Ueno: Izakaya
Renkon (Ueno: Izakaya)
Open 5-11:30pm (Sun 4-10:30) daily.
Sun: Open Sundays

Lotus-root (renkon) delicacies are the unusual specialty at this old-fashioned izakaya, along with a more familiar menu of grilled chicken, creative small plates, and turtle (suppon) dishes. The restaurant occupies a converted residential-style building in the midst of Ueno's commercial shopping zone, with comfortable booths downstairs and tatami (hori-kotatsu) seating on the second floor.

Ground lotus root serves as a flavorful substitute for potatoes in dishes like renkon hash-browns and renkon gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. Taking advantage of their sturdy structural qualities, thick lotus root slices are used to form the base of Italian-style canapes with proscuitto and olives - an inspired combination. There are also more traditional dishes like classic Kyushu-style deep-fried renkon stuffed with spicy yellow mustard, chilled renkon tofu, and various renkon-seafood dumplings.

Grilled chicken items like momoniku and tsukune aren't as exotic as the lotus root, but they're very well prepared and definitely one of the strong points here. The drinks menu focuses on well-known (and well-chosen) regional sake and shochu labels, with lotus-root shochu if you're feeling adventurous. Budget around Y3500 for food and drink at dinnertime.

Taito-ku, Ueno 4-9-1.

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Venue listing from Bento.com5 Star Rating: highly recommended