いらっしゃい!
...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 Meat (8)

Wednesday
Aug292012

Ichiren, Shinjuku  一蓮、新宿

A discovery made by a neighbourhood dining partner who understands that dining should mean food and drink in unequal measures, Ichiren proved to be a competent restaurant serving adequate Korean BBQ supplemented by somewhat mediocre side dishes, and supported by a 3-hour all-you-can-drink plan that, quite frankly, was quite excellent.

We paid a visit to the Shinjuku restaurant, not far from Segafredo and Tsunahachi on the East Exit side, although there are other outposts in Shibuya, Shinbashi and Chiba.

The interior and service screamed “budget chain restaurant,” but overall the set meal we ordered proved to be better than one would have guessed.

Although we went for meat option, the collagen nabe seemed to be extremely popular, especially among the many young ladies frequenting the place.

An appetizer of kimuchi and moyashi (bean sprouts) started the meal – a little dainty but good enough. Salmon carpaccio with fried garlic improved the outlook, as did a bowl full of lightly drizzled green salad.

A couple of risible prawn crackers topped with a shrimp and oodles of sickly-sweet mayo let the show down considerably, but this was soon forgotten once the pork arrived. Fried on the usual metal griddle, with garlic and kimuchi, it was tasty, but would have benefitted from being thicker cut such as that at of some of Shin-Okubo’s better Korean restaurants.

The bibimba was not as expected, but filled the corners. The dessert was unnecessary.

Not a bad destination for dinner and gallons of booze. If that’s your thing…

While on the subject, Maki-san’s recent Korean discovery looks very tempting.

 

03-5919-8825

Ichiren

Saturday
Jul072012

Yakiniku Peking, Motosumiyoshi  焼肉北京、元住吉

A crossing on a major road somewhere in Motosumiyoshi (Toyoko line) marked by two imposing looking yakiniku restaurants on either side road.

Deciding between the two came down to Yakiniku Peking having more customers visible through the 2nd floor window, and the nice way the neon signage looked on a dark, humid, rainy night.

This atmosphere carried through to the shop interior itself. Clearly a relic of the bubble years, there was something “classic” about the place.

The tabletop grill was in a style I’ve yet to come across, and indeed, my dining partner informed me that the grill with which we were confronted was all the rage in the eighties.

The food itself was a little fresher. None of the meats offended, being tasty and reasonably proportioned.

The best of the evening was the cucumber kimchi and the tongue.

Not a bad restaurant overall, but no better than cheaper chain offerings, such as Genkaya.

 

044-411-7716

Yakiniku Peking

Monday
Mar262012

Genkaya, Jiyugaoka げんかや、自由が丘

Essentially much the same as the Shibuya iteration of this budget yakiniku chain, the Jiyugaoka outpost deserves a mention now as it seems to have improved, in terms of atmosphere, portions and price, significantly since my last visit (which was a couple of years ago admittedly).

Whereas the relatively recent renovations at the Shibuya store have primarily succeeded in robbing the place of its atmosphere and fun factor, the Jiyugaoka store was bustling and noisy, much like things used to be in Shibuya, back in the day…

The menu is much the same, save perhaps for an expanded offering of chicken dishes and salads.

The prices have reverted to those of the previous decade. Everything on the menu – bar a few specials such as the wagyu – are just ¥290 (excluding tax). This included larger dishes such as the delicious ishiyaki bibimba and, of course, the beer.

Overall, the quality of meat was good, with only a few slices being mostly fat and nothing else. The garlic potato salad wasn’t all it could have been, but at the price range it did its job.

As with the Shibuya store, the bathrooms are located outside the store itself, which is something of an annoyance.

Still, good quality budget grilled meats.

Kimuchi 1

Kimuchi 2

Caesar salad

Rosu

Ishiyaki bibimba

Garlic potato Salad

Pig tongue

Karabi (tare)

 

03-5701-4212

Genkaya

Tuesday
Dec062011

Outback Steakhouse, Shibuya  アオトバック、渋谷

Birthday parties often provide the chance to try somewhere different, and this one was no exception. 

I get the feeling I must have been one of the few left in Tokyo not to have tried an Outback Steakhouse. In fact, I couldn’t even picture it, until checking it’s location and realizing I’d known it all along. Anyhow, it proved to be an enjoyable distraction.

