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Affordable Sushi In Tokyo

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Hi everyone,

I have been presented with the amazing opportunity to live in Tokyo for a short period of time due to a work project my girlfriend was given. Specifically, we will be living in Shinjuku. I have traveled to Japan once before on vacation and had amazing experiences at Mizutani and Sushi Dai, as well as a number of other non-sushi restaurants. Unfortunately, I have recently returned back to school and am therefore living the life of a starving student. I am looking for an affordable sushi spot in Tokyo (the closer to Shinjuku the better) that I will be able to frequent during my stay in Japan. Although I will probably splurge on a nice sushi meal or two (something along the lines of Sushi Saito), I was wondering if anyone knew of any solid lunch spots (or dinner if not too much more expensive) in the $20-30 range as opposed to $100-$300. Ideally, I plan on eating sushi multiple times a week and cannot afford much more than that. Obviously, I'm not expecting Mizutani quality, but I would obviously like the best bang for my buck because my standards are quite high (although I realize I will have to lower them now that I'm a student again). Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

P.S. Any other good cheap eats suggestions are also welcome (i.e. ramen, soba, udon, tonkatsu, yakitori, izakaya).

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  1. With that price constraint, you'll need to consider department store sushi counters or sushi chains like Midori, Uoshin, Bikkuri, Tsukiji Sushiko, etc. Some of them aren't bad at all and are good for regular lunch or weeknight spots.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay

      Thanks Silverjay! I really appreciate it. How good are these places? I know it may be impossible to say, but I was just wondering how these places stacked up against places in Los Angeles and NYC (two places I've lived). I've done many of the sushi places that chowhounders seems to rave about (i.e. Yasuda, Mori, Kiriko, Urasawa, Zo, etc.). I just recall thinking that Sushi Dai was better than all of these in terms of sushi quality and at a fraction of the price (granted there were also less pieces served). I know the price range I gave is slightly less than Sushi Dai (which I guess would run me closer to $50-60 now with the crappy exchange rate?), but are these chains and sushi counters leagues below the ones I've mentioned, or just a step or two? If you have any other reference points or restaurants of comparable quality in the states, that would be immensely helpful. Thanks again!

      1. re: chingchongjetli

        The chains are alright in terms of quality and are usually a good value. They will usually have a good seasonal selection of fresh stuff. Some of them are run by wholesalers. But there are many different ones and they range from dirt cheap low end to on par or probably better than Sushi Dai, which I think, by the way, you have over-evaluated in terms of quality. Here is the Uoshin shop's page: http://www.uoshins.com/i/sushi.html . You can also look into the Uogashi company as well. They have a Shinjuku branch. I don't think they'll be as good as the sort of bespoke namesake places in the U.S., but the value and portions will be hearty like Sushi Dai.

        1. re: Silverjay

          Yes perhaps I have over-evaluated Sushi Dai given that it was 5:30am and we were on virtually zero sleep after a night out partying =). Maybe it's also because I felt like I was getting such a good deal compared to some of the LA and NYC joints I've been to. Is there a particular restaurant in Tsukiji that you prefer to Sushi Dai? I know Daiwa is popular too, although their set menu appears to include less pieces. Also, out of the chains you listed, how would you rank them? Should Uoshin be the first one I try?

          1. re: chingchongjetli

            Sushi Dai, Daiwa Sushi, and Sushi Bun seem to be the most popular. Go to the one with the shortest line. I can't imagine the marginal difference in quality among them is significant. They are fun for what they are.

            Sure, check out Uoshin. That shop is in Shibuya. It's done up like a standard sushi place and not so chain like. They are run by a wholesaler and have a mini-chain of good seafood izakaya. I just went to the branch in Shinjuku this past January and had a blast. You can also try the department store restaurant floors for decent mid-level sushi. There should be plenty of options in Shinjuku, the department store capital of Tokyo.

            1. re: Silverjay

              Thanks again Silverjay! I appreciate all the advice and look forward to trying some of the places you recommended!

