The first stop on the Japanese food adventure had to be an Izakaya. These Japanese pub eateries usually serve small plates to have with an extraordinary large beer, or three! Commonly, Izakayas will serve yakitori which is generally meat skewered and grilled over a charcoal fire. I mean, it’s meat on sticks and beer, what’s not to like?! We visited the famous Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho known for its many izakayas.
We were staying near to Shinjuku and heard that the best street for izakayas and yakitori was Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho. The start of the alley has a huge green sign above it, which leads to the dark, narrow street lit with lanterns. Along both sides are izakayas which mainly consist of a small bar along which patrons sit drinking beer and pointing at the food they want to eat.
We opted for an izakaya that specialised in pork and vegetable dishes and was located about halfway down Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho. The owner was extremely welcoming, and we managed to shuffle our way in and squeeze a spot in between two locals.
Beer, Beer, Beer, what more can I say?!
The ordering system at this place was awesome. The owner basically held up his suggestions, and you nodded or shook your head. The way this izakaya cooked yakitori was slightly different to the usual style of just brushing the sticks with tare (sauce). He would first place the skewers and a giant boiling bowl of ramen-like broth to cook before finishing on the barbecue. This resulted in the most flavoursome and juicy yakitori we’ve ever had.
We tried the beef, bacon and asparagus, pork liver, and pork shoulder skewers. My favourite was the bacon and asparagus, and Paul’s was the liver. However, they were all fantastic. They just melted in your mouth and slapped you in the face with umami meatiness that when washed down with an ice cold beer is one of those perfect things in life.
If you are visiting Tokyo, Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho is a must to try the local izakayas. Its a perfect introduction to what the Japanese do best; drink beer, eat great food and be merry.
Check out our other reviews of places to eat in Japan.