Tokyo and Yokohama Restaurant Guide

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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.
The initials stand for Jazz Blues Soul, but the huge, 11,000-disk vinyl collection here also includes an impressive selection of old-school hiphop from the seventies through the nineties. Customers can explore the collection and even make requests, although abrupt changes of genre are discouraged.

Drinks are Y500 each with no cover charge, so it's a comfortable place to just drop in for a quick drink or two, or a cup of coffee in the afternoon. The nighttime crowd seems to vary from all foreigners in the early evening to mostly Japanese towards the end of the night.
Tasty American-style burgers are the main draw at this casual diner, along with tacos and small tapas-style dishes. They also serve some top-notch craft beers from Nagano brewery Shiga Kogen on tap (IPA plus one seasonal beer), along with US craft beers from Lost Coast and Sierra Nevada in bottles.

The classic cheeseburger is topped with a sharp cheddar and excellent (optional) home-made bacon. Other add-ons include jalapeno peppers, chili beans and avocado. There's also a very appetizing lamb burger served on a crunchy focaccia-like bread with a tangy mustard dressing and alfalfa sprouts. The voluminous Caesar salad is one of the best we've had in Tokyo, and big enough to share as a side dish for your burgers.

El Pato's compact dining room is casual and lively, with friendly staff and a bustling atmosphere when they're busy. If you're in the mood for some fresh air and people-watching, there are a couple of tiny sidewalk tables overlooking a busy pedestrian shopping street. Prices are quite reasonable - burgers start at Y980, and pints of Shiga Kogen beer are also Y980.
This seems to a more tourist-friendly branch of Yaesu's legendary Codename Mixology bar, known for their amazingly inventive cocktail creations. It might be hard to imagine a blue-cheese martini or a "breakfast" cocktail that tastes like eggs and bacon, or a Thai-soup-inspired Tom Yum Cooler, but somehow they all taste fantastic.

This branch has a ten-seat counter in the main bar area, and a few booths and tables in back for groups. The decor is plush, and the overall atmosphere is relaxed and somewhat subdued. Cocktails average around Y1500-1800, and the cover charge is around Y1000. There's also a small food menu, more or less designed to go with the drinks here.
Mantenboshi serves a full range of classic and updated yoshoku dishes, including a fancy version of omu-rice - an omelette filled with fried rice flavored with ketchup, as the English-language menu helpfully explains. The fried-rice filling is dotted with bits of crunchy vegetables, sweet green peas and very flavorful mushrooms, while the omelette casing is topped with a savory brown sauce and big shrimps that wouldn't be out of place in a Chinese stir-fry. It all adds up a surprisingly exotic flavor combination - certainly not your run-of-the-mill omelette.

The omu-rice is Y1150 at lunchtime, or you can get it as half of a "one plate mix" (Y2000), which also includes your choice of beef curry, fried prawn, stuffed cabbage, crab croquettes, seafood pilaf, Hamburg steak, or fried oysters in season. There are several other lunch specials, served all afternoon until 5pm.
It's finally here, the world's first acid-jazz sake bar, playing an invigorating soundtrack of early-nineties acid jazz and triphop while pouring an impressive mix of rare-groove premium sake. The fifty or sixty bottles in the fridge include many seasonal brews and small batches from artisanal producers around the country, with some bottles that you probably won't find anywhere else in Tokyo.

There's no menu though - this is the kind of place where the proprietor learns your taste in sake (in Japanese) and makes recommendations. The small but well-constructed food menu is designed to go with sake, with umami-rich dishes like the excellent fugu-roe pasta, roast pork in shio-koji, and potato salad. Since this is a one-man operation, you may have to wait a bit for your food when it's crowded.

There are just six seats at the counter and three small tables, with a big window looking out onto the alleyway in front. The proprietor here, Taro Ishida, is a veteran of a similarly well-stocked sake bar around the corner called All That Jazz. (Talkin' Loud is named after the legendary London-based acid-jazz record label, started in 1990 by Gilles Peterson.) Most sake are priced at Y500-700 per serving, while food is around Y600-800 per dish.
The cooking at Old Thailand is a few levels up from your typical Tokyo Thai joint, and everything smells really good, even in the elevator on the way up from the street. In addition to the festively decorated dining room, there's a nice wrap-around outdoor terrace looking out over busy Ichigaya from the third floor. The soundtrack is a lively mix of upbeat Thai pop and mellow ballads.