              1. re: chingchongjetli

                When I lived in Japan, many years ago, I would shop in one place that reduced their sashimi 50 - 75 % at the end of the each day. Gave me the opportunity to buy and take home for dinner. I even cooked the next day what I didn' eat raw. Food for thought.....
                I also found a couple of shops that made inexpensive "take out". Each sushi piece was individually wraped and priced based on a little colored dot placed on the bottom. Another way that made sushi more affordable. This shop also made "dessert sushi".

                Enjoy your time there. How fortunate for you!

                KQ

                1. re: Kitchen Queen

                  Thanks KQ! I will definitely take that into consideration. Do you happen to recall the names or locations of any of these shops?

                  And yes I know I am very fortunate to have this amazing opportunity thanks to my awesome girlfriend =).

                  1. re: chingchongjetli

                    Most supermarkets will mark off sashimi and the daily prepared foods about an hour before closing....There are ubiquitous take out chain sushi counters like Chiyoda Sushi all over the place- especially near train stations. There's one in NY now as well.

                2. re: chingchongjetli

                  Dai, Daiwa, and Bun are at the top of the heap and heavily touted by Japanese guidebooks (many of which are translated into Chinese for the Taiwanese market) and there are also lots of guidebooks written by non Japanese published for the author's native countries (SE Asia, maybe China, Hong Kong, and I'm sure there are Korean versions), basically rehashing the same thing.

                  So it won't be surprising to see the majority of customers waiting in line at these places to be from those afforementioned countries, many of them bringing their guidebooks along. Most of the guidebooks will say nice things about each restaurant, some having a unique trait or strength over another. Daiwa is known to be bigger (and thus seats more) than Dai, and Daiwa supposedly had better toro (no idea about now), but if you wanted a wider variety of non tuna type items like cod milt appetizer, kelp marinated alfosino/kinmedai then Dai was a good choice, or if you love the brushed sauce that goes on stewed (ni) sushi like ni-anago or ni-awabi (and those items) then Bun does them with a 150 ish year preserved tradition (5th generation business) where the nikiri (sauce) is reduced and added along the years, and batches made separate for anago and shellfish (hamaguri, awabi etc).

                  As others have mentioned, it may be fun to hit one of these kind of places once just to see for yourself. I suspect the better valued eats are non sushi related and there are a ton of them around if you keep walking away from that section that are also covered in some of these guidebooks. Inoue ramen (what's the price these days for his shoyu ramen, 600 or 700 yen?) that is one man operation and one version only with no sitting space (you bring an almost overflowing bowl somewhere else to eat), as well as places that serve and specialize in (individually I mean) donburi, yakitori, Japanese style Chinese, wafu pasta (Japanese style Italian, there are places that do an interesting looking spaghetti with whole crab on top that is a bit bigger than Maryland blue crab), omurice, curry rice, Korean stone pot kimuchi + meat or seafood with instant ramen in red spicy soup, yakiniku, unaju (try this at least once), kaisendon (big cuts of cheaper quality assorted raw fish over rice).

                  There's a place very close to or next to Dai/Daiwa if I'm not mistaken, called Yachiyo, and they serve various rice plates with curry, deep fry (e.g. deep fried shrimp/ebi furai), and a limited offering of ramen style chashu (big thick juicy slabs of pork) with pepper and they top a fried egg with it. I remember watching a youtube clip about Ono Jiro of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Japanese documentary where a camera crew followed him around, where he went to Tsukiji in the morning and chatted with his vendors, he stopped by Yachiyo and had curry rice for lunch.

                  1. re: K K

                    Wow thanks for the reply and all the info! I'll definitely try to sample as many of those foods you mentioned as possible. I'll probably try to make it out to Tsukiji once or twice (I have to take my gf whose never been). Maybe I'll go for Bun or Daiwa this time. I've also added Inoue and Yachiyo to my list.

                    1. re: chingchongjetli

                      You may want to do further research on your own before jumping into the recommendations from guidebooks.

