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May 30, 2011 03:14 PM

Cozy restaurants in or near Tokyo

Let's put food quality aside for a while. What are the coziest restaurants in or near Tokyo? I know there are too many of them, but I'm curious about the ones there excel in atmosphere, like Ukai Toriyama or maybe a cozy izakaya. Please recommend some.

BTW, can anyone identify this restaurant?

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  1. I think "cozy" is in the mind (and cultural expectations) of the beholder. For me, the restaurant shown in that video represents the exact opposite of "cozy".

    5 Replies
    1. re: Robb S

      I meant not only cozy (small and confortable like some izakayas or sushiyas), but with great atmosphere overall. Though Ukai Toriyama's private rooms have some kind of cozy feel too, it's more on the category of the one in the video.

      So, to rephrase: I need suggestions of nice, cozy restaurants or restaurants with outstanding atmosphere in or near Tokyo.

      1. re: babreu

        The video and Ukai restaurants and even Gonpachi are basically kitschy modern takes on Tokugawa Era Japan. I don't think most people with a lot of dining experience in Japan would consider them cozy nor having particularly outstanding atmosphere. It's not hard to become desensitized to any of that fake charm the way Americans might be with nautical or Western themed places. If you want to find original (or at least less kitschy) Old Edo charm, you can explore places from this list, some of which are still in their orginial spaces- . Or you can check out neighborhoods that avoided bombing during the war- like Nezu and Yanaka.

        There are still a lot of places in the Eastern part of Tokyo with Taisho and Showa Era "charm" and atmosphere , but it's easier if you specified a neighborhood and, to Robb's point, clarified your personal take on what is charming and outstanding atmosphere.

        1. re: Silverjay

          I was in Ukai Toriyama in 2006. I admit I was unexperienced, but even so it's not on Gonpachi's level of kitschyness. Not even close. Maybe it's kitsch for someone who lived in Japan for too long, but I think it has a great atmosphere regardless of cultural standards. And the food, unlike Gonpachi, is quite good.

          I do prefer the atmosphere of smaller and less pretentious restaurants, as long as the food is on a high level.

          Yakitori Akira in Nakameguro is an example of what I find charming.

        2. re: babreu

          I think Silveryjay has characterized it better than I could - kitschy Old Edo is a pretty common theme for certain kinds of corporate Japanese restaurants like the one in the video.

          For me, a cozy atmosphere means a big open counter with a chef or two working behind it and interacting with the customers; maybe an open hearth area for grilling. Comfortable seating, smoke-free air, tasteful modern decor, subdued indirect lighting, and relatively smaller-scale spaces, even if there are a number of different dining areas.

          What's not cozy is those institutional, resort-hotel-looking establishments with endless interchangeable tatami rooms, stiff, impersonal service, harsh overhead lighting, and faux-rustic decorations. Also not cozy - loud after-work parties sitting around tiny rickety tables and chain-smoking. Also not cozy - 100-year-old restaurants where they haven't refurbished the decor since 1960 and they serve only one kind of sake. And I can't even imagine a "cozy" sushiya in Tokyo.

          A few places I'd call cozy (limiting myself to Japanese for now) are Aburiya in Azaubu-Juban (downstairs only); Aburiya in Naka-Meguro (downstairs only); Tetsugen in Ebisu; and Tetsugen Nikusho in Aoyama (all from the same management company by the way). Also Seigetsu in Kagurazaka; Teyandei in Nishi-Azabu (downstairs only); Galali in Omotesando and Sendagaya; Lo in Sangenjaya; and - in spite of it being a big chain - many branches of Himonoya including Takadanobaba and Shibuya.

          1. re: Robb S

            I agree with your definition for cozy. As for cozy sushiyas, I've been to some in Kyoto, so they might exist in Tokyo too. :)

            Thanks for the suggestions! I'll check them out.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. hmm, from the look of that video the shop is a chain sukiyaki/shabu-shabu, 'ye olde japan' theme restaurant, which to the newbie eye looks 'authentic', but to the resident looks... errr, like it's best avoided.
          keywords like "cozy" and "atmosphere" bring two shops to mind: okajouki, for hearth grilled food, in nakano; otafuku, for oden, in asakusa. the former doesn't accept reservations and has no english menu or english speaking staff, the later accepts reservations and has an english menu.
          as silverjay says, for something 'authentic' I would focus my search on the east side of the metropolis.

          2 Replies
          1. re: wekabeka

            Oh yeah, I can go along with both of those. In different ways though. Did you notice that Otafuku fulfills about 4 of Robb's criteria for not cozy?
            Okajouki, do make sure to get there not long after 4 on weekends. I went by at 5 recently and it was packed. But still cozy.

            The awesome place in Oshiage is also cozy to me. Anything with 8 seats can't be bad.

            1. re: jem589

              Cozy means, in my opinion, details like fireplace (=pachon) for atmosphere and to give texture and presence kitchen cupboard, curtains?! And concerning food, soup in winter (=miso tonjiru) and sushi in summer (=more a late tea time)...