At first glance it looks like just another cheap and cheerful budget izakaya - unpretentious rustic decor, bouncy J-Pop background music, enthusiastic young staff and boisterous after-work drinkers. But then you notice that, unlike most izakaya, the walls here are decorated with giant photos of farms, farmers, and free-range chickens going about their business. A quick look at the menu confirms that they do indeed take their food seriously here at Tsukada Farm - focusing heavily on top-grade Miyazaki chicken as well as many other regional delicacies from southern Kyushu. [See FULL REVIEW.]
Minami-Ikebukuro 2-16-8. Open 5-11:30pm (LO) daily.
Ezo venison, salmon, scallops, potatoes and mountain vegetables - all freshly imported from Hokkaido - are prepared in simple fashion to bring out their wholesome, natural flavors here at Tokyo's only Ainu restaurant. Similar to Hokkaido country-style cooking, Ainu cuisine uses a bit more garlic, ginger and spices while focusing on seasonal local vegetables and other ingredients. Ezo venison, salmon, scallops, potatoes and mountain vegetables - all freshly imported from Hokkaido - are prepared in simple fashion to bring out their wholesome, natural flavors here at Tokyo's only Ainu restaurant. Similar to Hokkaido country-style cooking, Ainu cuisine uses a bit more garlic, ginger and spices while focusing on seasonal local vegetables and other ingredients.
Some standout dishes include a stunning grilled venison with ponzu (even better than the venison steak); pan-fried scallops, asparagus and bacon; and garlic fried rice with scallops and mustard greens. We also loved the gyoza dumplings stuffed with kitopiro, a wild garlic-like grass similar to nira and only one of the several mysterious food names on the menu that we had to ask about.
Drinks include a few different Hokkaido sakes as well as shochu and beer. Like many of its neighboring Okubo shops, HaruKor features extremely casual decor and cheap prices - budget around Y2500 for food and drink. (Note that the restaurant moved to new quarters in June 2013.) [Show more] [Show less]
This long-established izakaya mini-chain serves excellent Kyushu cuisine and a good assortment of sake and shochu from the southern island. Budget around Y4000-5000 for dinner with drinks. [Go to branch review]
Nishi-Shinjuku 3-2-9, Shinjuku Washington Hotel B1F. Open 11:30am-2, 5-10:30pm (LO) daily.
Oshima (Nishi-Shinjuku - Japanese regional). 3348-8080
A great place to explore Kaga-ryori, the regional cuisine of Kanazawa, on the Sea of Japan coast. Lunch from Y1,800, dinner from Y2,800, and special Kaga kaiseki from Y6,500. They also have branches in Ginza, Shinagawa and Yokohama.
Nishi-Shinjuku 1-5-1, Odakyu Halc 8F. Open 11am-9pm (LO) daily.
This long-established izakaya mini-chain serves excellent Kyushu cuisine and a good assortment of sake and shochu from the southern island. Especially recommended are the Kagoshima-style tonkotsu (pork and daikon stewed in shochu) and a well-balanced Nagasaki-style sara-udon with vegetables and meat served over crisp fried noodles. [See FULL REVIEW.]
Udagawacho 17-2. Open 5pm-2:30am (LO; -11pm Sat, Sun) daily.
Gyossantei is a great place to sample the regional cooking of Miyazaki Prefecture, along with good sake from around the country. The dining space is comfortable and informal, and large windows on one side give it a spacious, open feel. [See FULL REVIEW.]
Excellent southern Kyushu specialties made from freshly flown-in ingredients. The tonkotsu-ni, chunks of pork stewed in shochu overnight, was especially outstanding, as was the chawan-mushi. The bar stocks more than 50 different kinds of shochu, and several of the walls are covered with shochu labels and descriptions. The decor is modern and stylish; the crowd is diverse. Budget around Y5000. (No lunch on weekends.) [See FULL REVIEW.]
Shinsen 10-10. Open 11:30am-2, 6pm-2am (-midnight Sat, Sun) daily.
The warm, cozy atmosphere and friendly service are the draw at this casual Hokkaido-inspired izakaya. The cooking is home-style and simple, - some highlights have included smoked salmon with a crisp, almost crunchy skin, and lightly grilled bamboo shoots served with fresh katsuo-bushi. The hand-written menu changes with the seasons. Dinner runs around Y3000-Y5000 with drinks.
Shibuya 1-12-24, 707 Shibuya Bldg 2F. Open 5:30-2am (LO) daily.
