Unagi, dojo, anago
You'll find top-class unagi at this century-old shop. Shiroyaki (unagi grilled without sauce) is a specialty here, and because grilling starts from scratch the preparation can take 30 minutes or more. Budget around Y7000 at dinnertime.
Suido 2-4-29. Open 11:30am-1:30, 5:30-7:30pm. Closed Sundays.
The Shibuya branch of a famous dojo specialty shop in Asakusa. (Dojo is a small, eel-like fish.) Dinner from Y3,000, lunch from Y700.
Dogenzaka 1-5-9, Renga Bldg 4F. Open 11:30am-9:30pm (LO) daily.
(Akabanebashi - Unagi). 3583-7852
A charming, rustic eel house that's been here for 160 years. Full-course eel meals (unaju teishoku) start at Y2500. The sake is Kikumasamune - your choice of hot or cold.
Higashi-Azabu 1-5-4. Open 11am-1:30, 5-8pm. Closed Sundays.
(Akasaka - Unagi). 3583-1319
This top-class traditional ryotei occupies a beautiful stand-alone house in the middle of Akasaka, and has been serving fine unagi-centered meals for 200 years. Prix-fixe lunches from Y13,000, dinner from Y17,000.
Akasaka 2-17-61. Open 11:30am-2, 5:30-8pm (LO). Closed Sundays.
(Ginza - Unagi). 5159-0231
This first Tokyo branch of a famous Nagoya shop prepares eel that's grilled over binchotan charcoal and served with their own special Nagoya-style tamari sauce. Lunch and dinner sets are Y2380-5900; there are also other eel and side dish options and a better-than-average sake selection.
A more conveniently located branch of the famous century-old unagi specialist in Higashi-Azabu. Full-course menus are Y4,500-10,500; unagi with rice from Y2100
Ginza 4-2-15, B1F. Open 11am-2, 5-8pm. Closed Sundays.
This long-established unagi specialist (since 1894) serves excellent eel in a thick, somewhat spicy sauce. Prices are very reasonable: unaju (eel over rice) from Y2100, full-course menus Y4200-9450. Be prepared to wait awhile, as eels are prepared from scratch. They also have a branch in Matsuya Department Store in Ginza (03-3567-1378).
Tsukiji 1-4-6. Open 11:30am-2, 5-8:30pm (LO) daily.
(Awajicho - Nabemono). 3251-1229
Anko-nabe is the specialty here, since 1830. (Anko served Sept to April). Budget Y3000 at lunch, Y8000 at dinnertime. (Closed Saturdays in the summer.)
Kanda Sudacho 1-11-1. Open 11:30am-2, 4-9pm (LO). Closed Sundays and holidays.
The lovely traditional decor of this long-established unagi shop has helped make it popular with foreign visitors. The grilled eel is first-rate, and wild eel is often available in the summer months. Budget around Y5000 for lunch or dinner. Reservations are advised.
Soto-Kanda 2-5-11. Open 11:30am-1:30, 5-7:30pm. Closed Sundays, 3rd Sat.
This famous old shop specializes in dojo (a small eel-like fish), with full-course dinners from Y3800. They also offer a half-dozen variations of traditionally prepared whale meat. Seating is on tatami mats in a big central dining area.
Komagata 1-7-12. Open 11am-9pm daily.
The eel here is prepared the old-fashioned way, beginning once you've placed your order, and it's grilled quite thoroughly to complement the rich fattiness of the fish. The eel-liver clear soup (Y50 extra) is delectable - smoky but still delicately flavored. Budget around Y2300 for a basic lunch or dinner. (No lunch on Sundays.) This cozy little shop is piled high with decades worth of bric-a-brac, much of it sumo-themed. There's a small table for six built around a tiny central hearth, plus tight tatami seating for six more. A TV set plays in one corner.
