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Nov 2, 2008 11:38 AM

Good Izakaya to visit in late Nov in Tokyo area


I'm Japanese from Tokyo, but have been living in San Francisco for 16 years. I decided to go to visit my parents during Thanksgiving. Does anyone know any great Izakaya? I mean, not cheap franchise like Tengu, Murasaki, or Yarukijaya... I want to try where (young) Japanese professionals (not students) go with colleagues after work. Also, I'd like to see a lot of selection in Sake and Shochu. I know there are too many and changes so often my sister or friends have limited info.

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  1. How about Shirokiya? Just joking...Can you be more specific about which part of town?

    1. Also, are you going alone or with a group? Some places have a counter where you can sit by yourself, but a larger group would give you more options.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robb S

        Thank you for your reply. Anywhere in Metropolitan Tokyo. I can get around - no problem. I'm going in small group of 2 to 4.

      2. Enjoy your time in Tokyo! These are my standard izakaya recommendations without specifics. Some links are in Japanese
        1. Buchi-Shibuya

        2. Buri-Ebisu
        This is a trendy standing bar with lots of sake, wine, shochu to choose from.

        Ebisu Nishi 1-14-1
        At Ebisu JR station, take West Entrance toward Hibiya line.
        Take the street between KFC and Wendy's.
        In a few few blocks, you will see Buri on your left, right after 松山薬局 or right in front of the Naturax sign. It is easy to miss

        3. Ogikubo - Ichibee
        Good izakaya with good sake, really Japanese style.
        Map to Ichibee

        4. Yoshimoto in Shinjuku
        This is a bit more for middle age and above crowd, not so young professionals, I believe. It is a nice after work izakaya with good sake selection.

        23 Replies
        1. re: tokyofoodcast

          Thank you so much for the info. I'll check them out while I'm there!

          1. re: TMTM

            These days a lot of young professionals go to "dining bars" which are basically upscale izakaya with nice decor.

            Yuian in Nishi-Shinjuku (3342-5671) has excellent food, stunning decor, a great view and a small but decent sake list.

            En in Suidobashi ( ) is another upscale place with pleasing modern decor, a good view and great food and drink. They also have branches in Shiodome and Marunouchi.

            Daidaiya in Shinjuku (5362-7173) continues to offer very creative, top-rate izakaya fare (plus modern sushi) in gorgeous surroundings.

            If you're looking for a more traditional counter-style setup, Aburiya Fudo in Naka-Meguro (3792-4555) has excellent food and a warm atmosphere, but make sure to sit at the counter rather than upstairs. The same goes for their branch in Azabu-Juban.

            Buri in Ebisu, mentioned elsewhere, has great food and a fun atmosphere (if you don't mind standing); if you're looking for good sake, though, their branch in Akasaka (3560-6322) is a better bet, since you're not limited to one-cup sake.

            1. re: Robb S

              The Aburiya Fudo in Naka-Me has an excellent shochu selection. And a couple of doors down from it, back towards Yamate-dori, is a little bar with a good selection of awamori.

              1. re: Silverjay

                Is that awamori place on the left side when you walk back down the hill? I noticed it the last time I was there and it looked interesting.

                By the way, Aburiya Fudo in Naka-Meguro also has an interesting selection of makkoli, flavored Korean nigori-("cloudy") style sake.

                1. re: Robb S

                  Yes. It's on the same side of the street as AF, but closer to Yamate Dori. .Just a little place run by a hip, young Okinawan guy.

                  AF was packed the last time I tried to go and we couldn't get in. The menu was mostly of the motsu/ hormone variety though. This was last November, so not sure if was a seasonal or temporary thing.

              2. re: Robb S

                Hi Robb S,

                Wow, great list! :) Between the 5 "dining bars" you listed above, which would be your favorite for Food and Decor? (I'm more of a fan of Sake over Shochu.)

                Also, why do you recommend the counter instead of upstairs at Aburiya Fudo? Just curious.


                1. re: exilekiss

                  The counter is just more fun at Aburiya - you can watch the staff preparing your food, talk to them, etc. - and the decor is much more appealing. Although if you're in a group it can be hard to talk when you're spread out along the counter. I think maybe they default to upstairs if there are more than two in your group, but I usually try to sit at the counter if I'm in a group of three or even four.