                      Here's goramen's review of Inoue, who liked the broth more than the noodles or chashu

                      http://www.goramen.com/2009/07/chuuka...

                      I suspect there are better choices.

                      One thing you might want to try if this is not off putting to you, is at Kitsuneya. More info from this post by E Eto. Cheap comfort food in a way.

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/792159

      2. It seems to me that moving to Tokyo and planning to dine out on sushi multiple times per week is equivalent to moving to New York City and planning to go to steakhouses multiple times per week. It's not a terrible thing to do, certainly, but it might strike the outside observer as perhaps being based on incomplete information.

        At any rate I hope you enjoy your stay in Tokyo, and report back occasionally, whatever you end up eating.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Robb S

          I actually did move to New York City for awhile, and as you said, I did not go to steakhouses multiple times per week lol. I currently live in Los Angeles and used to eat sushi 2 to 3 times a week for lunch while I was still working. I'm not talking splurging on Urasawa omakase a couple times a week, but rather casual lunch outings where I could satisfy my constant sushi cravings. I saved the omakase meals for more special occasions. Now I rarely get to eat sushi anymore because I'm unwilling to spend what little money I have on the quality of sushi I can get within my budget.

          While I'm in Japan, I would like to take advantage of what I perceive to be a greater price to quality ratio for sushi (which is by far my favorite type of food). Don't get me wrong, I totally understand that Japan is quite arguably the culinary capital of the world (with sushi playing no more than a supporting role in that). I plan on trying to sample as much Japanese cuisine as possible, given that I am a huge fan of all types of Japanese food. I figure if I do 2-3 out of 14-21 meals a week, I will still have many opportunities to try a variety of other foods.

          With all that being said, if you could give me any suggestions on other places to try, that would be greatly appreciated. I am very eager to find a good ramen-ya, izakaya, tonkatsu-ya, kare-ya, yakitori-ya, etc. I'm also a big fan of kaiseki, but am not sure how many times I will be able to do that due to my budget constraints. Thanks in advance!

          1. re: chingchongjetli

            Hum'I am beginning to like you and your comments. You are not the only one to eat sushi 1-2 times a week, and I have met many Japanese couples who do repeat their favourites sushi every week (=sushi Kozasa + sushi Miyako in Nihonbashi). I am eating under 3000.yens usually and the places I can recommend you is the newly open sushi-yasan of Takashimaya Otaru 14floor, the menu of the season 'shunka' is at 2940.-yens until the evening... Sushi Rosan at Isetan Dept store at lunch will have a 2100.-yens menu, but don't choose the counter the 'Okonomi(=by order)' will be expensive and if you ask for the 'autumn
            nigir' more than the set.
            And if you need\have any precisions, please do not hesitate.

            1. re: Ninisix

              Oh! I did forgot to mention Sushi Shou Tatsuhiro. This sushi-yasan is in front of the Takashimaya Shinjuku, his 'chirashi' lunch is at 1700.yens even on Sundays and change during the season...I gave a repeat already !!!

              1. re: Ninisix

                There's a standing only sushi bar being visited in this Japanese program starting at the 2:04 mark

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgOBoI...

                If you look at their limited menu, nothing is over 100 yen per piece (except for the item on the right that is 300 yen). You should see the man and the woman clap their hands when they got their order of 75 yen per piece kohada.

                1. re: Ninisix

                  Thanks Ninisix! I will definitely look into your recommendations and let you know if I need any other tips!

              2. re: chingchongjetli

                What part of Shinjuku will you be in? (It's a pretty broad area.)

                I like the Donjaca izakayas in Shinjuku for their lively atmosphere and excellent price performance. The Tsunahachi chain has good tempura for the price, and Kokekokko on the west side has excellent yakitori. Katsukura has very good tonkatsu, and Sangendou in Nishi-Shinjuku is another izakaya with good value for money.

                Finding a nice izakaya that you're comfortable with and that offers a good sashimi selection might be a good way to get your raw fish quota in a more relaxed setting (and at a much more relaxed budget)....