The eel is prepared the old-fashioned way, beginning once you've placed your order, and it's grilled quite thoroughly to complement the rich fattiness of the fish. The eel-liver clear soup (Y50 extra) is delectable - smoky but still delicately flavored. Budget around Y2300 for a basic lunch or dinner. (No lunch on Sundays.) [Show more] [Show less]
Kaminarimon 2-8-4. Open noon-2, 5-8pm daily.
(Oshiage - Unagi). 5619-5757
Excellent Nagoya-style grilled unagi eel is served here, grilled over the finest binchotan charcoal and served with their own special low-salt tamari sauce. Hitsumabushi (a traditional Nagoya serving style) menus are Y3,150-9,700; regular eel donburi starts at Y2,380.
Oshiage 1-1-2, Tokyo Solamachi 6F East Yard. Open 11am-10pm (LO) daily.
(Oshiage - Unagi). 5610-3099
Tokyo-style grilled eel from a Komagata-based shop. Unagi donburi starts at Y4050 for lunch or dinner.
Oshiage 1-1-2, Tokyo Solamachi 7F East Yard. Open 11am-10pm (LO) daily.
(Ryogoku - Unagi). 3631-7534
This rather plain-looking counter shop has a 400-year history of selling high-quality eel, and one of the specialties is shirayaki ("white" eel without sauce). Unaju (unagi over rice) is Y2400-2800, while the deluxe version (without rice) is around Y4000-6000. It takes about twenty minutes to custom-grill your order.
Ryogoku 4-32-3. Open noon-2, 5:30-8:30pm (LO). Closed Mondays.
(Tsukishima - Izakaya). 3534-8483
A tiny, legendary sake pub with an unusual selection, including many rare koshu (aged sakes). There's also a big list of shochu made from sugar cane. Food highlights include the anago dishes and the thick, juicy satsuma-age fishcakes, which are brimming with bits of onions, carrots and water chestnuts. Budget around Y10,000 for food and drink. (No English spoken or English menu.)
Tsukishima 1-18-10. Open 5:30-10:30pm (LO). Closed Sundays, Mondays.
This long-established neighborhood shop is known for the high quality of their eels, which are brought in every morning from Shizuoka, after which they're left to swim around in a big tub filled with fresh well water. The painstaking charcoal-grilling process begins once you place your order, and it can take 30-45 minutes for the main course to arrive. Unagi over rice (unaju) comes in four grades priced at Y1300-2100, and there's also a special Y5000 set menu.
Minami-Nagasaki 5-18-17. Open 11:30am-9:30pm. Closed Fridays.
Grilled fish and sashimi
(Takadanobaba - Izakaya). 3362-8081
This cozy izakaya specializes in himono (grilled dried fish), with a big menu of different varieties from around Japan. There's also plenty of good regional sake. Budget around Y2-3000 per person.
(Nishi-Shinjuku - Izakaya). 3369-8088
One of the few late-night spots on the west side of Shinjuku station, this budget izakaya offers a good selection of sake and a wide range of food, including many varieties of grilled himono (dried fish). Lunch is served until 4pm.
Tasty grilled fish and other Hokkaido-style fare.
Nishi-Shinjuku 1-15-4. Open 5pm-midnight (LO). Closed Sundays.
(Nishi-Shinjuku - Izakaya). 3348-0567
There's not much in the way of atmosphere, but this old-fashioned fish-focused izakaya serves very good seasonal seafood - raw, grilled and as tempura. The anago eel is served shirayaki-style (no sauce) along with roasted eel bones. There are also around 8-10 reasonably priced sake. If you're lucky you can get one of the three window tables.
Nishi-Shinjuku 2-6-1, Shinjuku Sumitomo Bldg. 51F. Open 5-8:40pm (LO) daily.
Good-value grilled fish, snacks and sake in this lively late-night drinking spot. The specialty is himono (grilled dried fish) from around Japan. Budget around Y2000-3000 per person. There's often a two-hour time limit at tables.
Another branch of the excellent Uoshin chain, serving fresh fish and other izakaya fare.
(Shibuya - Japanese). 3770-0878, 3770-3940
Japanese-style sashimi and grilled fish with international influences, like their garlicky salmon/avocado carpaccio and their deep-fried squid with blue cheese dressing and roast garlic.