                  Of the five places above, I think maybe En and Aburiya Fudo have the best food, but they're all good. Buri Akasaka has the biggest and best sake selection, but the rest are respectable (except I seem to recall Daidaiya is a bit limited, but I could be wrong).

                  Daidaiya has the flashiest decor, followed by Yuian, but Yuian has the "wow" factor of their 52nd-floor view.

                2. re: Robb S

                  I was just in Tokyo a few weeks ago and my Japanese friend who lived there took us to En in Suidobashi because it was near his apartment. Really nice upscale/trendy atmosphere, the food was great, and it ended up costing less than I expected give how nice the place was.

                  The first 8 pictures are of what we had at En:

                  1. re: huaqiao

                    Hey, nice photos! (And nice to see pix of the often-neglected outer market at Tsukiji.)

                    1. re: Robb S

                      Thanks. Most of the photos are of pretty pedestrian things compared to the stuff usually discussed on this board, but we had a lot of luck just going into random restaurants in Tokyo and having great meals. :)

                  2. re: Robb S

                    Robb, I'm back in Tokyo for a few days later this week, trying to get some more ideas for izakayas to check out. On previous visits I have enjoyed Seigetsu, Toki no Ma, Galali (Omotesando) and Higashi Yama, the first 3 of which are well reviewed on your website. Would you describe any of the above-listed places as comparable to the places I've previously enjoyed? For each of Yuian, En, Daidaiya and Aburiya Fudo, would you be able to list a couple of recommended dishes? And if you could only make it to one of these places, which would you rank top of the pile?

                    I'm also keen to try out Ajisen especially as I'll be staying nearby in Higashi Ginza. I get the sense that it's more old school but is said to have an outstanding sake list which excites me. Do you have a recent opinion by any chance?

                    I've read good things in the UK press about the following places which are not reviewed on - Bistro 35 Steps (Shibuya), Ikkon (Akasaka), Tsuki no Shizuku (Ginza), Agaru Sagaru Nishi Iru Higashi Iru (Harajuku), Miyashita (Marunouchi), Issei (Higashi Shibuya), do you have knowledge of any of these places?

                    Sorry for the bombardment of ?s, any and all thoughts much appreciated.

                    1. re: oonth

                      OK, working from bottom to top....
                      Don't know 35 Steps, Ikkon, Issei. Do you know where in Marunouchi Miyashita is? (A phone number would do.) Others here might know them...

                      Agaru Sagaru Nishi Iru Higashi Iru is in my neighborhood, and I've heard good things about it from friends, but I haven't been yet.

                      Tsuki no Shizuku is a national chain with decor that ranges from nice-ish to stunning (depending on the branch), with pretty good value for money. The menu features a lot of home-made tofu, and they aim toward the creative end of izakaya fare. Maybe not quite in the same league as places you've been (Seigetsu, etc.), but not bad, and often fun.

                      As for Ajisen, it's really a different kettle of fish from anyplace mentioned so far. It's a tiny neighborhood place and I don't think it gets many tourists. The sake is good if you're really into koshu (aged sake), and if you like a very old-style atmosphere. (An old-style atmosphere in Tokyo, mind you, often includes uncomfortable seating, heavy cigarette smoke, and a menu written on hard-to-read strips of paper pasted on the walls.)

                      1. re: oonth

                        I've been to 35 Steps and 6 of us had a great time sharing dishes in a private room.
                        If I remember correctly, they have a website that I can't find now. 35 Steps is the english name, I think in kanji it's written like this 三五 手順. I'm having some difficulty finding it though.

                        Almost everything we ate was great, the table side torching of the fish was a nice show and a tower of oden style daikon with konbu tororo was delicious. The have good ebi-mayo and a dish called the Dragon Ball Roll which we were hesitant to order but very happy with at the end.

                        1. re: lost squirrel

                          Thanks. Sounds like a good option, now it's just a case of narrowing down my choices!

                        2. re: oonth

                          Oonth, welcome back - it sounds like you've been doing some planning.

                          Hmm, En might be my first recommendation, just because it's hard to go wrong there. Recommendations include their grilled chicken, grilled kurobuta pork roast, giant asparagus spears with miso, grilled eggplant, ebi shinjo, salt-grilled salmon belly, and whatever vegetables are on the specials board.

                          At Yuian check out the grilled chicken, tsukune, kurobuta kakuni, ikura donburi.