                1. re: Robb S

                  Fu'unji is an excellent ramen place in Shinjuku.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    I think I will be near the Shinjuku station, but I'm not 100% sure. I have added all your recommendations to my list of places to try. I definitely plan to frequent izakayas, not only for the food, but for the overall experience. I'm also compiling a list of some other places on my radar that I would welcome any input on:

                    Kururi
                    Ivan Ramen
                    Ichiran

                    Tonki
                    Butagami
                    Maisen

                    En

                    Tatsukichi
                    Kushiwakamaru

                    I know this list only includes ramen, tonkatsu, yakitori, and izakaya, but that's only because I'm still in the beginning stages of research. I'd also be curious to know how Ippudo compares to the NYC branch. In the states, two of my favorite ramen places are Ippudo (NYC) and Santouka (LA); however, I definitely felt these two to be far inferior to Menya Kissou last time I went to Japan. Also, any good curry recs (in addition to Yachiyo which KK mentioned)?

                    1. re: chingchongjetli

                      I commend your thorough research!

                      Some comments:

                      Ivan Ramen is great, but Ivan Ramen Plus is even more fantastic - the four-cheese ramen is highly recommended. I haven't been to the other two ramen shops.

                      Tonki I think is way overrated, but I realize that this seems to be a minority opinion. Maisen is okay; Butagumi is fantastic.

                      Washoku En is one of my favorite izakaya in Tokyo for food, and to bring visitors.

                      Tatsukichi - this is kushiage, not yakitori. I think it's fun but a bit overrated; I kind of prefer Kushinobo myself.

                      Kushiwakamaru - is definitely okay and good value - worth a stop if you're in the neighborhood and get there early enough not to wait on line.

                      For curry, here's a long thread that's been running for a few years now: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/672397
                      and here are some of my favorites for Oufuu curry: http://www.bento.com/rev/curry.html

                      1. re: Robb S

                        Washoku En is a good entry level izakaya, but for someone who seems to want to immerse themselves in Japanese food I would recommend hopping on a train west, to Nakano or Nishi-Ogikubo, or east, to Yotsuya for good izakaya options.
                        Nishiosan, in Sanchome, is a great spot for good cheap eats; hearty bowls of oden in a small and lively shop. Eat quick though - they have signs asking you not to linger, in order to make way for new customers.

                        http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1304/A130...

                2. re: chingchongjetli

                  After living in Tokyo for a week, I'd say it's pretty hard to go wrong with sushi in Tokyo. On average, it's much better than sushi in Los Angeles in the same price range. While I haven't been to any place in the same ballpark as Urasawa, Mori Sushi, and Sushi Zo, I've been to a couple of places on par with Sushi Gen but much less expensive (think $1.5-$2 per nigiri sushi). The only not-so-good sushi I've had was at a sushi-go-round place in Asakusa.

                  So basically, I think it's less important in Tokyo to seek out some particular place for good sushi than it is in Los Angeles, except perhaps toward the Michelin-starred high end (which I haven't tried).

                  1. re: aventinus

                    Hi Aventinus, your reply caught my eye since we are Los Angeles hounds going to Tokyo in December and love Sushi Gen and would love to find something in that quality zone for the same/less money but have no idea where to start. Do you have any specific recommendations? Thanks!

              3. You might want to try Takumi Tatsuhiro, in Shinjuku Sanchome, which has lunch bowl sets (barachirashi) for ¥1,700 and ¥2,200.

                http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1304/A130...

                1. i usually go all over town to eat at restaurants i like, but rarely are any of them in the shinjuku area, so i can't give you any suggestions in the proximity. but if you wouldn't mind venturing out for good food outside of the area, here are some cheap eats that i really like:

                  1) sakaezushi - keiseitateishi station (a few station from asakusa). a standup only sushi place which has really good shellfish such as mirugai, akagai, oysters, etc. and you can order parts of the shellfish like himo, and kimo. i don't remember which kind of shellfish but they have a kai no kimo that's really good. while for most sushi meals in other places you rarely get a lot of shellfish, especially the budget places, at sakae, you can eat all kinds of freshest shellfish to your heart's content for like under 2000yen. do stick with the shellfish though, all their fish imo is not really edible.

