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Jun 12, 2012 07:48 AM

Cover charges at izakaya in Tokyo

We are finally in Tokyo and are anxious to try some of great places recommended on this board. We just had a light dinner at Shousuke, an izakaya in Shinjuku. We didn't order much, but what we did order was quite good (I'll write a more detailed description when I post a write up of our trip). We were, however, surprised at how steep the table charge was -500 yen per person. (Our bill was about 3000y, one- third of which was table charge!) Is this a pretty typical table charge for izakaya in Tokyo? We were hoping to try several izakaya in Ebisu tomorrow night (like 3 or 4) but might alter this plan and hunker down at one place if each izakaya we visit charges about 500 yen per person.

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  1. Most places do not do table charges per se, but some will tack on a small charge for the otoshi, the small amuse bouche that is served when you sit down or that arrives with an initial drink order. To be honest, 2000 Yen worth of food and drink at a Tokyo izakaya is on the extreme low end of what two people would normally spend, so proportionally, yeah, that's sort of what you have to deal with. They obviously want you to invest in a meal there.

    1. Many places will only charge a cover charge if you don't spend a certain minimum amount of money. It might not be a set amount, but I imagine most places will charge you if you only spend 1000 Yen per person. It is possible that the same place would remove the charge if you ate a full dinner there, but coming in just to have a drink and try one or two dishes is a sure way to get hit with the charge.

      2 Replies
      1. re: la2tokyo

        >Many places will only charge a cover charge if you don't spend a certain minimum amount of money

        Wow, I've never heard that.

        1. re: Robb S

          I have to say I don't always scrutinize my bill, so I'm not 100% sure about this, but I don't think that I'm completely wrong either. I think maybe it also depends on whether or not they know you or not. I never notice the charge on the bill at places I go to regularly and spend money at, even if I drop in for a light meal. But, I'm sure that if someone new came in and drank a beer and had some edamame or something similar that they would get charged in the same place. I'm also fairly certain that in many places that I've gone into for the first time and spent 10K yen on myself that I don't see a charge on my bill, but if my bill was only 1K yen per person I would be subject to a cover charge.

      2. If you think of the charge as a replacement for the tip, it is not bad at all. Besides, you almost always get a little food for it.

        1. Just another note - an izakaya is considered to be a bar, not a restaurant. It's customary (and generally expected) for you to order at least one drink per person when you sit down, even if it's just a soft drink like iced oolong tea. (It's fine to order one drink and one or two dishes per person and then move on, but anything less than that isn't really customary.)

          Otoshi charges vary from one izakaya to the next - sometimes it's Y300, sometimes Y500, occasionally Y150.