The kitchen here isn't shy about robust flavors - our stir-fried water spinach was very, very garlicky, as were the plump prawns. Spicy papaya salad was very spicy, and sour soup was properly sour. Spring rolls were fresh-tasting, and our green curry was full of rich, ripe avocado balancing the tasty shrimp.

At lunchtime the menu offers around eight main dishes; these are accompanied by spring rolls and soup for a good balance of flavors. Drinks include fruity cocktails, fruit juices and exotic teas as well as the usual beer and wine. Budget around Y4000 for dinner with drinks, or Y1000-1200 at lunchtime.
King George's sturdily constructed sandwiches include appetizing concoctions like the Meathead, made with turkey, turkey pastrami and jalapenos (Y1600), and the HLT with honey-glazed ham and white cheddar (Y1500). They even do a tuna melt, made with provolone. And they get the details right - the cheeses are pleasantly sharp, the avocados are ripe, the mayonnaise is Hellman's, and most important, the sandwiches are well-stuffed.

Drinks include juices, smoothies, gourmet coffee and tea, house wines, and Hitachino Nest beers by the bottle. The rustic dining room has four small tables and four stools at the bar, and there's some outdoor seating upstairs on the roof. Of course take-out is available.
Good grilled chicken and a decent sake list to go with it have made this casual yakitoriya a neighborhood favorite. The wings are nicely charred and crisp, while skewers of lamb are full-flavored without being gamey.

The grilled fish and vegetables are also worth exploring, and the assorted pickles are just about perfect. Budget around Y2500-3000 for ample food and drink.
Zokkon is a tastefully decorated, upscale izakaya with good food and an impressive sake selection. The sake list emphasizes daiginjo and other higher grades of sake, with three-part tasting flights available.

The food menu tends toward subtly flavored delicacies chosen to enhance your sake-drinking experience. Some highlights are the seared, miso-marinated mentaiko (spicy fish roe) and the tender seared chicken breast (sasami aburiyaki), both of them more delicate and refined than your typical izakaya fare.

Service can be hit or miss, but the staff are generally friendly and knowledgeable about sake. Budget around Y4500 for dinner with drinks. Open from 2pm weekends.
This is one of the more accessible places in town to try gourmet oden - they're open all day rather than just evenings, and the spacious counter and train-station location make it a comfortable spot for solo diners. Lunch (served until 2pm) is an especially good deal - for Y1200 you can get an oden-centered meal featuring six pieces of oden in broth plus sashimi, a magnificent stewed tomato, wakame soup, pickles and rice. The oden, simmered in a mild dashi broth, is fairly typical, although the spicy fish ball was a pleasant surprise.

The oden selection expands after 4:30pm, as the subtle dashi-type oden is joined by hearty miso-stewed items like roast duck and pork tongue. Assorted platters of five oden pieces are priced at Y1600 for miso and Y1500 for dashi. If you want to make a night of it, there's a full menu of izakaya small dishes - sashimi, grilled fish, fried foods - along with sake and shochu. The intensely flavored, miso-based beef-tendon stew (gyusuji-nikomi) is especially recommended, and it's also available as a lunchtime set for Y1000.

Seating is at the twelve-person counter or a big common table, both with sunken floor seating. Take your shoes off at the entrance to the restaurant.
Tantanmen is a direct descendant of Chinese dandanmein. This dish of Sichuan origin is spicy, and a traditional bowl will have plenty of chili oil, Sichuan peppercorn, and minced pork. You can find tantanmen at many Chinese restaurants in Japan, but for the best bowls, you have to go to shops that specialize in the dish.

Lashohan is one of those shops. They serve nothing but tantanmen, though they have a few varieties. The Masamune Tantanmen (Y850) is a classic soupless style, but for fans of the bitter-hot Sichuan peppercorn, go for the Premium Masamune Tantanmen (Y1000). It is full of spice, peppers, and flavored oils, though a bit of an overload for the uninitiated.

If you want tantanmen with soup, they offer a few varieties. The menu is easy to understand, with plenty of photos of the bowls.
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