Spacious, kind of cozy, packed with a mix of parties (we sang happy birthday many times – for young and old), lovers, coworkers and gaijin.

The service was okay. But just okay. They tried hard to do the genki thing, but didn’t come across as all that sincere. Drink orders took forever to materialize, so in the end we resorted to ordering two at a time, after a few rounds of which the staff grasped the concept of thirsty diners and got their act together.

The menu had plenty to offer, and pretty pictures to make ordering simple.

I’d been warned by a trusted source that if I wanted to eat more than one dish the Bloomin’ Onion ® was best avoided. Advice followed, but I have to admit that it looked bloomin’ tasty.

Aside from the slow beers, margaritas and Cassis sodas, we had the customary bread and butter, which was sweet tasting, and the perfectly naughty Aussie Cheese Fries. Bad for you, but enjoyable in the way the bad things usually are.

We ordered various steak sets, each of which was accompanied by a choice of soups, salads, and sides. The soups were poor, afterthoughts at best. The salads little better, with even the ubiquitous Caesar Salas being less than it could have been. The jacket spuds (that means potatoes) looked okay, but I neglected to sample. I went for mashed potato instead, which to be honest wasn’t great – good mashed potato should be done with enough cream and butter to make even the sturdiest lady cow wince. 

There was rice (but no peas), coleslaw and veggies, too. All were passable at the price point. And as for the steaks… 

My filet (apparently recommend, as highlighted in red on the menu) was somewhat disappointing. Flavor mild to say the least, and screamed “Japanese style,” which is to say it was kind of buttery, or like marshmallow. Steaks should have more substance.

The Outback Special, favoured by three of my dining partners, was far superior. For a start it was bigger, and the juicy flesh and full flavour was much better than expected. Finally, the NY Strip was pretty good, too. Less filling than the Special, but overall a more accomplished steak.

I wasn’t too miffed at my poor choice, as (luckily) my dining partners all being ladies, they decided to give me half of their steaks. Helping them out seemed like a good idea, but by time I was finished I was less sure.

Desert was suggestively shaped sugary death in a bowl. I didn't go there. 

 

03-5459-7751

Outback Steakhouse

Thursday
Oct282010

Funato, Iidashinmachi  船渡、飯田新町

Saitama… For your average Tokyoite the very name brings to mind a featureless plain bereft of sophistication. Do the train lines even go that far? Can’t say I know much about the region, and most of what I do is, no doubt, horribly biased. There’s that kind of “going back in time” feeling when you witness the fashions and countenance of the inhabitants of the area, just as you do when visiting Osaka. Everything stems from Tokyo, and filters down through the barren wastes that make up this blessed land of the gods. Luckily, as well as conspicuously attractive farmer’s daughters and young men who attempt (successfully) to dress and comport themselves like comic book gangsters, I discovered that really, really, great yakiniku is to be found among the rice fields and eternal shotengai.

Funato is a yakiniku-ya situated beside the Binnuma River in Iidashinmachi. It’s more of a complex really, as once you enter the main building you are more than likely to be led through the kitchens (yes, THROUGH the KITCHENS) into the inner compounds surrounded with buildings of various shapes and sizes, all which provide differing dining areas. Pretty weird, pretty interesting.

Unfortunately – it was Saitama after all and as such I was not sure that cameras or electronic devices of any kind actually work or do not result in those that bare them being lynched – at the time of my visit I didn’t have my ageing, trusty blurry camera with me and those few pictures I did take were snapped on the iPhone of one my dining partners. Forgive the quality, please. Half of what we ate didn’t get snapped as, to be honest, we were too busy feasting on some of the best yakiniku I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat.

The interior, at least of the annex we settled into, was pleasant enough. Modern, clinical Japanese style, koagari with horigotatsu, spacious tabletops containing wells into which buckets of glowing charcoal were set, topped with the grills upon which the meaty morsels were grilled and, when the beer took hold, burnt.

Not much to say on the drinks front; just kept ordering draft beer and eating. Sorry. They did have some generic shochu and other tipples, but you’ll have to visit for yourself (a good idea) for the details. The food menu was pretty vast. Lots and lots of meat in various cuts, and plenty of veggies, rice dishes and salads to keep you occupied, too. You get the feeling that Funato is aimed at families or parties (Saitama hosts an inordinate number of people-carriers after all) as a proliferation of set menus and niku-moriawase were available. The menu itself was well supplied with photos, so as to guide the uninitiated in the right direction. Prices were good, especially considering the size and quality of all that was served.

