's mainly a standing bar, well suited to dropping in for a quick drink and snack on your way home or to another bar.
Prices are very budget-friendly, with pork skewers starting at just Y100, and good value for money, although a few of the meat items may have been a bit more chewy than average. The kalbi (rib meat) and harami (tender diaphram meat) were our favorites from the skewered-pork list, and the grilled scallops and chicken tsukune (minced chicken meatball) were also quite satisfying and nicely infused with charcoal flavors from grilling.
Pork motsu nikomi (Y290) is an excellent way to start things off while you're waiting for your meat to grill. The various organ meats are all distinctively flavored, interspersed with tasty chunks of daikon radish that have soaked up the rich broth. Overall the flavors are softer and gentler than a typical nikomi, and a good match for most drinks. The sake list is small, and focused on reliable labels like Kubota Senshu (Y590 a glass).
There are standing bars both indoor the shop and out in front, and there's a second branch with an identical menu right next door in case there's no room here. Budget around Y2000 for food and drink.
While the relatively unspicy curry udon noodles are the main seller here, the kitchen also turns out several other hot and cold varieties such as spicy natto, Chinese-style tantanmen, and ume-kitsune (fried tofu). The Italian-influenced cold tomato and cheese udon (Y1000) is a refreshing, rather unique bowl, with lots of fresh vegetables like turnips, mushrooms and pumpkin complementing the pleasantly chewy noodles.
The atmosphere is relaxed, and the tasteful decor - tan stucco walls, distressed concrete floor, heavy dark wooden tables - makes this seem more like a chic neighborhood cafe than a noodle joint.
The spartan lunch-counter decor looks like it hasn't been updated since the 1960s, and the food is similarly retro - Japanese-style spaghetti served with plastic tubs of potato salad as a side order. The mentaiko spaghetti is a heap of thick, soft-cooked pasta livened up with shiso leaves, shiitake, onions, nori and komatsuna greens nicely balancing the spicy cod roe.
Other options include the Jalico (shrimp and meat), Ume Nori (with a plum-flavored topping), China (featuring zasai pickles), and Kimchi (with pork). Regular portions are reasonably sized, but the jumbo size (for an extra Y150) is almost comically large. Gigantic bottles of Tabasco and tubs of parmesan cheese are available if you want them.
Open until 4pm Saturdays.
Lunchtime is a good time to sample the oden at this long-established specialty izakaya - a teishoku (set meal) with a four-piece oden bowl plus rice, soup and pickles, is just Y780, and there are some seventeen different items to choose from. Four pieces is just about right for a lunchtime appetite, but if you want more you can add on extra items for Y160 each, or Y320 for deluxe items like their special hanpen and stuffed cabbage.
The oden menu covers the usual bases - fish cakes, fish balls, fried tofu and so on - but somehow the results here are a just a bit deeper and more flavorful than usual. The daikon radish is particularly rich, and the stuffed cabbage is pleasantly soft in texture and relatively big in size. Tart pickled cucumber slices, sliced very thin, make a nice contrasting side dish.
In the evening the oden menu expands to 25 items, and they offer side dishes like tempura-fried fish and freshly made tofu. A small list of three or four premium sakes changes every month. The shop itself is fairly large and old-fashioned, with a comfortable counter overlooking the simmering vats, plus a good number of tables. Budget around Y3500 for oden, side dishes and drinks at dinnertime.
Houtou is a hearty winter udon-noodle dish from the mountainous Kofu area of Yamanashi Prefecture, and this is one of the few places in Tokyo where you can find it. The houtou served here is quite substantial, loaded with chunks of chicken, pumpkin, leeks, mushrooms and other vegetables in a thick broth - a filling meal for just Y1000.
Sangokuichi also offers a couple dozen other types of udon, including oddball "salad udon" bowls such as tuna salad and tomato salad. Drinks include a dozen different shochu and seven craft sakes (although these aren't listed on the English menu). There's also a good amount of izakaya fare - sashimi, grilled fish and side dishes - if you want more than just noodles.
At first, pineapple ramen sounds strange, maybe even downright awful. But imagine some other things that have been matched with pineapples. Pineapple and a sweet terriyaki sauce make a great burger topping. Pineapple glaze is amazing on ham and pork chops. And thousands of Hawaiian-style pizzas are ordered every day. Does it work with ramen? You bet.