Maruyamacho 23-7. Open 11:30am-2, 6-10:30pm (LO) daily.
(Ebisu - Izakaya). 3445-8418
If it weren't for the illuminated sign advertising "Fish and Sake" in English, you might have trouble finding this second-story hideaway in Ebisu. The interior is modestly appointed with a few small tables around a long wooden counter. This understated approach to decor reflects the bar's no-frills philosophy. They specialize in two things: fresh fish and sake. If it weren't for the illuminated sign advertising, "Fish and Sake" in English, you might have trouble finding this second-story hideaway in Ebisu. The interior is modestly appointed with a few small tables around a long wooden counter. This understated approach to decor reflects the bar's no-frills philosophy. They specialize in two things: fresh fish and sake.
The fish comes directly from Tsukiji every day. Seasonal specials change frequently, but standards like the fuwa-fuwa satsuma age (Y650), fried fish cakes, and the namero (Y950) - raw fish minced with herbs - are available all year round and come highly recommended. The fluffy and delicate satsuma age release a tiny puff of air as you bite into them. The namero offers a contrast of intense flavors - bright versus briny - in each mouthful.
The sake menu (in Japanese and English) features over fifty varieties and changes with the seasons. Along with big names like Kudoki Jozu and Hiroki are lesser-known producers like Shinkame, and even smaller producers like Mutsuhassen. The friendly but unobtrusive staff can help you make you make a selection. Sake is available in two sizes, 120ml (Y500-) and 180ml (Y750-). If, for some reason, you decide not to have sake, the bar also serves shochu and awamori (about twelve varieties). [Show more] [Show less]
Ebisu 1-22-10, Kamasuya 2F. Open 6pm-1am (LO) daily.
If you're in the mood for fantastic fresh fish and seafood, Ebisu Kaigan is the next best thing to an early-morning trip to Tsukiji Fish Market. Occupying a renovated old Japanese house, this cozy little restaurant (whose name means "Ebisu Beach") exudes a relaxed and homespun atmosphere. You can take your dinner at the counter downstairs while you chat with the chefs, but the second-floor tatami-mat area is even more fun - it almost feels like you're visiting friends or relatives at their beach house as you enjoy the best of the day's catch. [See FULL REVIEW
A relaxed late-night izakaya with good food and drink. One of the specialties is himono, various types of dried fish that are served grilled. Budget around Y2000-3000 for food and drink.
(Hamamatsucho - Izakaya). 6802-3370
With its corrugated metal facade, utilitarian stools, colorful banners and noisily shouted greetings, Kaba strives for a down-home feel and is probably the most boisterous spot in the Hamasite Gourmet complex. The mainstay on the menu is seafood flown in fresh daily from the San-in region of Western Honshu - some thirty or forty varieties, both raw and grilled. There are also dozens of sake from Shimane and Tottori, and a comprehensive English menu covering both food and drink (all but the daily specials). Budget around Y4000 with drinks.
Kaigan 1-2-20, Shiodome Building 2F. Open 11am-11:30pm daily.
(Shimbashi - Japanese). 3508-1258
Seafood is the star at this reasonably priced counter shop - the owner is a fisherman and he often serves his own catch alongside the daily selections from Tsukiji. The sake list is well above average for a place this size: five regular labels plus five guest slots reserved for seasonal brews. Lunch is a great deal - Y900 gets you an excellent kaisen donburi with anago, salmon and negitoro. Dinner runs around Y3500 with drinks.
Shimbashi 3-1-5. Open 11:30am-1:30, 5:30-9:45pm (LO). Closed weekends.
(Shiodome - Sushi). 3571-7678
This is sort of a fish-centered izakaya rather than a standard sushi shop - there's a big selection of nigiri-zushi from the counter, but they also serve lots of grilled fish and sashimi along with a few decent regional sakes.
Higashi-Shimbashi 1-9-1, Pedi Shiodome 2F. Open 11am-11pm daily.