If you're not well acquainted with the subtleties of horsemeat cuisine, Bakuro can be a revelation. The food here is fantastic, showcasing a surprisingly wide range of flavors and styles. The atmosphere is lively and fun, the drinks list is well put together, and prices are very reasonable for this level of quality. If you're not well acquainted with the subtleties of horsemeat cuisine, Bakuro can be a revelation. The food here is fantastic, showcasing a surprisingly wide range of flavors and styles. The atmosphere is lively and fun, the drinks list is well put together, and prices are very reasonable for this level of quality.
Bakuro occupies a narrow two-story residential building filled with antique furnishings and horse-themed bric-a-brac, which contribute to the charming retro-chic ambience. The upstairs dining area, reached via a steep staircase, is especially cozy, with little nooks, bottle-lined bookshelves and an artfully hidden toilet. Sitting on a quiet side street surrounded by other tiny drinking spots, it attracts a mostly young and well-dressed crowd - even by Ebisu standards.
The horsemeat here comes raw, charcoal-grilled, and served sukiyaki-style. All are worth trying, but the grilled section of the menu really highlights the diverse flavors of the meat. Horse belly is deliciously fatty and reminds us of prime beef, while the richly flavored sausage and bacon seem closer to pork, but with an extra oomph. The tsukune (meatballs) on the other hand are quite heavy and gamey, but definitely worth experiencing. Our grilled platter arrived with a big pile of rocket greens, a much nicer match than the usual cabbage or lettuce that one might expect in a typical izakaya.
The basashi (raw horse) platter makes a good starter, letting you compare several different cuts of meat. Everything we tried was tender and flavorful - in fact Bakuro serves some of the tenderest raw horse we've found in town. We finished off the meal with a filling, and quite economical, nabe pot. The thinly sliced meat is quick-cooked in a light broth, making it closer to sukiyaki than a heavy winter stew. It comes complete with stacks of vegetables, something we had missed in the earlier part of the meal (although we did enjoy an excellent Caesar salad with horse bacon). As with any good nabe dish, you can opt for an order of a filling starch - in this case udon noodles - to soak up the broth at the end.
If we had one complaint it would be that the menu is perhaps a bit too tightly focused - we would have loved some grilled seasonal vegetables to go with our grilled meats. Satsuma-age (Kyushu-style deep-fried fishcake) was one of the few non-equine items on the menu, and it was outstanding - fluffier, moister and less greasy than is typical for this dish. (We noticed that the other branch of this restaurant, in Kanda, seems to have a slightly wider menu which includes fish sashimi.)
Since horse cuisine is a Kyushu specialty, the drinks menu naturally leans towards shochu, however we also found several excellent, unusual sake labels. If you like, you can treat Bakuro as a drinking spot - just order some grilled meat and basashi to accompany your sake or shochu - or add on a pot of nabe at the end to turn it into a full meal. Budget around Y3000-4000 for a substantial dinner with drinks. [Show more] [Show less]
Ebisu-Nishi 1-7-12. Open 5-11:30pm. Closed Sundays.
Akita Prefecture is famous for its excellent sake, but its regional cuisine isn't as widely known. Wattaribozu, a cozy little basement izakaya near Gotanda Station, is a great place to explore both food and drink from the region. Some highlights include fish and seafood flown in fresh from the Sea of Japan coast, chicken dishes made with Hina-dori, an heirloom breed that originated in Akita, and wintertime stews like kiritampo nabe, made with grilled pounded rice on skewers. Akita Prefecture is famous for its excellent sake, but its regional cuisine isn't as widely known. Wattaribozu, a cozy little basement izakaya near Gotanda Station, is a great place to explore both food and drink from the region. Some highlights include fish and seafood flown in fresh from the Sea of Japan coast, chicken dishes made with Hina-dori, an heirloom breed that originated in Akita, and wintertime stews like kiritampo nabe, made with grilled pounded rice on skewers.
As you might expect, the drinks list here focuses heavily on Akita sake, with a number of labels from small craft breweries that are otherwise hard to find in Tokyo. Thirteen sake by the glass are listed, most in the Y580-850 range. You can also order by the flask for the table, and after our first couple of rounds we turned to the staff for recommendations, and were rewarded with some very fresh, limited-edition seasonal bottles that weren't even on the menu. If you're adventurous you might also want to check out the umeshu (plum wine) selection. There are at least twenty varieties, including unusual flavors like banana and yuzu, both of which were surprisingly good
One main section of the food menu is devoted to Hinai-dori, a native-Japanese breed of chicken with striking red-and-black plumage. It's represented here in the form of charcoal-grilled yakitori skewers, deep-fried chicken, excellent savory egg custard, and oyako-donburi, the classic meal of chicken and egg over rice. You'll also find some excellent grilled pork dishes, including tasty, thick bacon slabs and fantastic grilled pork belly with toasted garlic chips. Unexpectedly, Wattaribozu also serves some of the best basashi (horse sashimi) we've ever come across Tokyo.