Papapapapine's interior is decorated from top to bottom with pineapples. Go for the shoyu with all the toppings (Y920). You'll get extra pork, extra chopped pineapple, and an egg that has been marinated in, you guessed it, pineapple juice. The soup isn't too sweet, just enough to match the saltiness of the soy sauce.
Papapapa Pine also has occasional limited bowls that use other fruit. Figs, bananas, and strawberries have all made their was into bowls at Papapapa Pine.
Takoyaki, kushiage and yakisoba are served Osaka-style here at this late-night, Osaka-based shop. There's a big takoyaki grill in the front take-out window, a small six-seat counter on the ground floor, and space for another twenty or so upstairs.
The takoyaki here is filled with big chunks of octopus in a filling somewhere between creamy and fluffy, coated in a thin outer skin. In addition to the usual sauce options, Creoru offers some interesting variations like anchovy mayonnaise with black olives, ume-shiso, and truffle oil. The pepperoncino takoyaki is quite good, topped with toasted garlic chips, red pepper and salt.
Also featured on the menu are "Osaka-style drinks," which in this case means frozen plum liquor and various highball cocktails as well as red and white wines. Menus are bilingual.
This very old-fashioned izakaya has a genuine shitamachi feel to it - sumo paraphernalia on the walls, a TV set going in the corner, and three big communal tables for customers. The shop is known for their beef motsu nikomi (organ-meat stew), a salty, intensely flavored miso-based stew featuring a variety of organ meats.
We'd recommend the tofu nikomi, which is the same stew but with more chunks of tofu to soak up the rich flavors. The drinks list includes seven or eight different sake, served either room temperature or heated to one of three different levels; there are also one or two sake served cold. Budget around Y2500 in the evening for dinner and drinks.
The popular New York-based bakery Dominique Ansel is best known as the inventor of the cronut, the croissant-doughtnut combination that took New York by storm when it was first introduced. In addition to cronuts, which sell briskly until they're all gone, pastry daredevils can try frozen s'mores, miniature meringues, tiny cheesecakes, and "cookie shots" - warm, moist chocolate-chip cookies baked in the shape of a shot-glass and filled with vanilla-infused milk.
Upstairs, the second-floor "Petit Park" cafe (open from 9am) offers a wider menu, including excellent lobster rolls (Y1800) - small sandwiches made with fresh lobster tail meat served on lightly toasted butter-soaked buns. There's also a "molten omelette souffle," homemade caesar salad, and brunch-style toasted-sandwich variations with evocative names like SoHo, Nolita and Brooklyn.
The first-rate grilled pork at Teruteru is matched by a serious selection of craft sake, including many seasonal choices. Pork skewers start at just Y100, with more than a dozen different organ meats. The tsukune (minced-pork patty) is outstanding, a perfect balance of meaty flavors with a good amount of fat, and the shiro (intestines) and harami (tender diaphram meat) are also highly recommended.
Balance your meal with excellent grilled zucchini, asparagus and other vegetables, or with the seasonal vegetable plate served bagna cauda style. The motsu nikomi (organ-meat stew) is also quite hearty and satisfying, and goes very well with the more assertive sakes on the list. The setting is a very unpretentious izakaya-style pub, built around a long counter with a few small tables in back. Budget around Y2000-2500 for food and drink.
It may look like just another Tokyo craft-beer bar, but Vector serves up an appealing menu of beef-tongue dishes and other solid izakaya fare, making it a popular dining destination as well as a bar. The charcoal-grilled sumibiyaki tongue (Y980) in particular is a crowd favorite - slightly chewy and cut a bit thinner than average, with a nice charcoal-infused flavor that's complemented by the accompanying wasabi and crunchy pickled hakusai.
There's plenty more tongue in store - tongue and mushroom ajillo, two kinds of tongue meatballs, tongue demiglace stew, home-made tongue ham, tongue cutlet and menchi-katsu (deep-fried minced tongue). The tongue rillettes (Y480) are a good quick-starter dish while you're waiting for your grilled and fried items.
Vector is also one of the better craft beer bars in town, with ten taps dispensing a well-chosen selection from Japanese and US small breweries, all at very reasonable prices. Three-beer tasting sets (Y1000) are a great way to compare different breweries and styles, and the bar's convenient late-night hours are another bonus. Budget around Y3500 for dinner and drinks.
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is the specialty at this friendly neighborhood spot, along with a good assortment of vegetables from the teppanyaki grill. Choose from seven or eight okonomiyaki variations, all made with a base of pork, eggs, cabbage and other vegetables, plus your choice of ramen (aka "soba") or udon noodles. (In case you're extra-hungry, we were told that the ramen noodles create a more voluminous final product.)
