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Willl you please review my list of inexpensive and mid-level eats in Tokyo?

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Hi Japan Chowhounds,

After much research on this board and other sources on the web (bento.com rocks!), I’ve compiled this list of cheap to mid-level eats in Tokyo. As much as we would love to splurge on some meals at Michelin starred places, our big splurge is going to Tokyo in the first place so we’ll have to pass on those (this time around). I’m not disappointed at all though, because it sounds like there are some terrific eats at around $50 per person and below. We certainly aren’t going to hit all the places on this list. My goal with this list is to have a fleixble resource to go to when we plan our day each morning and are out and about and hunger strikes.

If you could let me know if there are any places on this list that: (a) aren’t good or great, or (b) much more expensive than I anticipate (again we are trying to stay at $60 per person or below, give or take), I would be grateful. Also, I would love some more izakaya, tempura, and shabu shabu recommendations if at all possible in our price range. (We love all kinds and styles of food, but are not especially keen on organ meats or offal.)

Finally, how would you recommend finding these places? My plan is to compile a complete list before we leave with addresses and print outs of google maps. But should I buy a Tokyo City atlas as well? My husband and I were in Tokyo for a mere 10 hours several years ago. We spent the entire time getting lost, and while we have more time this round (5 days, yeah!), I don’t want to spend too much time getting lost. (While, we certainly expect to get lost, and see the fun in surrendering to being hopelessly lost at one point, I don’t want to spend our entire trip getting lost.) Thanks so much for your input. Am very grateful. Will defintely post about our meals when we return.

RAMEN

- Ikaruga, 1-9-12 Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku; emen.jp/ikaruga;

- Basanova (sometimes Bassanova), 1-4-18 Hanegi, Setagaya-ku;

- Chuka Soba Inoue, 4-9-16 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku

- Ramen Musuem

- Tetsu

- Harukiya in Ogikubo

- Rokurinsha at Tokyo Station

SUSHI

- Kyubey in Ginza, Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-7-6, 03-3571-6523, 11:30 – 13:30, 17-21:45,

- Kozasa in Shibuya (are reservations essential here?)

- Sushi Taichi in Ginza

- Sushi Iwa

- Futaba in Ginza

- Sushi Ichi in Ginza

- Sushi Shimuzu in Shimbashi : lunch at 5500.-yens (9kan), lunch at 8500.- yens (13kan)

- Sushi Sasaki in Ginza : lunch at 3500.-yens, 5000.-yens or 7000.-yens

IZAKAYA

- Tamoiyanse, http://tamoiyanse.com/

- Yamariki, Koto-ku, Morishita 2-18-8, tel: 03-3633-1638, 17:00 – 22:00, closed Sunday and holidays

ROBATA and SKEWERS

- Tatsukich1, 3341-9322, Shinjuku 3-34-16, Ikeda Plaza Bldg 4F. Open 5-10pm

- Yakitori Akira in Maronouchi

- Kushiwakamaru, 3715-9292, Naka-Meguro, Kami-Meguro 1-19-2. Open 5pm- midnight daily.

TEMPURA

- Katsukura (in Takashimaya Dept. Store, Shinjuku

)

- Tsunahachi Rin (Shinjuku)

SOBA and UDON

- Udon Neno Zu

- Kaori-ya (in Ebisu) (soba)

- Narutomi in Ginza

- Honmura An in Roppongi

SHABU SHABU

- Seryna Honten (Lunch)

TOFU

Tofu-ya Ukai, 4-4-13 Shiba, Koenhttp://www.ukai.co.jp, 81-3-3436-1028 (traditional kaiseki featuring home made tofu)

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  1. Very nice job on the research. Only have a few comments on your selections:

    For ramen, Bassanova will require a detour location-wise that I'm not sure it warrants. You might be willing to go out there but I might consider something more closer to a sightseeing or overall dining/drinking destination. The Ramen Museum is also a bit off the typical visitor's grid but definitely makes for a fun half day....Sushi places look solid. Not sure how many of them do lunch. For dinner, you'll be pushing your budget threshold. Kozasa should be reserved. It's not insanely popular but the location is tough to find. It's essentially next to Tomoiyanse...For izakaya, these are two good ones but I would add to this list some more options. This should be your longest list probably, ideally giving you many options and potential to hop among spots....Soba/ udon, just consider for lunches. They are not really popular dinner meals.

    As general comments, your spots are geographically all over the place- some in neighborhoods a tourist might not frequent. I'm not saying this as a deterrent as I'm sure you can have great times at them, but you may be biting off transaction cost in terms of time and hassle that you can avoid. Here's what I would do.

    First, I would go to Google Maps and create an account- you can use your standard gmail one if you have one. In Google Maps, you can create your own push-pin digital map with places you load in yourself. This will visually show you a geographic spread of what you've selected. You can customize the push-pins with different icons or colors- i.e. ramen are red pins, izakaya are blue, etc. Save this map. I guess you can print out individual maps if you want but I don't find I need them myself..... Now, do you have a smart phone with a SIM card and international abilities? If you do, activate the international (you might need to call the carrier) and then you rent a sim card from a Japanese provider. This allows you to use your phone and the Google Maps app to guide you around. Do not do global roaming from say, Verizon or a U.S. carrier. Just rent a local simcard with a data plan. Anytime you're in Google Maps and in Japan, you can actually just punch in the phone number of the destination and the shop will come up. So you don't necessarily need to type in Japanese on your phone. If you don't have a phone with this capability, you can rent an English one- Iphone 4 or a similar Android. This works perfectly. I do it in every year when I travel around Japan, used the same functionality in Turkey last year, and use it when I visit U.S. cities. Just don't lose your phone.