Akita is largely mountainous and much of its vegetable consumption is in the form of pickles. The oshinko moriawase (assorted pickle platter) here is a good introduction, with several varieties we had never seen or heard of before. Among our favorites was the iburi-gakko (smoked pickled daikon and carrots), which went quite well with the local sake. We also had some interesting and unusual mountain-vegetable dishes, very good bamboo shoots, and outstanding grilled shiitake mushrooms.
One challenge here is simply understanding the menu - many dishes had unfamiliar names, and despite extensive consultations with the waitstaff we were still in for a few surprises. Pretty much everything we tried was quite good though; even a rather plebian dish like yakisoba was beautifully prepared, with special Akita-style noodles and other top-grade ingredients.
Budget around Y3500 at dinnertime for food and drink; all-you-can-drink plans are also available for parties. No lunch on weekends; open until 3am on Friday nights. [Show more] [Show less]
Nishi-Gotanda 1-7-1, Libio Gotanda Pragma G Tower B1F. Open 11:30am-2, 5pm-1am daily.
Kanou-ya (Shinagawa - Japanese regional). 6718-2835
Country-style fare - soba, natto, and tofu dishes, and an intriguing sansai (mountain vegetable) full-course dinner at Y3500, along with sake from Niigata (six different kinds of Kubota!).
Konan 2-16-3, Grand Passage 1F. Open 11am-11pm daily.
The specialty of the house here is seafood from the San-in region of Western Honshu, flown in daily and served grilled and as sashimi. There's also an excellent selection of sake from the region, and a lively after-work crowd. Prices are extremely reasonable - budget around Y2500-3500 at dinnertime for food and drink.
Konan 2-3-13, Shinagawa Front Bldg B1F. Open 11am-2, 4-11:30pm. Closed Sundays.
Despite its prime location one minute from Tokyo Midtown, this stylish, relaxed basement izakaya feels far removed from the hubbub of Roppongi nightlife. Kyushu-style yakitori is the centerpiece of the menu, but there's much more - beautiful charcoal-grilled seasonal vegetables, exotic regional dishes like horse sashimi, and a surprisingly big wine list. Despite its prime location one minute from Tokyo Midtown, this stylish, relaxed basement izakaya feels far removed from the hubbub of Roppongi nightlife. Kyushu-style yakitori is the centerpiece of the menu, but there's much more - beautiful charcoal-grilled seasonal vegetables, exotic regional dishes like horse sashimi, and a surprisingly big wine list.
The first thing you notice about yakitori from Hakata (the old name for Fukuoka, the Kyushu capital) is that it's served over a bed of vinegared cabbage, which also serves as a refreshing, high-fiber palate cleanser between skewers. The chicken is artfully grilled over the finest binchotan charcoal, and the results are tender, moist and very flavorful. The sasami umeshiso (chicken breast fillets with plum and shiso) was particularly good, and our chicken wings had pleasingly crunchy skin without being dry.
The rather fatty grilled pork belly is another standout, and vegetable highlights included bamboo shoots (livened up by a spicy miso paste) and crisp gingko nuts. The horse sashimi came in two different cuts, one quite tender and the other a bit more chewy. Another notable side dish is the endomame kushiage - deep-fried green-pea fritters on skewers. The Caesar salad, topped with very nice home-cured bacon, is also worth a try,
The drinks menu features more than two dozen wines, priced from Y3400-12,800 per bottle. There are also six kinds of shochu, two umeshu, and four well-chosen sakes, two from Fukuoka and two from next-door neighbor Saga Prefecture. Budget around Y4000 for food and drink - a very reasonable price for this quality level in Roppongi. [Show more] [Show less]
Roppongi 7-4-5, B1F. Open 6pm-12:30am (LO). Closed Sundays.
The regional specialties of Kagoshima (southern Kyushu) are served, including tonkotsu (pork stewed in shochu) and chicken sashimi. They also have a selection of southern Kyushu shochu (distilled liquor), including the distinctive imo-jochu (made from sweet potatoes).
Shimbashi 3-17-5, Hama Bldg. 2F. Open 5-10pm (LO). Closed weekends.
Ayumasa (Shimbashi - Japanese regional). 3431-7448
This Tokyo branch of a Shimane-based kappo restaurant serves exquisite seasonal seafood - including fugu - from that region. Full-course dinners range from Y7,000-17,000.
Hakobune (Shimbashi - Japanese regional). 3574-7890
Charcoal-grilled fish and seafood from the Hokuriku region of northern Honshu are the specialty at this robata-style izakaya. They also stock more than 100 kinds of sake. The food is good, but the atmosphere can get hot, noisy and smoky depending on the size of the crowd. English-speaking staff and English menus are available. Easy-to-order prix-fixe menus start at Y4000, or budget around Y6000 for a la carte.