The seafood version (Y1300) incorporates shrimp, squid and scallops, all of them very tasty. Other choices are tomato-cheese, togarashi (hot peppers), and a noodle-less version that leaves out the soba or udon. There are also more than a dozen optional extra "toppings" to choose from, including kimchee, natto, cheese and extra pork. If you want to make a night of it you can add on grilled side dishes like eringi mushrooms with bacon, or grilled chicken neck with asparagus and black pepper.
Most seating is at a big counter wrapping around the grill area, so your okonomiyaki can be enjoyed from the hot grill directly in front of you. Adding to the down-home feel, there's usually a fresh vegetable and fruit stand set up in front of the shop. Budget around Y1000 for okonomiyaki, or Y2000-2500 for a bigger dinner with drinks. Note that the lunchtime menu is a bit more limited than at dinnertime, but also a couple hundred yen cheaper.
Premium sake is the focus at this charming drinking spot, and proprietress will construct three-part tasting flights based on your preferences. Flights generally cost around Y1500-1700 - perhaps a tad higher than average, but worth it for the personal service and outstanding selection. The Y300 table charge includes a nice plate of sake-friendly snacks, and miso soup is complimentary - just help yourself. The crowd seems to get more lively (and bigger) after 10pm.
Tsuta, near Sugamo Station on the northern side of the Yamanote train line, can be a bit of a hassle to get to. They are only open for lunch, and often have a huge line. Expect a wait of twenty or thirty minutes. But if you were going to choose just one line to wait in, Tsuta wouldn't be a bad decision.
The shop serves up probably the most refined bowl of ramen in Japan. Choice ingredients, like free range chickens from Akita and a blend of different small-batch soy sauces, are topped with a touch of truffle oil, a truly luxurious combination. Go for the shoyu bowl with the egg (Ajitama shoyu soba Y950), and drink every last drop of the soup.
A casual bakery and all-day cafe, No 4 (named after its Yonbancho location) offers local diners everything from fresh-baked sourdough bread, pastries and fantastic coffee (from the excellent Nozy coffee roastery) in the mornings to craft beers (from TY Harbor), natural wines and pizzas at dinnertime. Reservations are not accepted.
This comfortably casual izakaya showcases the food of both Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefectures, with some nicely prepared local dishes that are usually hard to find in Tokyo. At the top of our list is their version of houtou, an udon dish from the Kofu (Yamanashi) area where the noodles are simmered in a thick, rich soup made with kabocha pumpkins and other vegetables.
Another favorite local dish is their Hamamatsu (Shizuoka) style gyoza dumplings, which have a rather mushy pork filling and a delicious casing that's crisp on one side and soft on the other. They also prepare a fairly representative version of Koshu (Yamanashi) style stewed chicken giblets (torimotsu nikomi). Differing from most giblet stews, this one isn't swimming in broth, but comes with just a small amount of dark, strongly flavored sauce, while the individual giblets - heart, gizzard, liver, and early-stage egg - are very firm and retain their individual flavors.
The menu also features a lot of bacon dishes (including bacon and eggs!), and very good grilled ray fins, softer and thicker than usual. On the drinks pages of the menu you'll find several craft sake labels (including a nice one from Shizuoka brewery Kaiun), a few craft beers, and a big selection of Koshu wines, which are attractively priced at Y1920-2810 per bottle.
Budget around Y3000-4000 for dinner with drinks. Open until 3am Fridays, 11pm Saturdays. No lunch on Saturdays.
There's no better way to enjoy amazing, housemade ramen noodles than in a bowl of abura soba. Literally meaning oil-noodles, abura soba leaves the soup out, with only some tare seasoning, oils, and toppings. Gachi, part of the Mensho ramen group, has a noodle factory in the back. Depending on the time you go, you might see someone back there feeding sheets of dough through the noodle machine, prepping for the next day.
Go for the regular abura soba (Y690), or if you love chashu go for the chashu abura soba (Y890). An important note with abura soba, you need to mix it vigorously. Mix, mix, mix, then mix some more. All this mixing activates some of the gluten in the noodles, and will make it taste even better.
Eat a bite or two, then add in a few squirts of hot oil and vinegar. Have a couple more bites, and then add in any of the shop's other free toppings. Crispy noodle bits, herb garlic, spicy mayo, and more. This is a fun, messay bowl that really satisfies.
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.
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