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Good Tokyo Izakaya with an English Menu?

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Can anyone recommend a few izakaya that either have an English menu or have helpful, patient and/or English speaking staff?

I used to live in Tokyo and love to eat in izakaya as often as possible whenever I'm back for a visit. I personally feel izakaya are the best way to try lots of different Japanese dishes and drinks, all in a fun social setting. Normally I visit (Japanese speaking) friends when I'm there, but this time almost all my friends will be away due to the Golden Week holidays. In the past I've guiltily relied on my Tokyo friends to read/translate the menu for me. But this time I'll be on my own. On top of this, I'll be showing a 'first time in Japan' friend around.

I 'understand' most Japanese foods and menu descriptions, and am fairly decent at reading hiragana and katakana, but it's those kanji that kill me. And so much of that wonderful Japanese food is written in kanji on menus and daily specials boards.

I'll be staying in Roppongi during this trip, but am happy to travel pretty much anywhere within the city.

Oh, and I'm not interested in any cheap chains. A high quality place with a couple of locations is fine. Off the beaten path and/or with interesting and unique dishes would be a plus.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Aburiya Fudo at Azabu Juban, walking distance from Roppongi, has English menu.

    11 Replies
    1. re: FourSeasons

      Thanks, FourSeasons. I probably should have mentioned that I do have a (very) short list of two izakaya I found online. One is Andy's near Bic Camera, Hibiya side and the other is Aburiya, but I only had their Minami-Aoyama location. Can I assume you mentioning it means that you think it's good and worthwhile? Has anyone been to Andy's?

      1. re: marcus68

        I have been to Aburiya only once, it focus more on grilled items. I prefer a high end seafood izakaya called Nabura in Roppongi but they don't have English menu, which is what you insist. If you like fun setting, maybe you can consider Kaikaya at Shibuya, it has been recommended a few time at chowhound. Also, perhaps you should do some research on bento.com, many izakaya are recommended on that site.

        1. re: marcus68

          Aburiya in Azabu-Juban is very good. I don't think Andy's is quite what you're looking for, although it's lively and can have a fun atmosphere and good prices.

          En in Suidobashi has an English menu and very good food: http://www.bento.com/rev/2874.html . I think their Marunouchi and Shiodome branches also have English menus.

          I seem to recall that Seigetsu in Kagurazaka has an English menu, but I could be wrong (maybe someone else here knows for sure). If so, they're another excellent choice.

          1. re: Robb S

            I was going to suggest Seigetsu, they definitely have English speaking waitstaff as we overheard a waiter helping a table of non-Japanese speakers.

            En Shiodome branch definitely has an English menu, I ate there last November. Delicious food.

            Another very good place with English menus is Toki no Ma in Ebisu.

            1. re: oonth

              I second Toki no Ma. Thanks to oonth and others for that suggestion when I went last year. :)

              BTW, oonth and Robb S,

              Between En and Seigetsu, which would you say is better / that you enjoy more and why? Thanks!

              1. re: exilekiss

                Not sure which out of Seigetsu and En Shiodome I preferred foodwise to tell you the truth. I remember the divine green tea panna cotta at the former and a superb duck, oyster mushroom and yuba nabe at the latter, I would need to try more dishes at both places before I could make that call.

                In other respects Seigetsu probably gets my vote - outstanding and extensive sake selection, a less designed space than En plus Kagurazaka is a charming, old world slice of Europe in Tokyo, a great neighbourhood to wander around and explore.

                You planning a return visit?

                1. re: oonth

                  Hi oonth,

                  Thanks for the detailed analysis. :) And that's so awesome that Seigetsu is in Kagurazaka; I always wanted to visit there last time. Seigetsu it is. :) And, hai, that's what I'm hoping. :)

                2. re: exilekiss

                  I'd agree with oonth, Seigetsu is probably more cozy and charming. I've heard rumors that they're under new management though, so I'd be interested in hearing about anyone's recent experiences there.

                  1. re: Robb S

                    hi everyone. really useful thread that really makes me want to visit seigetsu on my upcoming trip to tokyo!
                    does anyone know, would you need to book a table (2 people) or is it okay to go without a reservation? appreciate your help! thanks.

                    1. re: belma79

                      It's always a good idea to book a table (or ask your hotel to do it for you), especially on a Thursday or Friday. They might ask if you want to sit at the counter - say "yes."

                      In answer to my own question above, I've been recently and the quality is still very good, although the menu is smaller than it used to be.

            2. re: marcus68

              Andy's is a fun place, often loud and boisterous. But a good izakaya it's not. I think it's a fine place to show a friend though. You can often just ask Andy himself to set you up with what he has and he'll do the ordering for you.

          2. You might want to check Gurunavi's english search site. Their English language listing seems to be growing and has some information about menus in English and English speaking staff. I would think that if they're bothering listing on an English service, they might be more inclined to be somewhat English friendly. When I punched in izakayas in Tokyo, I got a listing of about 325 shops. There's a pull-down menu for different neighborhoods to narrow your search.

            http://rds.gnavi.co.jp/fl/search/sear...

            1. Thanks for all the recommendations. It seems I now have quite a few choices. I'm leaving for my trip soon and I'm looking forward to some nice, diverse izakaya meals.

              The Gurunavi site is quite fun to look at. It surprises me how many English listings there are. However, I assume these are essentially advertisements, or listings done by the establishments themselves. I think I'll probably be trying some Chowhound recommendations first. I think I'll leave Andy's for when I'm in the area and looking for a fun time with friends.

              Thanks again to everyone who posted on this thread.

              4 Replies
              1. re: marcus68

                Andy's is a classic sarariman watering hole (even the location is "right", under the tracks at Yurakucho station) that just happens to be run by a friendly Australian. It is loud, boisterous, but a great introduction to how it is that Japanese behave and amuse themselves when they don't have to pretend.

                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                  Friendly Brit, actually, unless Andy's been replaced....

                  1. re: Robb S

                    Really? I always thought he was Australian!

                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                      those 'colonial' accents, always hard to place :)

              2. My friends and I enjoyed Uoshin by the Nogizaka station very much!