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"Izakaya"

Japanese "B-class" gourmet cuisine

Plan Your Trip

When Japanese people want to enjoy drinking in a casual atmosphere and at a reasonable price, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the "izakaya" (Japanese style tavern). The menus are diverse and they are fun for customers of all ages and genders. Alcohol selections are expansive, featuring beers, Japanese rice wines, shochu (distilled liquor), and wines, and the food selections are all encompassing, range from Japanese to Western to Chinese. Chain shops are particularly reasonably priced. Some places have straw "tatami" mat lined private rooms called "ozashiki" where four or so people can drink together.
A lot of small scale owner-run izakaya hang red "chochin" style lamps at the storefront with the shop name written on them, leading to the nickname "aka chochin" ("aka" means red). They are usually bustling with business people drinking together happily on their way home from work.

After being seated, first order an alcoholic beverage. Before food is ordered, the wait person will bring a little something to eat while drinking in a small bowl. This is called "otoshi" or "tsukidashi" (the "tsukidashi" is usually about 200 yen, but sometimes it is incorporated into the bill). It is ok to take your time to order food after this.

A distilled alcoholic beverage called "shochu" is as popular in Japan as beer and Japanese rice wine. In addition to being served on the rocks and with water, you can also enjoy it mixed with various beverages like oolong tea, green tea, and grapefruit juice.

If you come to an izakaya with a group, it is a good idea to order foods that are easy for everyone to share, like a mixed yakitori plate with several different kinds of yakitori on one plate or a mixed sashimi plate. In the cold seasons, "nabe" (a type of Japanese soup) are popular. "Nikomi" (simmered stew) with beef or pork "horumon" (offal) simmered in a slightly sweet and salty stew is also popular.
 
If you want to eat something right away, it is a good idea to order something that does not need to be cooked with heat. "Hiyayakko" is tofu with "negi" (Japanese chives) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) sprinkled on top. You pour a bit of soy sauce on this and eat it. And dishes like "morokyu", raw cucumber which you dip in miso and eat, and "hiyashi tomato", round slices of tomato with salt, are also very common items at an izakaya.

After drinking and eating, many people like to order a rice based dish at the end. Some popular choices are "ochazuke", where rice is topped with "nori" (dried seaweed) or "umeboshi" (pickled Japanese plums) and Japanese tea is poured in the bowl, and "yaki onigiri" (grilled rice balls).
 

Seafood Izakaya Sakura Suisan

This is an izakaya chain with shops all around Tokyo downtown areas. Because it focuses on seafood, you can order sashimi and sushi here at a reasonable price. In fact, the entire lineup is inexpensive overall as well. They feature a diverse menu ranging from meal sets (teishoku) to course meals.
 
http://www.teraken.co.jp/ (Japanese only)

 

Teyandei Omoya Nishiazabu-ten

This izakaya emits the casual presence of a household style atmosphere in the Nishiazabu area of Tokyo. The interior brims with a refined Japanese ambiance. In 2008 it made number 1 in the top ten izakaya of Tokyo selected by The Guardian, a British newspaper. Its menchi-katsu (breaded and deep fried ground meat cutlet) and "umaki" with eel (unagi) wrapped (maki) inside eggs are popular.
 
Phone: 03-3407-8127
2-20-1 Nishiazabu Minato-ku Tokyo
Business hours: 5:30 p.m. – 0:00 a.m.
Open year-round
http://www.teyandei.com/ (Japanese)

 

Sumibiyaki Ebisuko Sakaba

An active pro-wrestler serves as the manager for this izakaya. Enjoy dishes with fresh ingredients and large servings. Get a taste of the Japan of days gone by in an interior with a retro ambiance.
 
Phone: 03-5155-0821
The 21st Tokyo Bldg. 1st basement floor, 1-14-6 Kabukicho Shinjuku-ku Tokyo
Business hours:
Tue – Thu & Holidays 5:00 p.m. – 0:00 a.m. (Last order 11:00 p.m.)
(Drink: Last order 11:30 p.m.)
Fri, Sat & days before national holidays 5:00 p.m.- 4:00 a.m.(Last order 3:30 a.m.)
Sun 4:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. (Last order 10:30 p.m.)
Closed: Mon
http://r.gnavi.co.jp/e912600/ (Japanese only)

 

Torien

Yakitori Yokocho (Yakitori Alley) in Shinjuku is an area that preserves the retro flavor of Japan from 60 years ago. On a corner of this area stands Torien, a traditional izakaya. Enjoy food made from fresh ingredients and a plentiful selection of alcoholic beverages. "Tachinomi Torien" next door has stand up drinking around a table.
 
Phone: 03-3342-2011
1-2-4 Nishi-Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku Tokyo
Business hours: 12:00 p.m. - 11:40 p.m. (Last order 11:00 p.m.)
Closed: Mon
http://www.helios-jp.com/torien/ (Japanese)