(Yotsuya 3-chome - Izakaya). 3359-8088
There's a good selection of sake to go with your grilled himono (dried fish) and other izakaya fare, all at quite reasonable prices. Lunch is served until 4pm.
Yotsuya 3-2-2, TR Bldg B1F. Open 11am-1am (LO; Sat, Sun -12) daily.
The specialties here are charcoal-grilled fish and seafood on skewers, plus deep-fried fish and vegetables on skewers. There's a big open kitchen and counter area, plus high tables with stools. Budget around Y2800 for food and some drinks.
(Awajicho - Izakaya). 3525-4207
We were intrigued by the menu categories at this after-work izakaya - charcoal-grilled meats, charcoal-grilled small fish and charcoal-grilled big fish - all of them prepared over top-grade bincho charcoal. Heirloom breeds of pork, chicken and premium wagyu beef make up the bulk of the meat menu, and the ones we sampled were tender in texture and sufficiently fatty to bring out their full flavor after grilling. We were intrigued by the menu categories at this after-work izakaya - charcoal-grilled meats, charcoal-grilled small fish and charcoal-grilled big fish - all of them prepared over top-grade bincho charcoal. Heirloom breeds of pork, chicken and premium wagyu beef make up the bulk of the meat menu, and the ones we sampled were tender in texture and sufficiently fatty to bring out their full flavor after grilling.
Seeing the cedar ball hanging outside the shop we knew to expect a good selection of sake, and indeed the list of twenty or so labels is filled with reliable and well-known breweries like Tedorigawa and Dewazakura, although we didn't notice any especially unusual bottles or seasonal specials.
If you just want to grab a bite after work rather than spend the evening nibbling, Sanjuro offers several inexpensive teishoku sets built around their grilled specialties; there are also full-course prix-fixe menus if you want to splurge. Budget anywhere from Y2000-4000 at dinnertime, Y800-1000 at lunch. [Show more] [Show less]
Kanda Awajicho 2-105, Watteras Tower Annex 3F. Open 11am-10:30pm (LO; Sat, Sun -9:30) daily.
The specialty of the house here is maguro (tuna) fresh from Misaki Fish Market in Miura, served as sushi, sashimi, or broiled or stewed. There's also plenty of other good seafood, along with seasonal dishes, sake and shochu. Budget around Y5000 for dinner with drinks, Y1000 for lunch.
Kanda Hanaokacho 1-9, Atre 2 Akihabara 4F. Open 11am-10:30pm (LO) daily.
(Nakano - Robatayaki). 3228-1230
Excellent grilled fish and meat cooked over an open hearth, robata-style. There's also sashimi and plenty of standard izakaya fare. The charmingly rustic two-story building is reminiscent of a country farmhouse.
Nakano 5-59-3. Open 11:30am-1, 4-9:20pm (LO) daily.
(Shimo-Kitazawa - Izakaya). 3419-5584
Sashimi is the specialty here, along with a nice sake selection.
Kitazawa 2-1-1. Open 5:30-10:30pm (LO) daily.
Other fish and seafood specialties
(Ikebukuro - Japanese). 3987-2121
The fish here is absolutely fresh, caught from big pools at the center of the wrap-around counter. Full-course dinners are Y5000-12,600, and lunches start at Y1260. Fugu is available in season.
Nishi-Ikebukuro 1-10-10, Spice 2 Bldg. B1F. Open 11am-4:30, 4:30-11pm daily.
(Omotesando - Izakaya). 3406-8240
All kinds of sardine dishes, plus a number of beef-tongue items (perhaps for nutritional balance). Seating is a bit cramped, and customers are packed in like, um, fish in a can.
Minami-Aoyama 5-9-9. Open 5-11:30pm (LO) daily.
(Shibuya - Japanese). 3461-9145
This traditional whale restaurant has been here forever, now occupying a tiny corner space underneath the 109 Building. Whale meat is served a dozen ways - as sashimi, deep-fried, on skewers, as steaks, etc. Full-course dinners from Y5000, lunch from Y1000.