What did we eat? Meat! Glorious, fresh, delicious slices of meat. Not too fatty, not too lean, not too oily, not too dry. I’ll say it again; this was fantastic yakiniku. The garlic, fried in oil in a foil vessel, took ages to be ready but was delicious, if simple. Could have done with a lot more of this, as it was popular at our table.  We stayed fairly clear of offal, for the most part, enjoying platefuls of decent cow flesh in the usual cuts. As mentioned, all were of extremely good quality and in suitably decent portions. The sanchu and miso paste were good too. The kimuchi selection went down well, although I’d have preferred it to be a little spicier. One of the “specials,” the beef sushi, is worthy of mention as it was sublime. Tender slices of raw beef, slightly marbled as is the wont in these parts, resting upon vinegared rice and wasabi. Could have eaten this all night. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that wasabi is more or less green horseradish, this tasted very much like roast beef and horseradish. Can’t recommend it enough. Two bibimbas, ishiyaki and otherwise, were also excellent, extremely filling and pleasantly attractive. Indeed, for the most part everything was good in terms of size. The liver too was exemplary.

Funato is a fantastic yakiniku-ya. I’m determined to return, camera in hand, in order to record the experience properly. Good food, comfortable surroundings and good service to match. Perhaps lacking in character, but the food itself was truly wonderful. That’s why the place was heaving.

 

Tel: 048-624-9640

Saturday
Sep252010

Ninniku-ya, Ebisu  にんにくや、恵比寿

Before the first hints of autumn were felt, and when the idea of rain was still laughable, Tokyoeater and I decided that the relentless, sultry evenings called for shorts, goatees, and chilled wine. Having left the choice of venue in the capable hands of my dining companion (much less hassle, and he always manages to introduce restaurants I’d never think of), we hit the streets of Hiroo hungry and desirous of air conditioning.

Having passed several tempting looking restaurants, we soon headed in the direction of Ebisu, and eventually arrived at Ninniku-ya (Garlic House), an eatery with which my dining partner has long been acquainted. As the name suggests, it’s all about garlic. Lots of it. This is never a bad thing, of course, and having confirmed that no more important meeting than that with the masseuse was scheduled for the following day, the idea of strong tasting, garlic infused dishes seemed perfect.

Ninniku-ya’s façade is rather non-descript; you could easily pass it by without noticing. The interior, a large main dining area and a smokers’ lair to the rear, brought to mind a blend of various European restaurants. You’d find similar décor in any number of countries, serving any number of cuisines. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, just a little bland in that it was a bit of everything and nothing in particular. But then again, we weren’t there to appraise the furnishings.

The clientele was extremely gaijin-heavy which, considering that we all “know” how much the Japanese “hate garlic” (and by extension Koreans) and that they (the Japanese) “don’t smell” (meaning that gaijin do), made perfect sense. Service was provided by a slightly weathered-looking old man, who seemed to have accepted that his lot in life is to string together simple, grammatically unsound, English in order to serve ravenous hoards of expats and visiting barbarians.

The menu offers a range of European standards (chicken, pork, beef, and pasta dishes), with a hint of Japanese influence, along with some Chinese fare, all shot-through with garlic, and garlic, and a little bit more garlic. So, as long as you like garlic, you’ll probably find something that pleases. I seem to remember our having a salad of some description, but I have no photographic evidence to support my hunch. There is, however, a photo of the aubergine with garlic olive oil, which was nice and soft while still retaining its texture and flavour. The level of garlic was pretty good, as it would prove to be throughout the meal, although my dining partner lamented the reduction in garlic in each dish compared to those of the past. Some things never last.

The shougayaki-style pork with green beans and, of course, garlic was rather basic, but certainly passable. Couldn’t help feeling it didn’t really fit the menu somehow, however. On the other hand, the garlic steak was a perfect fit. Thick, juicy steak, beautifully pink inside, seared on the outside and topped with a smattering of roast vegetables and mashed potato. Probably my favourite of the evening, this was simple yet thoroughly satisfying.