Swan Lake is one of Japan's best microbreweries, and their Tokyo outpost serves most of their beers (varying with the season) along with excellent high-end regional cuisine and sakes from Niigata. Prix-fixe menus are Y6,500-13,000, plus an a la carte menu. Most seating is in small private rooms. (Formerly known as Kura-rin.)
Banzai-ryori, the homestyle regional cuisine of Kyoto, is the specialty here, served with a nice assortment of craft sake from around Japan. Beautiful Kyoto heirloom vegetables are featured in many dishes, and there are a lot of good chicken and pork items as well. Budget around Y4000 for food and drink.
Kushiro (Marunouchi - Japanese regional). 6256-0817
This gorgeously appointed izakaya serves Hokkaido cuisine - top-grade charcoal-grilled seafood, meats and vegetables as well as assorted sushi. Pretty much everything we've tried has been excellent, including very tasty grilled lamb and chicken, eggplant, shiitake and bamboo shoots. Also highly recommended dish is the "hassan set" - eight bite-sized seasonal delicacies served on seasonally appropriate pottery (Y1480 per person). This gorgeously appointed izakaya serves Hokkaido cuisine - top-grade charcoal-grilled seafood, meats and vegetables as well as assorted sushi. Pretty much everything we've tried has been excellent, including very tasty grilled lamb and chicken, eggplant, shiitake and bamboo shoots. Also highly recommended dish is the "hassan set" - eight bite-sized seasonal delicacies served on seasonally appropriate pottery (Y1480 per person).
The drinks menu features more than a dozen local Hokkaido sake, and three-part tasting flights (Y1260) are a nice way to try them out. (There's also a shochu tasting flight.) The spacious counter is the best place to sit for 1-3 people; there are also tables overlooking the refurbished Tokyo Station and comfortable private rooms. Budget around Y6500 for dinner and drinks. Lunch starts at Y1000, and is served until 5pm. [Show more] [Show less]
Marunouchi 2-7-2, JP Tower Kitte 6F. Open 11am-11pm daily.
Nana (Mitsukoshimae - Japanese regional). 3548-0977
Nana is a slick, modern izakaya specializing in the regional cuisine of Kyoto, obanzai-ryori. Many of the dishes here incorporate or are built around lovely Kyoto heirloom vegetables, and the menu also offers a surprising number of chicken dishes. Nana is a slick, modern izakaya specializing in the regional cuisine of Kyoto, obanzai-ryori. Many of the dishes here incorporate or are built around lovely Kyoto heirloom vegetables, and the menu also offers a surprising number of chicken dishes.
Some highlights include the nicely fatty grilled pork on stones (grilled at your table) and the grilled sea bream with black pepper. Deep-fried anago eel cheese rolls were less successful, and the various herb and vegetable salads are passable without being very exciting. Drinks include ten popular brands of craft sake, although we didn't notice any from Kyoto. Budget around Y4000 for food and drink. [Show more] [Show less]
Mondo (Mitsukoshimae - Japanese regional). 3231-2213
You'll find exceptionally good regional cuisine from Shimane Prefecture and very reasonable prices at this old-fashioned izakaya. The menu showcases fish and seafood flown in from the region as well as local-style dishes prepared from heirloom breeds of pork and chicken. There's also a good selection of Shimane craft sake, with a friendly staff who are happy to advise you on your selection. [See FULL REVIEW.]
Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-5-3. Open 11am-2:30, 5-10:30pm (LO) daily.
Kaiji (Yotsuya 3-chome - Japanese regional). 3357-3789
Specialties from Yamanashi, including houtou noodles and raw horsemeat, in a tiny, mom-and-pop-run shop. No English spoken.
Aizumicho 3. (on a tiny side street; turn right one block west of the fire station) Open 11:30am-2, 5-10pm (LO). Closed weekends.
The food menu at this casual izakaya is built around horsemeat - you can enjoy it raw, grilled yakiniku-style, stewed, smoked or served as sausages. There's also standard Kyushu-style izakaya fare - raw and grilled seafood, satsuma-age fishcakes and so on - and a menu of sake and shochu to go with it all. Budget around Y3000 at dinnertime. [Go to branch review]
This busy shochu specialist, with room for only 25 (including the outdoor seating that spills out onto the sidewalk), features over 100 varieties, along with Kagoshima style cooking. Nibble on izakaya standards like grilled chicken and buta no kakuni, or more unusual items like chicken sashimi. Budget around Y4000.
Kami-Meguro 1-4-3, Excel Naka-Meguro 103. Open 6pm-1am (LO) daily.