                  2. kissou ramen -- kiba station. their ramen imo is the best in tokyo. go try and you'll know what i'm talking about. hint: go at around 2:30pm to avoid line and cross ur fingers that they are not sold out yet.

                  3. tanyaki shinobu - yotsuya station. order all kinds of ox tongue by the piece at very reasonable price. really out of this world ox tongue. ate everything they had and had a few glasses of sake costed only 6000yen. any reasonable meal should be around 3000-4000yen.

                  4. kishidaya - tsugishima station. izakaya which is famed to be 1 of the top 3 spots for their beef nikomi in tokyo. portions are not too small, so you can try to order half order for whichever dish they allow it. recommended dish: beef nikomi, nikutofu, soup, grilled salmon, and maybe the sashimi they have that day. including drinks should be under 3000yen.

                  5. kanematsu - kachidoto station. standup izakaya. not the cheapest place but all the ingredients they use are good stuff. if you want highend food at cheap price, this is the place. even the nori they use is from kumamoto--supposed to be rare and tastes much better than the normal ones you get at sushi places. last time i ordered an abalone almost the size of my palm, only costed 3000yen. they also had a wagyu row with bafun uni (all of the best quality) which was like 2000yen. usually cost us around 6000-10000yen per person and we eat A LOT.

                  6. and you can go for lunch at really prestigious places for like 1-3000yen. kurogi lunch 1000yen, hirosaku lunch 2500yen, and akasaka yomizuki 1200yen (not sure if this is how you pronounce it...). these are extremely high quality lunch but must book long in advance.

                  hope you have a wonderful time in tokyo.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: japanesefoodlover

                    That is a very unusual set of recommendations, to say the least. Do you mind if I ask how you found these places?

                    I've lived in Tokyo for many years, and I have literally never heard of most of the stations you mention, let alone the restaurants.

                    (Also, Y10,000 per person in a standup izakaya seems a little steep, no? For that price I usually like to sit down.)

                    1. re: Robb S

                      these are all places which are very highly rated in tabelog.

                      1. re: japanesefoodlover

                        I believe you mean Kachidoki and Tsukishima.

                        1. re: Silverjay

                          yes i did sorry for the mistake

                          1. re: japanesefoodlover

                            Ah, those are places I've heard of! Thanks for the recommendations.

                      2. re: Robb S

                        and yes 10000yen is pretty expensive for standup izakaya but you get best quality stuff. for example i got to eat rebun's sea water uni, which is probably the best uni in the world. they have dishes ranging from 800-3000yen. i usually order all the high end stuff that's why it's more expensive for me (definitely not saying that the 800yen stuff is not good. the yuba, for example, is excellent and costs 800yen). i'm surprised you've never heard of this place. it's like one of the most sort after izakaya in tokyo.

                        1. re: japanesefoodlover

                          It would be helpful if you posted the Tabelog links for your recs. We've been doing that the last few years and, with the map, phone number, and operating hours posted on the listing, it makes getting to these places easier.

                          1. re: Silverjay

                            sorry was being too lazy. here we go:

                            1. sakaezushi

                            http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1324/A132...

                            2. ramen kissou

                            http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1313/A131...

                            3. tanyaki shinobu

                            http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1309/A130...

                            4. kishidaya

                            http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1313/A131...

                            5. kanemasu

                            http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1313/A131...

                            6. kurogi

                            http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1311/A131...

                            hirosaku

                            http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1301/A130...

                            akasaka yomizuki

                            http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1308/A130...

                            1. re: japanesefoodlover

                              Actually says Kanemasu in Japanese. Does look like a great place... Thanks for posting all those!

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                yes thx for correcting all my mistakes. hehe been watching tv and posting, so just typed whatever i remembered.

                                1. re: japanesefoodlover

                                  Yeah, I'm a stickler for proper names, but am otherwise a typo trainwreck myself.