When we first learned of Meatrea, billed as Japan's first meat theme park, we were intrigued. Not just a collection of meat restaurants, they also boast a Meat Musuem (or "Museo de Carne" as they mysteriously call it) with an educational component. And when we heard out about their tonkatsu parfait, a dessert featuring ice cream and pork, we knew we'd have to hop on the train to inspect the place for ourselves.
Located in Minami-Osawa, a Tokyo suburb 40 minutes from Shinjuku station, Meatrea is a collection of seven restaurants representing various meat cuisines - grilled chicken, Korean-style yakiniku, pork cutlets, pork steaks, barbecued ribs - occupying the top floor of a shopping mall. It's run by Namco, the game-center company behind other food-themed complexes such as Gyoza Stadium, Dessert Forest and Ice Cream City.
Famous regional meat products are featured in most of the restaurants, so the yakiniku is made with Ohmi beef, the grilled chicken with cochin (an especially tasty breed of bird from Nagoya), and so on. We also noticed at least three regional microbrew beers to accompany the meat dishes (Dogo from Ehime, Hide from Miyazaki, and Kinshachi red miso-flavored lager from Nagoya if you're keeping track).
Running at cross-purposes to the Japanese regional theme is a Spanish village design motif, with rustic faux-stonework on the walls, pictures of bullfighters, signs announcing a Carne Fiesta, and bathrooms for Senoras and Senores.
Besides sampling various meaty snacks and regional beers you can also digest a few tidbits of educational content at the aforementioned Museo de Carne. In this library-themed section of the complex where you can learn about premium branded meats like Tokyo X pork and Maezawa beef. One display case is devoted to the history of various sausages, and another one proudly shows off a 45-rpm record of the hit single "Sukiyaki."
Each of the restaurants offers inexpensive take-out items in addition to sit-down service, although several were sold out by late afternoon on the day of our visit. See part two for some details of the individual shops.