Tokyo and Yokohama Restaurant Guide


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Harakara's burgers are seasoned with only salt and pepper - no ketchup, mustard or sauces - so as not to mask the rich flavor of the aged beef. The most popular offering is the avocado cheeseburger (Y1280), with soft, ripe avocados and tangy cheddar balancing the meaty flavors of the juicy patty.

Other, less traditional burger choices include onion-shiso and pineapple, and there are numerous toppings like onions and pickles, although they tend to add up - bacon is an extra Y450. Set menus are a good deal though - Y350-400 gets you a drink plus a side dish to go with your burger. Everything on the menu is ready to take out.

Drinks include Yona Yona ale and Edelpils on tap, several Japanese wines (at Y2980/bottle), and fruit smoothies. The dining area is pleasantly decorated, and dogs are allowed in the outdoor terrace area. The shop is open all afternoon on weekends.
This grilled-pork specialist is best known for their gyumotsu nikomi (beef tripe stew), considered by afficianados to be one of the top three of its kind in Tokyo. Fashioned as a "Western-style" nikomi, it's flavored with red hatcho-miso and red wine, and the chefs have been adding ingredients to the same stew pot for four decades now.

The rich, fatty stew is served in clay pots along with garlic toast, a perfect combination. It makes an excellent starter while you're waiting for your grilled pork, which is also some of the best in town. Like most yakiton shops, pork organ meats are a highlight of the menu, with nearly a dozen to choose from. Our favorites here were the pork tongue and the kashira (cheek meat), grilled over charcoal with just the right amount of charring.

The tsukune (ground pork patties with cartilage) was also good, but probably would have been even better with tare (sauce) rather than just salt. Raw vegetables served with roast miso paste make an excellent side dish, and the picturesque cauliflower, turnips, eggplants and other vegetables are top quality, far better than your typical supermarket produce.

The sake selection is limited to around half a dozen craft sake, plus two daily specials. The assorted platter of smoked meats and fish makes a good match for the sake, and provides a nice variety of smoky flavors. There is also a small wine selection to supplement the usual beer, shochu and cocktails on the drinks menu.

The setting is a rather traditional izakaya in style, with seating on a few different levels; there's also an annex around the corner to handle overflow. Smoking is permitted, but ventilation is generally good. English menus are available upon request or obvious befuddlement. Budget around Y2500-3500 for dinner and drinks.
Kyushu-style charcoal-grilled chicken is the tasty specialty here. It's well charred and a bit chewy, just like it's prepared in Miyazaki, and there's also an impressive extra-garlicky version. If you're feeling adventurous, the assorted raw-chicken platter (Y980) is one of the best we've had in Tokyo. The small sake list is well-chosen to match the food. Budget around Y5000 for dinner and drinks.
We first noticed this charming hole-in-the-wall drinking spot thanks to the prominent display of their daily sake menu on their front wall. Although they're not a sake specialist, their selection of a dozen or so craft sake is carefully chosen, and sake is served in smaller 90ml and 120ml glasses, so you can try a few different types over the course of a visit.

The food menu focuses on tempura, a dish more often found in brightly lit traditional counter shops rather than casual bars like this. Basic skewers such as prawns, anago eel and vegetables and are priced at Y150-200, supplemented by more deluxe, original items like coriander prawn kakiage. Whlie we found the skewers to be more on the oily side than at some counter shops, the fresh, clean flavors of the basic ingredients still came shining through.

The atmosphere here is very laid-back, with a young staff and customer base. One or two skateboards are parked in front, and an eclectic mix of reggae, rock and Beastie Boys plays on the sound system. Although this seems to be only a two-man operation, they generally manage to keep up with orders even when the place is full. Budget anywhere from Y2000-3500 depending on how long you stay.
If you're looking for a change of pace from Koenji's many crowded izakaya and craft-beer bars, Shimeji is a budget-friendly, old-fashioned pub-style bar. The interior is funky and unpretentious, with beer and liquor posters on the walls, a dartboard off in one corner, and a TV showing sporting events. Seating is comfortable and relatively spacious, and bouncy pop music plays in the background.

Cocktails and wines are very reasonable - bottles of wine start at around Y2500 - and simple dishes like pastas and jerk chicken offer good value for money. Scottish craft beers (Black Isle and Brew Dog) are available by the bottle if you're so inclined, and there are several Belgian beers as well.