As is our wont, we made short work of a couple of chilled bottles of something white and eminently drinkable, which complimented the somewhat plain pasta dish. This was, from what I can remember, simply penne with mushrooms and tasteless bacon in a cream sauce. The garlic provided the flavour, although I really would have preferred this to be a lot stronger on the garlic front, so as to make up for the lacklustre bacon and mushrooms. It was also a little on the petite side – as I have pointed out before, pasta should be served in heaps!

My dining partner suggested the garlic bread, promising a great, glistening rod of baguette, served erect and piled with garlic. Sadly, upon arrival it turned out that even this once proud specimen had been reduced to the more usual halved variety, lying prostate upon the plate. Again, although I seem to recall some spring rolls making an appearance I haven’t any photos. They probably tasted of garlic though.

An enjoyable meal, and rather fun to indulge one's love of garlic. I’d certainly be interested to try another meal here if they promised to utilise the levels of garlic that I’m told they used to. Servings could have been a little more generous, and service with a smile would have been nice.

 

Tel: 03-3446-5887

Friday
Aug132010

Amiyakitei, Chitose-Funabashi  あみやき亭、千歳船橋

If you happen to be in the Chitose-Funabashi area, and both Hisaya and Sazaya are closed – or even Zanpa no Kaze for that matter – you might (and it’s a BIG might) want to give Amiyakitei a try. Housed in what used to be one of those box-like Royal Host family restaurants, Amiyakitei is a roadside yakiniku-ya on Kampachi Dori, about 10 minutes from Chitose-Funabashi station. It’s big, green and has plenty of parking spaces underneath it, making it perfect for families with those big white people carriers to pull up and feed their hungry kids.

It feels pretty much like a family restaurant. Lots of tables, semi-private booths really, done in dark faux-marble with the grill set into them, and even a raised tatami area that seems popular for parties. The size of the place makes it feel somewhat uncomfortable, like being in a big factory cafeteria I suppose.

Just inside the entrance, near the drink, salad and cake bars (sounds like a Harvester doesn’t it?) are posted upon the wall certification of the meat being served that day. It gives the region from which it originates and an official tracking number, so that all may be assured that they are eating good honest Japanese cow, and not anything imported from dangerous foreign farms (no, not those in Miyazaki prefecture…) that might cause mutation – or worse – if ingested.

The service is fairly brisk, allowing the place to deal with a lot of customers. As mentioned, it’s popular with families, so there are plenty of kids and thus plenty of noise. Bizarrely, your first order must be made by filling in an order slip. You just tick the boxes and hand it to the staff. Perhaps they use this data to analyse customers’ preferences. From what saw, most have a preference for the all-you-can-eat salad bar, complimented by several plates of oily, fatty meat, and followed up by several visits to the all-you-can-eat cake bar.

The menu provides the usual yakiniku staples as wells as plated of vegetables and rice dishes such as bibimba. Each table is provided with a dizzying array of dipping sauces and condiments, along with helpful instructions on which sauces go best with different cuts of meat, and how best to mix them. I suppose this says something about the declining knowledge of national food culture among younger generations…

When I visited, back in October of last year, the place had only recently opened and as such they were throwing away promotions with reckless abandon. I ended up with a voucher entitling me to a full-sized bottle of shochu, Satsuma Kobiki, on my second visit. Not particularly good, but free is not a bad thing either.

The salad bar offers up lettuce, daikon, seaweed, sweet corn, potato salad, egg salad, tomato, cucumbers and some fruit, such as pineapple. All, except the fruit, were a little too vinegary. It’s tabehodai, although they politely request you eat all that your pile your plate with, so as not to cause waste.

Prices are reasonable, although to my mind the cuts of meat were on the small side. At the time, I felt Amiyakitei didn’t compare favourably with Genkaya, but in recent months even that once splendid yakiniku-ya seems to be trying to increase profits by serving less.

And what of the meat? The tongue was bland, and even the lemon juice failed to bring out any flavour. The sanchu, big green leaves in which to wrap your freshly grilled meat, were not the freshest I’ve seen, although there was plenty of it. The rosu and karabi were both adequate, but too oily. The salmon onigiri were very salty, and no better than those bought from a convenience store. The cake bar, offered “cute” little cubes of cheesecake, and other flavours such as chocolate and strawberry.

Not the best yakiniku I’ve had, but then again not the worst either. Not in any rush to go back.

 

Tel:03-5799-2929