...an expat libertine with a penchant for sparkly dining partners, jazz bars and izakaya.
Opinions here expressed are not necessarily shared by any with whom I associate. Fault for errors and any offense caused is entirely my own.

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Entries in Budget (42)


Tsubaki, Shinjuku  華椿、新宿

One of many awful budget izakaya in Shinjuku, just up the road from Segafredo on the East side of the station, Tsubaki’s only redeeming feature was a negotiable nomihodai plan.

With a little over an hour to kill with old friends on a short trip to Tokyo, being collared on the street by one of the izakaya’s fluffers proved useful.

An hour of all-we-could-drink silliness for ¥800, as long as we ordered a dish per head. Considering that it was too late for lunch, and too early for dinner, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The building, izakaya interior and service were all instantly forgettable. The food standard for such places. The edamame were okay, the chicken karaage and potato salad edible but not for the delicate of stomach. About on a par with the grub at American.  


Kin no Kura Jr., Jiyugaoka  金の蔵Jr、自由が丘

What better post on April 1st than Kin no Kura Jr., an izakaya scraped from the bottom of Jiyugaoka’s culinary barrel?

The brainchild of Sanko Marketing Foods (of Tsuki no Shizuku fame, for example), Kin no Kura Jr. can be found all over greater Tokyo, being easily recognizable thanks to the garish, bright yellow signage loudly proclaiming that all of the hundreds of dishes and drinks on the (touch-screen) menus are a mere ¥270 each.

By all accounts, this particular chain was one of the first to bring the “B-class gourmet” one price fits all concept to the izakaya dining scene. It may well have had its day, and for students and freeters is probably a destination of choice, but these days far better food and drinks can be found for similar prices – and indeed more cheaply – at izakaya such as Sakana-ya.

Everything about Kin no Kura Jr. felt thin, half done in order to reduce costs. The hand wipes were half size, rendering them practically useless. The “beer” was watery and the Hoppy and shochu set consisted of a thimble full of liquor. 

The eda mame were passable, as was the yaki-ika. The yakiniku salad was pretty limp, and the hokke had the taste and texture of soap.  The highlight of the meal was easily the eihire

Better cheap eats can be found.



Kin no Kura Jr.


Men Don Fuku-iken, Tokiwadai 麺・丼 二・一軒、常盤台

Fukuiken is one of several reasonable ramen shops in Tokiwadai. It’s located on the main shotengai on the south side of station, next door to another ramen shop (the name escapes me) instantly recognizable for the window full of photos of various TV “talent” and other famous visitors. 

A family business, Fukuiken closes at 6pm on Saturdays – plenty of hapless souls were turned away whilst I wolfed down a ¥900 ramen set consisting of a good-sized bowl of shoyu ramen, three paltry little gyoza (which after lunching at Kitchen Tachikichi earlier in the day were laughable) and a nice mound of cha-han.

The gyoza aside, both the fried rice and ramen were good, although after seeing the less generic ramen ordered by other customers I got the feeling that those included in the set were probably the most mundane on offer.



Men Don Fuku-iken


The Lockup, Shibuya  ロックアップ、渋谷

This horror-jail themed chain-izakaya is exactly the kind of place I try to avoid like the plague. Cheap, tacky, noisy, overdone and big on time wasting.

However, a pair of visiting dignitaries from Blighty expressed a desire to try the place and, being persuaded by the promise of a generous nomihōdai plan, I acquiesced and, shame be upon me, thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Half the “fun” is the interior – dark, filled with fancy dress horror props such as zombies, skeletons, cages and spongy floors. Although not really scary I was truly terrified that I might be injured.

Once seated in our cell, we endured roughly half an hour of ear splitting Thriller-like “music,” screams, maniac laughter, squeals from neighbouring diners and voiceovers from the netherworld while all the time watching the clocking ticking on our two hours of nomihōdai plan – torturous.  

The first five minutes were kind of funny, but after a while all too similar to listening to the majority of Japan’s “talent” infested TV. The cloven-hoofed hordes of freeters dressed as zombies, ghosts, demons and ghouls rattled our cages, but not in the way intended.

The entertainment dispensed with, at last we could hit the menu.

The nomihōdai plan offered lots of choice; the test tube cocktails proved popular as well as colourful. These aside, my dining partners and I got through a truly horrifying quantity of bottled Kirin beer, and so all was well with the world.

The food was, just about, at the higher end of the budget chain-izakaya spectrum.

Our course included Caesar salad, bacon and leak on a stick, salmon drenched in dressing and mayonnaise and shrimp and broccoli salad…

… and then some chicken karaage, French fries, pork, seafood spaghetti and a bit of cake for dessert.

Judging by other reviews of The Lockup from a few years ago it used to be a little more polished, probably somewhat more expensive and possibly scarier. Now it has the distinct feel of a themed chain-izakaya on its way out. Still, ¥2,500 for a mountain of gut-liner and access to endless drinks for a couple of hours isn’t all that bad. Even better if you want to show visitors some of “whacky Japan.”