Late-night hours are another attractive feature, especially if you've missed your last train - they're open until 6am most nights, and 7am on Fridays and Saturdays. Budget around Y2000-3000 for food and drink.
Our new favorite budget Indian restaurant, Erick South specializes in dishes from southern India and offers a wide variety of multi-dish set menus, ranging in price from Y1080-1650. Curries and other dishes are all distinctively flavored, with a quality level that rivals some of the more expensive Indian shops around town.

Most set menus here come with a few small curry dishes of your choice, plus crispy papadum, basmati rice and yellow rice, some tangy lemon rasam (a spicy south Indian tomato soup), peppery sambar (a lentil-based stew), medu vada (a crisp donut made from lentils), and unsweetened yogurt. Excellent chutney-like urugai pickles are served on the side.

The spicy green chili lamb curry and the black pepper beef curry are a couple of our favorites, along with the meaty Malabar keema curry. The slightly sweet, creamy butter chicken is also very good, more complex in flavor than usual and made with tasty, tender chicken. There are also seasonal fish curries like rockfish and bonito, and special curries of the month, which are a little more expensive but come in larger portions.

Besides set curry combos, the menu also offers tempting dishes like South Indian-style deep-fried chicken, spicy Cobb Salad, and a gorgeous-looking poriyal, a warm salad of cauliflower and other vegetables. There are also biryani rice dishes, prepared in lamb, chicken and vegetable versions.

The restaurant is located inside the new Tokyo Garden Terrace complex, and is one of the more budget-friendly choices there. The decor is quite tasteful, and in addition to table seating there's a good-sized counter that's comfortable for lone diners. Take-out service is available as well. Drinks include Carlsberg on tap, a few Indian bottled beers, and big mugs of Spanish red table wine.
Tasty Cuban-style sandwiches - stuffed with shredded roast pork, ham and cheese - are a big draw at this Cuban-themed bar-restaurant, along with Mexican-style grilled corn on the cob topped with cheese, lime and chili powder. Sandwiches are available for take-out, and priced at Y1200 for a hefty whole sandwich and Y700 for half.

The dining room has a bright, tropical decor, with spacious booths and a large bar area. There's also a surprising amount of Cafe Habana-branded merchandise for sale. Other branches are located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Malibu and Dubai.
Yes, it's another salad specialty shop, offering a variety of themed salads (Mexican Beef, Coriander Addict), seasonal salads (Gazpacho Greens), custom-order salads and soups. Custom salads give you a choice of your favorite greens, vegetable toppings, dressing and add-ons. They start at around Y980, although you may be tempted to add on extras like grilled chicken, shrimp, bacon and feta cheese for a few extra yen.

There are also a few "grain" salads, although these are still mostly greens-based (kale, spinach, romaine) with just a bit of quinoa, wild rice and spelt spooned in. Soup options include Beans Crazy and New Clam Chowder (New England? New York?), while the beverage list features vegetable smoothies (Coriander Kale Fresca), organic Italian ciders, wine, beer and coffee

Of course everything on the menu is ready to take out or eat in. The dining area is nicer than your typical fast-food joint, with a big communal table and a rustic, woody decor. Voluminous regular salads are priced at around Y920-1260, while soups are Y380.
If you're looking for a new brunch venue, a weekday breakfast provider or just a place that serves modern international cuisine all afternoon, Captain Cook is worth checking out. The breakfast-brunch menu is available until 2:30pm on weekdays and 3:30pm on weekends, and features classics like Eggs Benedict and waffles. There are also a handful of lunch specials starting at 11:30am.

The English Breakfast is fairly substantial, with very tasty sausages and bacon, nicely grilled mushrooms, baked beans, a fried egg, grilled tomato and a big hunk of country-style bread. Butter is available upon request. Everything seemed to be properly done, although for this price (Y1650) we would have enjoyed two eggs rather than just one.

The full dinner menu kicks in at 2:30pm, with a mix of British and international fare - sausage and mash, roast beef, lamb tagine, schnitzel. There are several soup options (beetroot and apple, Boston chowder), with portions big enough to share or to serve as a main dish along with a salad. Our broccoli and Stilton cheese soup was quite hearty, and was paired very nicely with a voluminous, vegetable-filled half-size portion of quinoa salad.

