...an expat libertine with a penchant for sparkly dining partners, jazz bars and izakaya.
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Shin Hinomoto, Yurakucho  新日の基、有楽町

I’ve always harboured a not so secret desire to own an izakaya. So my interest was peaked when I heard of an apparently legendary izakaya, in Yurakucho, run by an Englishman named Andy Lunt who has been serving happy customers in his usually packed establishment for the last twenty-five years. Not only is Andy a Brit, but he also hails from the city of Leicester, a short drive from where I myself grew up. Reason enough for me to be intrigued, no?

All accounts suggested that Shin Hinomoto, or “Andy’s izakaya” as it is more commonly known, is a place that focuses on simple izakaya standards prepared with fresh, high quality ingredients sourced by the master himself. Indeed, so famed is he for his ability to select the very best fish at the Tsukiji market, that numerous requests for his services have led him to establish a selection and delivery service, aptly named Andy’s Fish. He picks the fish, has it prepared and then shipped to your door. Sounds good doesn’t it?

From what I’d learned, it’s best to book ahead if you want to be sure of a seat at Shin Hinomoto, and so we did just that. After a quick pint in the Rose & Crown “English” pub across the road, my dining partners and I popped over to Andy’s izakaya. It’s located under the train tracks on the left out of the JR Hibiya exit of Yurakucho station. Nothing fancy, nicely worn and understated – complete with akachochin – the façade certainly promised good things to come, despite being hunched under a rack of ageing air-condioning vents.

The man himself greeted us as we entered, and showed us to our table in the spacious upper level of izakaya with its curving ceiling. Again, nothing fancy. Solid wooden tables, chairs and benches, the usual beer and beverage posters. Cosy enough and just the right level of lighting to allow you to take in your surroundings, and the menu. The staff were all pleasant enough, mostly South East Asian I think, and prompt with their delivery, if a little too keen to remove your dishes if they felt you looked like you were done.

The place soon filled up, and good mix of salarymen, tourists and expats. Conversations in various tongues filled the air, as did a lot of laughter. This is just the kind of place to relax after a long day and enjoy plenty of good honest food and booze at extremely reasonable prices.

The menus, Japanese and English, offered up a nice mix of fish, chicken, meat, vegetables etc., cooked in various ways. Plenty of perfectly usual dishes covering a good range of styles and flavours so as to please almost anyone. A note at the top of the menu reminds you that the menu is just a starting point, and for daily dishes, and choice selections of the best fish at the best prices, one need only ask. Great stuff.

While my dining partners got stuck in to the Guinness and kaku-highball (too small and too weak reportedly) I went for the litre glasses of draft beer, which were also great. As the evening went on we retreated from these heavier glasses and went for the whiskey instead. Nothing special, but did the job.

So, let’s talk food. Overall, it’s big, fresh, simply presented and done just right. Home cooking more or less. Nothing fancy, it is what it is. Which is to say tasty, and extremely satisfying. Considering the excellent portions, variety and freshness the prices were very, very good.

Slices of juicy tomato accompanied by a salad of onion, daikon, leaves and yellow pepper started the meal, and did their job just fine. The tempura moriawase was wonderful, a good mix of a wide variety of fish and vegetables. The renkon, for example, was nice and crunchy, the fish not too oily and aubergine not too floppy. Overall, the tempura was not too oily either, which was a pleasant surprise. The chicken karaage with pickles and Thai-style dipping sauce was also pretty good. Served piping hot, succulent and no gristle to be dealt with. Perhaps each morsel could have been a little bigger, but now I’m just splitting hairs.

The star of the night was without doubt the sashimi. We had the smallest moriawase, and still ended up with a large plate full of various fish, such as thai, maguro, kamapachi and katsuo, fresh as could be and cut in big, thick pieces. Wasabi and garlic set the fish of nicely. The akagai sashimi was also good, at least according my dining partner, although to me it was fairly hateful, seeming like the seafood equivalent of motsu.

Yurakucho always brought to mind Big Camera and yakitori under the tracks. Now, I associate it with Andy’s izakaya – Shin Hinomoto. Great location, good food, decent atmosphere and service, and all at good prices. Not the place to wow visitors with Japanese cuisine, not for a first date either, but for those who appreciate simple izakaya done well this is an establishment you’ll find yourself visiting again and again.


Tel: 03-3214-8021

Reader Comments (5)

You guys (people of the British persuasion) are making sake and running Izakaya? amazing! This one is definitely added to our list. Only thing that is a bit worrisome are the exposed black pipes; I'll assume they are delivering fresh water rather than taking away the other kind.

October 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNorio

I hadn't thought about the piping... Let's hope you are right about the direction of the flow!
Indeed, seems some of my compatriots are very active in the J-booze/cuisine scene.
Glad you liked the look of this place. I'm certain you'd enjoy it!

October 24, 2010 | Registered CommenterDave

Let me see now, what would be a gaijin nightmare

Living in Tokyo - Check
Working in Yurakucho- Check
Working at night in a bar in Yurakucho - Check
Working at night in a bar in Yurakucho and having to talk to drunks every night in a bar in Yurakcho in Tokyo. Yep that would be it.

October 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Glass

I'm sad you didn't try one of the cooked fish dishes! It's been my favorite thing at his restaurant.

October 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Will do next time! What do you recommend?
Cheers, D.

October 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterDave

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