Ikebukuro: Izakaya
Zaian (Ikebukuro: Izakaya)
Open 11:30am-2, 5pm-midnight (LO). Closed Mondays.
Sun: Open Sundays

The funky basement space and sixties-jazz soundtrack give this cozy little izakaya the relaxed atmosphere of a neighborhood drinking spot. The food menu offers good, solid fare - down-to-earth rather than fancy, and especially strong in daily fish specials, seasonal vegetables and grilled pork dishes.

The main reason to come here, though, is the impressive sake list - several dozen labels from small regional breweries, often including multiple varieties from the same brewery. Sake is served either in 1-go tokkuri or by the 100ml glass, so you can put together your own tasting flights and sample a good assortment of brews over the course of an evening.

In addition to the regular sake menu there's a page of seasonal, limited-edition specials, a small but respectable shochu list, and an intriguing display of colorful fruit liqueurs in glass jars. At lunchtime Zaian draws in the crowds with their famous spicy udon noodle dish, Shisen Tantanmen, which has been featured in numerous magazines. Budget around Y4000-5000 in the evening for ample food and drink; cash only.

Toshima-ku, Higashi-Ikebukuro 1-31-1, Barack Court B1F.
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Tokyo Beyond Sushi - the guidebook
Tokyo Beyond Sushi
Explore the hidden side of Tokyo dining
Charcoal-grilled pork on skewers, udon noodles in curry-flavored soup, octopus dumplings, deep-fried beef cutlet -- there's a whole world of exciting food in Tokyo that food-loving visitors often miss out on.

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Venue listing from Bento.com4 Star Rating: recommended