Robb - I read through the list you sent and got some good ideas. Bongout Noh I had ruled out because we are usually disappointed with non-Japanese food in Japan (though clearly, Tokyo is a different beast. The review sounds great). Also, glad to get a second opinion on ramen, Silverjay. I try to avoid ramen spots that are primarily frequented by foreigners and will definitely give some mixed broth places a try.
About the izakaya/yakitori, I'll try to be a little more specific....
Price range: we're comfortable spending around 3,000-4,000y per person on average for a dinner. That said, we'd be willing to spend more for good meals but not every night. We come to Tokyo about once a year and we're not really that interested in haute cuisine or 30,000Y sushi. Not to discredit those things, which are very worth doing, we just find that we are satisfied and have more fun at homestyle places.
Style: In general, we like old school spots. However, I assume that there are some younger, hip chefs in Tokyo who are doing interesting things in the izakaya framework so would like to try a mix of old and new on this trip. After reading the review of Seigetsu on Robb's site, I'd like to give that a try, in addition to some rougher around the edges spots. We are happy to interact with staff in our (limited) Japanese - we're pretty outgoing and like to try things that are recommended (and share bites with customers whenever they're into that sort of thing.) Raucous, smoky, noisy places are ok (cigarette smoke is a necessary evil up here). Our neighborhood place in Sapporo is pretty quiet, but with an old school chef who talks with us. Kanji only menus are no problem, we just look at what other people are eating or ask questions. We like to sit at the counter.
Food: hmmmmmmm...as I mentioned before, we don't eat many organ meats. But we love chicken (tail, skin, wings, etc) and buta yakitori and prefer these to seafood. And anywhere with good small-farm or foraged vegetables (oden, hoiru, interesting salads, home-made tofus, etc) sounds great. Regional could also interesting, especially from Kyushu/Okinawa since we haven't traveled down there yet.
Neighborhoods: This trip is a bit last minute so we don't have any hard plans. Will likely visit Asakusa/Ueno again, Kagurazaka is of interest, Daikanyama/Nakameguro, and Shimokitazawa. Planning to visit Mori Art Museum and a design space in nishi Shinjuku. Haven't been to Akihibara ever so will maybe check that out this trip. We might try to get out of Tokyo to Kamakura or Kawagoe for a day. No real plans yet, so if there are areas (like Kagurazaka) you recommend where we'd have the best/most plentiful dining options, please let me know.
Also, we'll be going out with Japanese friends on Friday night so if there is any place that you especially recommend going with a Japanese speaker, we can try to hit it that night.
Thank you for the updates! I meant the Buri in Ebisu, but if it's gone downhill, maybe we'll head to Buchi (or neither, as they are sister restaurants, I believe).
Been torn between green curry at Bassanova and the four cheese at Ivan...will maybe try to do both. One can never eat too much ramen!
Any other izakaya or yakitori places that you think we shouldn't miss?
Thanks again :)
My husband and I will be in Tokyo later this week for 5 days. We live in Sapporo, which has some of the best seafood on the planet, and we've already done Tsukiji so we're not really after sushi on this trip.
We're looking for the best izakaya or yakitori as these are our favorite kind of Japanese restaurants...we love places with a seasonal/local focus (though most izakaya are) and lively atmosphere. We can read kana and we can speak Japanese well enough. Our budget is mid-range but we prefer to spend 3,000Y or less per person, if possible (we like to try lots of dishes but don't have huge appetites). As far as location, we'll go almost anywhere. We have visited Shinsuke (Yushima Station) and Morimoto (Shibuya Station) and really enjoyed both.
Have scoured past posts and done some digging elsewhere. Here are some names that I'm hoping to get opinions on:
- Buchi or Buri (pretty sure we'll go to one of these, but which?)
While I'm at it, a few other specific questions about Tokyo dining:
1. Looking for a straightforward dinner spot on a Thursday night before a big test. We're staying near Aoyama Ichome (not the most exciting area), so anywhere easy to get to on the subway from there is preferable.
2. We're always up for some ramen, though we have our fair share in Sapporo. Not to be missed ramen spots? (Ivan? Fu unji? Ikaruga? Bassanova? Intrigued by the green curry but ONLY if it's exceptionally good)
3. Are the dumplings at Gyoza Stadium worth seeking out? We are fiends for dumplings in Hong Kong and Korea but don't have so many up good spots here in Hokkaido.
4. Tenpura...would love to have some amazing tenpura but don't really want to have a splurge dinner on it. Would be sufficient to eat it with soba or udon. I've heard Asakusa is a good area for tenpura but have no specific recommendations.
This is short notice since we're leaving on Thursday but any tips or thoughts to narrow down our izakaya list (and augment our yakitori options!) would be much appreciated!
We had a great meal at Giro Giro in May, for the price it really can't be beat. Make sure you sit at the counter...more fun to watch the punk chefs make everything than to be in the dining room.
Thank you for the reminder. My husband grew up on the Peninsula so has a few negative (and probably now outdated) associations with Oakland. But it's definitely on our interest list. What neighborhoods can you recommend with great food options and/or affordable and safe real estate? Are there year-round farmers markets there? How about good supermarkets? Thanks a million!
Thank you, everyone, for the info. Don't know much about Sonoma proper. I realize none of these places are likely to have the food diversity that we are accustomed to in Portland. Is the restaurant scene around Sebastopol/Sonoma geared only toward tourists or also locals? I know there is a good ag scene in that area. Petaluma, being the biggest, seems the most likely to have ethnic options but is the food there more chain-oriented? I can't tell if Petaluma is lacking the agricultural/local food influence that is present around the rest of the Sonoma/Napa area.
My husband and I are currently living in Japan but planning to return to the States next summer. Prior to Japan, we lived in Portland, Oregon and are looking for somewhere in the SF bay area with a great local ag/casual food scene much like the one we left. A mix of high style and corner shops is our preference and farmer's markets and ethnic food availability are important as well.