Tachikichi Gyōza, Shibuya  立吉餃子、渋谷

The gyōza at Tachikichi Gyōza are fantastic. Hefty, juicy and delicious, whether boiled or fried. Certainly in a different league than the rather paltry dumplings served at the immensely popular Harajuku Gyōza Ryō.

Tachikichi’s gyōza differ from the norm by not having garlic in the meat mix. This allows the flavour of the pork to come through. For those, like me, who love the taste of garlic, quite excellent garlic gyōza are available. The gyōza skins have a thicker more succulent feel than usual, akin to Chinese dumplings.

Prices are good – about ¥100 a piece, with discounts when ordering in sets of five or ten. A range of other simple izakaya classics are available although apart from the cabbage and shio kombu salad I’ve yet to sample them. Beer at ¥390 isn’t bad, but the glasses are small.

Friendly staff and customers – a nice mix of young and old, male and female, smart and scruffy – make for a relaxed, cozy atmosphere at this hole in the wall eatery.

Funky decoration and ornaments add some flavour to an otherwise plain interior.

The location works well, too; on Meiji Dori, just a few minutes from the east exit of Shibuya station over the pedestrian bridge.

The open front allows for a spot of people watching while quaffing beers and tucking into the tasty dumplings. Perfect for lunch, a light dinner or just a beer-break on your way to the station.

Update 17/10/11: A recent visit at lunch time revealed the lunch sets to be of excellent value. Three gyoza, along with some kimuchi, leaf salad topped with potato salad, soup and finished off with sweet tofu desert. 

My dining parnter ordered a plate of ten gyoza as an extra, only to find his eyes were bigger than his belly. 

Furthermore, a recent attempted visit revealed that Tachikichi is closed for refurbishment. From the glimpse I caught, the planks of wood clamped to metal frames that once served as tables are being replaced with purpose built furnishings. Great to see the place doing well enough to be more permanantly fitted out. Just hope none of the charm of the place is diminished in the process! 

UPDATE 26/10/11: Revamped and renamed "Kitchen Tachikichi," the interior fittings are better, the wall mounted counter-tops, especially, much improved. The playfully kitch deocrations are sadly no more, and with them much of the atmposphere has disapeared, too. In all fairness, Kitchen Tachikichi now feels like a blank canvas, perhaps more a work in progress. With luck, the young masters will add some of the old sparkle atop the new lick of paint.   

But - Honolulu starbright - the food remains the same.







Cafe & Bar Square Hedges, Nakameguro  スクエアヘッジズ、中目黒

Nakameguro has plenty to offer – ever the more so as its gentrification proceeds. As such, Café & Bar Square Hedges has its work cut out for it. How to differentiate from the many other fashionably artsy, left of center café-bar and arts spaces?

The location, three blocks left and three blocks up from the bridge over the Meguro River if you head straight over the road out of Nakameguro station, provides a chance to stroll through rarely visited Kamimeguro back streets.  The café itself, all pale blue walls, white wood and airy ceilings brings to mind a beach house. As much Devon as it is Tokyo.

The shop front, dominated by a large window, provides a lush green view by summer, and by spring a little known cherry blossom-viewing site. Spread across two floors, by day the first floor offers a relaxed, comfortable and thankfully unpretentious lunch venue amidst an eclectic mix of knick-knacks, framed by a breezy bar and made welcoming by the affable attentions of the lady of the house, Ms. Nawata. By night the second floor is opened, offering a more bar-like experience, as well as a space for parties, events and exhibitions.

The menu offers simple, home-cooked dishes covering Asian Fusion, Brunch, Mexican, Sandwiches and Vegetarian categories. The lunch sets, all coming in at under ¥900, offer particular value, being comprised of salad, soup, hot or cold drink, rice and main dish. 

My dining partners and I settled on the Gappao, Red curry and Avocado salad (which, due to soaring lettuce prices thanks to recent typhoons, hot weather and radiation, was based on cabbage, as most salads seem to be of late). All were fresh, tasty and filling.





Best & Burger's, Iruma  ベストアンドバーガーズ、入間

Situated amidst the sterile environs of Iruma’s Mitsui Outlet Park with its plethora of stores flogging low to mid-level brands at bargain prices, Best & Burger’s (sic) was better than Burger King, but not a patch on Giggle or Blacows.

Weary after traipsing around what felt like an average English town centre, less the roaming gangs of tooled-up hooded looters, my dining partners and I were happy to find a seat, some beer (Heineken) and something to eat.

Neither the burgers (we all had Avocado burgers) nor the fries were much to write home about, but could have been worse. No matter – you’ll never visit this particular eatery unless you visit that outlet park, which, I assume, is unlikely.