Desserts include sticky toffee pudding and trifle, while original cocktails sport names like London Mule, Captain Cook's Pimms and Irish Dawn. Wines start at Y5000 per bottle, and go up to Y55,000 if you really want to show off. Budget around Y2500-4500 for dinner with drinks.
This big, lively dumpling emporium serves eight different varieties of gyoza, along with Chinese noodles and assorted stir-fry dishes. Your gyoza comes either a la carte, in a set meal with rice and soup, or with a half-size portion of fried rice, with prices starting around Y620 for a la carte.

Large-size kurobuta (Berkshire pork) gyoza are the main draw here, with a flavorful meaty filling perked up with crunchy bits of cabbage and encased in a firm, chewy, lightly charred thick skin.

The miso-negi gyoza are smaller, with similarly appealing chewy casing smothered in pungent scallions and a light miso-sesame dressing. Other variations include two kinds of suigyoza (one served in soup), crunchy "paripari" gyoza, oversized shrimp gyoza and shiso gyoza.
Although we're big fans of Kyushu cuisine in general, Nagasaki has remained unfamiliar culinary territory up until now, so we were excited to explore the Nagasaki-focused menu at this specialty izakaya. There's quite a bit to check out here too - fresh seafood from the Kyushu coastline, creative pork dishes, lots of fresh vegetables, and of course a big selection of locally produced shochu.

The otoshi here is an attractively arranged icy bowl of eringi mushrooms and assorted crisp raw vegetables, with miso, mayo and flavored salt for dipping. The daily seafood specials are always a good place to start, and we can recommend the deep-fried kibinago (silver-stripe herring), the flying fish and other assorted fish cakes, and the daily sashimi platter.

Other local specialties range from regional favorites like karashi renkon (deep-fried lotus root stuffed with pungent mustard) and spicy mentaiko potato salad to original creations like pork mille-feuille - thinly sliced morsels wrapped around a gooey cheese center and breaded to sort of resemble a pastry dish. Sara udon - seafood in ankake sauce over crispy noodles - is probably Nagasaki's most famous dish and makes a nice starchy finish to a meal here.

In addition to the expected shochu menu you can also choose from five or six craft sake, sourced from all over the country, not just Kyushu. Jigemonton's atmosphere is lively and the staff are enthusiastic, although seating can be a bit tight and the air can get smoky at times - this place definitely has the feel of an old-school izakaya. There's no English menu or service, but the menu has pictures, and there are easy-to-order full-course dinner options. Budget around Y3000 for food and drink.
Deep-fried kushiage skewers and gyukatsu (beef cutlet) are matched with assertive sakes at this casual basement izakaya. Seasonal shellfish and vegetables make up most of the kushiage selection, and everything is skillfully prepared - the vegetables crisp and fresh-tasting, the coatings crunchy and free of oiliness.

Sashimi and izakaya-style small side dishes round out the menu, one of the highlights being the intensely flavored, miso-based motsu-nikomi (beef organ-meat stew).

At lunchtime the menu is very simple - gyukatsu teishoku is the only thing they serve. It's a nice version too: the beef is properly rare in the middle and crunchy on the outside, with a bit more fat than usual to add extra flavor. Salt, ponzu and soy sauce are provided for dipping, along with a mound of wasabi. The side dish - fried tofu ball with vegetables - makes this a well-balanced meal.

There are six craft sake to choose from, including some seasonal specials, as well as shochu and beer. Budget around Y3000-4000 in the evening, Y1000 at lunch.
Charcoal-grilled, kushiyaki-style brochettes and steaks are the main specialties here, with some very good Japanese craft beers to wash them down. The attractively furnished dining room is surprisingly spacious - it's narrow but very deep - and it's all smoke-free, although smoking is allowed out in the comfortable terrace area.

Highlights from the food menu include big slabs of juicy home-made bacon, lamb brochettes marinated in seven spices, and pleasantly chewy, charcoal-infused beef tongue. Our shrimp and brocolli ajillo was livened up by copious amounts of garlic, and our grilled marinated zucchini was pleasantly infused with curry flavors.

Ten beer taps dispense product from well-regarded Japanese breweries such as Shiga Kogen, Kyoto Brewing and Swan Lake. When we last visited they were pouring four different beers from Shiga Kogen, one of Japan's best breweries.

Beer prices are a bit higher than average for Tokyo - typically Y1350 and Y850 for pints and half-pints - but the food is very reasonable so it tends to balance out. Craft-beer fans may want to get here for Happy Hour (until 7pm), when small beers and most other drinks are just Y500. Budget around Y4500-5500 for a full dinner with drinks.

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