                          Daidaiya: grilled chicken, "King of Kimchee" (kimchee stuffed with seafood); buta kakuni; foie gras and other interesting sushi - each piece with its own special seasoning rather than just soy and wasabi.

                          Aburiya Fudo is very seasonal, and they also tweak their menus and concepts quite a lot. As Silverjay mentioned, the Naka-Meguro branch often has a lot of motsu; their Azabu-Juban branch might be more appealing. Unlike the others, it's not a dining bar, more a traditional counter setup, and far smaller than the batch above. I'd go with whatever is on the specials board, especially their charcoal-grilled meats.

                          Also, the sashimi moriawase of the day is a good place to start at most good izakaya.

                          Overall the quality level is pretty high at these places, comparable to Toki No Ma and maybe a notch below the izakaya perfection that is Seigetsu. But a very different experience, with flashy decor and 200 seats spread out over many different spaces.

                          1. re: Robb S

                            Robb, thanks for the information + detail on the various places, lots of worthwhile options for me to consider.

                            By chance yesterday I came across more info about Miyashita in a new book I've bought called Tokyo Chic. The full name of the restaurant is Kurayamizaka Miyashita and there are 4 restaurants in the group located in Aoyama, Azabu, Omotesando and Marunouchi respectively. The guy behind them is called Daisuke Miyashita. An address is provided for the Aoyama branch which is 2-24-8 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-Ku and the Marunocuhi branch is on the 36th Floor of the Marunouchi Building. The web address is Cuisine is specified as being kaiseki style and each of the restaurants would clearly be categorised as designed and trendy.

                            Thanks again, I will report back as I go along.

                            1. re: oonth

                              Made it to Washoku En and Agara Sagaru during my time in Tokyo last week.

                              Went to the En in Shiodome City Center and was impressed especially by the duck, oyster mushroom and yuba nabe from the specials list which was fabulous infused with a wonderful undercurrent of yuzu, very very moreish and perfect on a cold evening. Achieved the perfect balance of meaty, citrusy richness without being in any way heavy or dehydrating. Also had a perfectly respectable kurosoi (rockfish) sashimi, texturally quite a chewy whitefish but loaded with flavour. Washed down with some decent sake, can't remember exactly which one probably from Niigata which is generally my fallback if in doubt. Wonder if this is in any way related to the En Japanese Brasserie on Hudson St in New York which serves excellent yuba dishes and has a superb sake selection but is otherwise disappointing foodwise.

                              I went to Agaru Sagaru one lunchtime. Liked the place and the setting but found my sashimi don a little bit pedestrian. Was hoping to be able to sample some kind of multicourse but I think that's only available in the evenings and at lunchtime it's a selection of donburi. Standout amongst the sashimi items was the smoked duck. On the plus side, they had Kamoshibito Koheiji sake which is an excellent brewery from Aichi whose sakes have become very popular and fashionable in Tokyo.

                              Hoping to do some izakaya hashigo when I get back to Tokyo later this month.

                              1. re: oonth

                                Yes, all the EN places are under the BYO company umbrella, whose corporate motto is: "May good friendship be made between everyone and BYO Co., Ltd."

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  I think that's a motto we can all live by!

                                2. re: oonth

                                  Glad to hear you enjoyed EN. I had some very nice non-yuba dishes in their Hudson Street branch by the way, but tastes vary. FWIW, my dining companions who had lived in Tokyo seemed to like it more than the others in the party did.

                                  As for Agaru Sagaru, it's hard to judge an izakaya based on their daytime menu. Even some of the most fantastic places at dinnertime do a pretty ordinary teishoku or donburi lunch menu because that's what the lunchtime market will bear. I tend to avoid izakaya at lunchtime.

                              2. re: Robb S

                                trawled through the japan boards prior to my trip to tokyo and made it to washoku en in suidobashi/tokyo dome - great food, excellent value (we didn't drink much). had a really good grilled pork belly from the 'seasonal' menu, and outstanding niigata rice. simple dishes like braised beef brisket with daikon were excellent too, and the uni in the sashimi platter was even better than what we had in tsukijii the next day. the only flop was a chicken hotpot thing. the decor is modern japanese, and the smoking section has a great view (how unfair) of the amusement park behind. for non-japanese readers, they have an english menu, without the seasonal specials.

                                was a great meal - thanks for the great info!