Dogenzaka 2-29-22. Open 11am-9:45pm (LO) daily.
(Hiroo - Izakaya). 5421-0570
Ibiza calls itself a "fisherman's diner," and this unpretentious neighborhood spot offers a great selection of fresh-caught fish and seafood. Simple home-style recipes rely on the high quality of the ingredients rather than showing off any dazzling cooking tricks. Ibiza calls itself a "fisherman's diner," and this unpretentious neighborhood spot offers a great selection of fresh-caught fish and seafood. Simple home-style recipes rely on the high quality of the ingredients rather than showing off any dazzling cooking tricks.
On a recent visit we enjoyed kisu (whiting) fritters flavored with ume and shiso; big portions of miso-simmered ginmutsu (bluefish); and first-rate grilled salmon belly. The hone-sembei (toasted mackerel bones) were crunchy and very tasty, and the cold chunks of cucumber in miso-meat sauce provided nice contrasts of flavor, texture and temperature.
If you're a fan of craft sake you'll probably find something to your liking on the extensive list; they also stock various Chinese liqueurs and ten kinds of umeshu. Budget around Y4000 with drinks. Note that the menus and service are in Japanese only, and the restaurant is quite busy, so bring a Japanese-speaking friend if you're not comfortable negotiating the menu. [Show more] [Show less]
Hiroo 5-16-16 2F. Open 6pm-midnight.
(Roppongi - Japanese). 5413-0335
This small Nagoya-based shop served excellent broiled fish that has been marinated in sake lees. Set meals are priced around Y1000-2000.
(Roppongi - Izakaya). 5410-0778
Fresh seafood and seasonal heirloom vegetables are the specialties at this Kyushu-style izakaya. The sake list covers around 15-20 breweries, and there's also a wide selection of shochu. Budget around Y5000 at dinnertime.
Roppongi 4-10-2, Arakawa Building 1F. Open 11:30am-2:30, 6pm-3am (Sat - 11:30pm). Closed Sundays.
(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.
Shimbashi 4-21-14. Open 5-10pm (9pm Sat). Closed Sun; 2nd, 4th Sat.
There's a nice selection of some three dozen craft sake to explore at this stylish little bar, with an unusual fish and seafood-centered food menu to accompany your drinks. It's run by a Shizuoka-based purveyor of shiokara (fermented shellfish guts), and connoisseurs of this delicacy can choose from thirty different varieties, including unusual dishes like shiokara bruschetta. If you're not a fan, you can fall back on the reliable sashimi platter of the day, featuring three or five different fish depending on your appetite. There's a nice selection of some three dozen craft sake to explore at this stylish little bar, with an unusual fish and seafood-centered food menu to accompany your drinks. It's run by a Shizuoka-based purveyor of shiokara (fermented shellfish guts), and connoisseurs of this delicacy can choose from thirty different varieties, including unusual dishes like shiokara bruschetta. If you're not a fan, you can fall back on the reliable sashimi platter of the day, featuring three or five different fish depending on your appetite.
The menu also offers some interesting sushi items, such as fish marinated in yuzu kosho and an excellent grilled anago that goes well with the sake here. The setup is informal enough that you can just pop in for a round of drinks and a snack, or stay longer if you find more sake that you want to try.
The arched, high-ceilinged space under the railroad tracks is part of the JR-managed Maach Ecute complex, a repurposed former train station from the 1950s. Budget around Y2000-3000 for snacks and a few drinks. [Show more] [Show less]
Kanda Sudacho 1-25-4, Maach Ecute 1F. Open 11am-11pm daily.
(Otsuka - Nabemono). 3941-2868
The top-level seasonal Japanese nabe stews here are served in private tatami rooms and come with a serious pricetag. The menu changes almost monthly and is priced at 17,000-19,000; from November through March you'll also find a complete fugu menu (Y25,000 per person).
Minami-Otsuka 1-51-14. Open 5-7:30pm (LO). Closed Sundays.