    One last piece of advice- I suggest you run another search on this board and set the parameters to "Last 5 years". I believe the default search setting is last 12 months. I can tell by your selections that you are searching mostly the recent threads...Again, nice work on the research.

    1. I'd agree with Silverjay about finding a few more izakaya for the evenings, and save the soba for lunchtime. And the combination of Google Maps and a smartphone is very useful, and it's worth taking a few minutes to figure out how to set it up.

      Also, Katsukura is a nice choice but they serve tonkatsu, not tempura.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Robb S

        You have listed all the places I have ranked as worth to be tasted, I will be glad to hear from your opinion!!! Sushi Sasaki is difficult to find, as there is no store plate in front of the building, you will have to print the map, and check with the building name. It is worth the search effort, I recommend it for lunch. Actually, it used to be at another place before(=kachidoki), and at that time, it was on the top Tabelog !!

        1. re: Ninisix

          Thank you for the feedback chowhounders! I'm really happy to know that all of the places that I included in the list are great places. I did some additional research (with expanded time parameters per Silverjay's advice) and added to my list of izakaya. I'm still having difficulty finding some mid-level shabu shabu and tempura places in addition to the ones I've listed above. (They all seem to be high-end.) Any suggestions?

          Also, I looked into bringing my Iphone and unfortunately because my carrier is AT&T, I can't unlock it in order to use a SIM card in Japan. So I'll research renting an Iphone (or smartphone), or possibly loading an offline map into my Iphone. So many of these places sound so good that I'll be devastated (not an exagerration) if I can't find them.

          Here is my new list of izakaya:
          - Tamoiyanse, http://tamoiyanse.com/
          - Yamariki, Koto-ku, Morishita 2-18-8, tel: 03-3633-1638, 17:00 – 22:00, closed Sunday and holidays
          - Aburiya in Azabu-Juban
          - En in Suidobashi (also in Marunouchi and Shiodome
          ) - Seigetsu in Kagurazaka
          - Toki no Ma in Ebisu
          - Aburiya Fudo in Naka-Meguro
          - Daidaiya in Shinjuku
          - Buchi in Shibuya

          1. re: Ingrid Ingrid

            Ingrid,

            This link might be of interest:

            http://www.globaladvancedcomm.com/iph...

            1. re: Ingrid Ingrid

              Just a heads-up - Aburiya in Azabu-Juban has closed.

              1. re: Robb S

                I went to the Aburiya in Naka-Meguro in December and had a great time sitting at the counter. I hope that place holds out. It's been around a while now. Also in Naka-Meguro, I place that I was introduced to, is a really good little moderately priced seafood izakaya called Tetsu (http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1317/A131...). It's really just one long counter with a couple of tables in the back. One of the girls working there spoke good English but I have no idea if she's still there. The guys who run the place are fairly young....Regarding shabu-shabu, it's best to just pick a location and one of us can just spot you a place. Shabu-shabu restaurants are all over and most are moderately priced...I would definitely rent a phone.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  The group that runs Aburiya seems to be doing okay - they have eleven other restaurants, including one that opened in a shopping mall just a few weeks ago. However, they're not shy about closing down shops in underperforming locations, or switching menus, formats and restaurant names.

                  1. re: Robb S

                    Yeah, the one in Naka-Me used to have the most amazing shochu collection. The menu was a small book and the manager was REALLY into it. But they have ramped down from that these days. Then they dove full on into the motsu-nabe thing a few years ago, but when I was there in December, while it was still a featured item, it was less emphasized. Still doing the simple homey grilled stuff though and I had some very nice beef liver sashimi and shirako.

              2. re: Ingrid Ingrid

                For those unfortunates on AT&T this might be of use.

                http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,...

                30 bucks for 120 MB still sounds a bit high, but balance that against missing out on a place you really wanted to go to. Precache some maps and use data sparingly.

                As far as ramen, Tetsu and Rokurinsha will be very similar in style and will both have long lines (Rokurinsha probably more so than Tetsu). Also basically the same story for Harukiya and Inoue, although Inoue looks a little richer and fattier (although that's the only one on your list I haven't been to, after I read your post I realized it was mentioned in the NY Times). Personally I wouldn't go to Yokohama for just the Ramen Museum.

                1. re: Ingrid Ingrid

                  For satisfying, easy to approach, mid-level shabu shabu you could try the chain Onyasai (しゃぶしゃぶ温野菜).

                  1. re: ninnikuramen

                    I like nabe-zo for cheap shabu-shabu too (veggie bar!)

            2. Yes, definitely get a Tokyo City Atlas if you expect to be headed for specific street addresses. It is enormously helpful for landmarks and street names in English (Google maps has these in Japanese) and for numbered station exits (when you arrive at say Ginza station and are confronted with over 30 potential exits).

              1. Also try bento.com if you are still coming up short on your search for shabu shabu. It's a very user-friendly resource vs. scrolling through old CH posts and it may also be helpful for compiling your list since you can also do searches by neighbourhood.

                1. My first tip is that, if you go to the Yokohama Ramen Museum, I recommend sharing even though signs say it is not allowed. We were able to share with no problems. I can highly recommend going to stands 1,6,7 for three very different experiences, all in one place! (Those numbers are current as posted on their website. Stands change periodically.) 1, Ryushanhai, has a signature ball of spices plopped on the top, 6, Komurasaki is a tonkotsu ramen, and 7 Eki is a very potent miso ramen. Save this for last as it is huge on flavor.

                  My second tip is to use street view on Google Maps to see in advance what you are looking for. Much easier that way. And of course you can always ask once you're nearby. No guarantee of finding, but maybe you will find something even better!

                  1. Ingrid: Have you gone on your trip? Any recommendations?