                            2. re: Robb S


                              I've been in Japan for a week and almost finished what I needed to do. I have one more week to relax. Does anyone who recommended those Izakaya/Dining bars interested in visiting one of them with me as my friend didn't make it to Japan. The economy in the US is bad AND exchange rate is horrible...

                          2. re: tokyofoodcast

                            I would second Buri in Ebisu. I always have a good time there. They've got this one-cup sake they keep in a medical grade freezer, and when you shake it it becomes kinda like a slush.

                          3. So last year I bought this nice "Izakaya Gourmet" book and have been trying to get to some of the places--> . Since you didn't specify a location, I'll just post a few from different categories that look interesting.

                            "Shita Machi Drinking Place" (下町酒場
                            )-Fukube (in Nihonbashi)
                            -Looks like a lively Showa style place with good sake and oden.

                            "Shochu Lover's Shops" (「焼酎」愛。の店
                            )Gozourobbuchiya (in Sangenjaya)
                            -Good shochu and good chicken

                            "Fish Specialty"
                            Jijii (First time to see this kanji- 爺 ) (in Shimotakaido
                            -Looks like a great seafood place.

                            There's a bunch of tachinomi-ya in the book as well, but Tokyofoodcast has provided some already. You may want to look into Kanda Koujyu (かんだ光壽 ) which is really highly regarded on Tabelog. .

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Silverjay

                              Silverjay, Jijii sounds interesting and somewhat off the beaten path. Are you able to provide an address and opening times by any chance? Also any sense of what type of seafood/fish preparations it specialises in?

                              I'm coming armed with my Tokyo City Atlas (Bilingual Guide) so am happy to be intrepid and seek out more obscure places in less publicised hoods, Jijii sounds like it fits that bill. I notice from the Atlas that Shimotakaido isn't far from Nakano (are they similar hoods do you know?) where I have friends and where I have very much enjoyed exploring and eating, I remember a fantastic soba shop from last year.

                              1. re: oonth

                                Here is the map page- . The address is:

                                東京都世田谷区松原3-13-9 〒156-0043
                                Tokyo, Setagaya Ward, Matsubara 3-13-9 〒156-0043

                                Phone number is 03-3321-3536. Open 5:30pm- 12:00am. You should call to reserve. It's not particularly convenient from Nakano by train, but not horrible. You'll have to transfer back at Shinjuku, but Shimotakaido is, I"m pretty sure, an express stop on the Keio line. There might be a bus from Nakano through Shimotakaido.

                                They source their fish from markets other than Tsukiji, such as Kanazawa, Ito, Miura, etc. This is a small seafood izakaya, so sashimi and whatever is on the specials menu, is going to be good. Jijii looks to be another older, neighborhood style place similar to how Robb has described above. But much of the Japanese commentary comments on what sweet people the folks who run the shop are. There are probably similar places in Nakano I'm sure.

                                The neighborhood of Koenji, next to Nakano, is supposed to be a great little area with tons of izakaya. I've never been, but my friend who lives there raves about it, though more as a lively place than chowhound destination. But there must be some gems there. Another neighborhood you might want to consider checking out Kagurazaka. Robb (edit: Robb's site no doubt has the lowdown on some interesting spots there.

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  Great, thanks for the additional details. I love discovering this kind of neighbourhood. Not just the food options but I remember coming across a tatami ya in Nakano last year and marveling at an old school artisan carrying on his tradition into the 21st century.

                                  Kagurazaka I know and like. Seigetsu appears to be the jewel in the crown in that particular barrio but there appear to be lots of other interesting options close by that are worth exploring and rooting out.

                                  1. re: oonth

                                    Have you considered some of the "shita machi" neighborhoods? These are the parts of the original Edo and so far, rather under covered by Chowhound. You won't find any Grand Hyatt or Michelin stars, but you can step into Showa Era in some of these areas.

                                    1. re: Silverjay

                                      Hi Silverjay,

                                      Any favorite Izakayas in the shitamachi neighborhoods? :) Thanks!

                                          1. re: Lucil


                                            I've been in Japan for a week and almost finished what I needed to do. I have one more week to relax. Does anyone who recommended those Izakaya/Dining bars interested in visiting one of them with me as my friend didn't make it to Japan. The economy in the US is bad AND exchange rate is horrible...

                              1. re: rohloff50014

                                Thanks for the revue on the Izakaya "En" in Suidobashi, I will probably go at the occasion.