...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 Pork (8)


Būchan, Kanamachi  ブウちゃん、金町

Having girded ourselves for the long journey over the river to Katsushika-ku with beer and denkibran at Kamiya Bar, and based on nothing more than my belief in a recommendation and an Instagram photo, Tobi-chan and I decided to kick off Golden Week with a visit to Kanamachi’s Būchan.

This pork motsuyaki place ticked all the atmospheric old-school blue-collar izakaya boxes, and seemed just the place to settle in for a prolonged Saturday afternoon session. Unfortunately, the menu failed to keep us there for long.

We’d been hoping for something similar to the dining experience at Katoriya, but as it turned out our hopes were dashed. The food was okay – nothing special, but good no nonsense cooking centered on pork offal. The problem was the lack of much else besides. There’s only so much grilled piggy bits one can take without something else in the mix to liven things up. What little else there was was okay, but being limited we ended up feeling we’d tried everything within half an hour of arriving. Even the potato salad couldn’t save us, only being available on Wednesdays and Thursdays. After less the an hour we were back on a train headed for Asakusa and dinner back at Kamiya Bar…

Tsukemono - strong tasting, very slippery 

Interior - classic syle, counter seating around open kitchen

Pork liver - tasy, but small 

Pork offal - neck and ???

Grilled tōfu - lighlty seared, topped with onion, daikon and ginger

Interior - kitchen

Grilled vegetables - shitake mushrooms, leeks, peppers

Asparagus - comes crunchy and accompanied by cherry tomatoes and too much mayonaisse 





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.





Le Lion, Ebisu  ル・リオン、恵比寿

Being both shocked and dismayed by the queue outside L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, my dining partner and I trundled on over to Le Lion, a small Lyonnaise bouchon-styled French restaurant, in the Ebisu backstreets between Meiji Dori and the station, not far from the excellent Hainan Jeefan Shokudo.

Not large, the restaurant interior looked inviting enough, and the covered terrace area provided for a nice atmosphere (surrounded by surprisingly well behaved pet dogs) on a warm and admirably rain free afternoon.

Although both Tokyoeater and Terry thought well of Le Lion a few years ago, this particular lunch excursion found it somewhat wanting. Either time has taken its toll, or the lunchtime business doesn't do that later in the day justice.   

An amuse of dry bread proceeded our mains; steak and roast beef, respectively, both propped up with a miserly splash of mashed potato and over-cooked, under-represented, vegetables. The steak came with mustard puree that served to moisten the bread a little. Both pieces of meat were of the fatty persuasion so beloved of Japanese diners, and thus too oily and soft-textured for my liking.

For dessert, lemon tart and a delicious, sickly-sweet chocolate mousse that would have faired better after an evening meal.



Le Lion


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


Ishiyaki bibimba

Garlic potato Salad

Pig tongue

Karabi (tare)





Kokaiya, Tokiwadai  航海屋、常盤台

Kokaiya ramen are famed for their chashu ramen in particular, and also their “double” soup, which successfully blends chicken and fish stock to create a robust broth in which the equally tasty ramen swim

At some point, several years ago judging by the fading photos, the jolly fat guy and debuya star off the TV visited, along with a whole gaggle of “talent” who followed after him.

There are five Kokaiya stores: Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Asagaya, Numabukuro and Tokiwadai. I did the later, which just happens to be located next door to the ramen shop Men Don Fuku-Iken.

The tonsoba were quite excellent. The tasty soup aside, the ample slices of pork and firm, juicy noodles proved to be deeply satisfying.





Lemon & Fromage, Kichijōji  レモンアンドフロマージュ、吉祥寺

Italians and Chinese may be of different opinions when it comes to which came first – spaghetti or noodles? – but Lemon & Fromage gleefully combines rāmen with elements of Italian cooking and manages to produce some interesting results. 

The honten, Due Italian, is in Kudan-minami; my dining partners and I visited the recently opened looking Kichijōji iteration. Very clean, “well appointed,” and squarely in the “popular with ladies” category. Indeed, ladies get to swap normal noodles for super healthy (12kcal) konyaku noodles free of charge.

Although smart; with white walls, nice tables and chairs, and a vaguely espresso bar feel to it this is still a rāmen shop, and so the level of service, etc., isn’t really worth mention. As is often the case, you simply select your meal from a ticket vending machine before being seated.

Average prices, smallish servings. The two bowls we tried, the lemon, and the fromage, rāmen were both nicely turned out, with the strangely clear broth creating a light, “healthy” appearance. The lemon variety might have been healthier, the fromage one certainly not. The huge dollop of gooey cheese slowly permeating the dish surely cancelled out any benefit to the waistline that might accrue from the konyaku noodles.

Both were enjoyable, mainly for the novelty factor and clean presentation. The lemon flavour became overpowering eventually, and would benefit from being taken down a notch or two. Conversely, the fromage rāmen were delicious, but would be even better if the taste were stronger. It would certainly benefit from being supplied in bigger portions. However, and despite being adequate, neither the pork nor noodles will appease the indignation of rāmen purists.





Iseya, Kichijoji  いせや、吉祥寺

Kichijoji’s Iseya is not only a yakitori classic, but also a Tokyo classic. Well loved, well known and much frequented it is, however, not all that it is purported to be.

Located at the top the flight of stone steps leading down into the leafy confines of Inokashira Park, opposite Toriyoshi and Gin no Saru (two other izakaya worthy of mention for their popularity if nothing else), Iseya Sohonten (the other recently sanitized and thus ruined iteration is nearby, somewhat closer to the station) billows smoke into the street by dint of the charcoal grills at the front of the shop churning out mountains of yakiton (skewered pork innards) for queues of expectant, hungry customers.

This yakitori-ya’s reputation precedes it. After all, it has been in business since 1928, first as a butcher’s shop and then from 1958 as a yakitori-ya, as the building and interior bare testament to. It’s dilapidated, dirty (just visit the toilets!), smokey and immensely “old skool.” Those that reside in these blessed isles, and those that live in Tokyo more so, and those that have a thing for “traditional izakaya” even more so, love this kind of decrepit hangover from “better days,” when Japan was more Japanese and Japanese cuisine, and thus izakaya more generally, had yet to be tainted by the culinary incursions of colonialists and “ethnic” dishes from the mysterious regions of Asia.

Admittedly, the old-style, basic aspect of the shop brings to mind a simpler, somehow more authentic, working-class dining experience. You can almost imagine occupation-era U.S. military types and pan-pan girls negotiating a night’s intimacy through the choking smog of smoking chicken fat. Don’t get me wrong; it’s all good stuff. Great fun. It’s just not what it’s cracked up to be. Very much a case of the Emperor’s new clothes.

The interior is all creaky floors, warped beams and stained, curling posters and menu slips. Service is to the point, hurried and for the most part amicable. Generally always heaving, you can book in advance, the atmosphere is lively, even raucous. Old-timers perch at the counter enveloped in smoke, while everyone else enjoys whatever bench they are awarded.

Drinks are limited. Beer, unnamed instantly forgettable sake, shochu (accompanied by plum syrup served in old whiskey bottles) and sours etc. The food menu is basic, mostly yakitori standards and other skewered morsels (read offal) derived from the carcasses of pigs. The sashimi is best avoided, as I hope you would expect.

And it is the food, not the whole point perhaps but still an important factor, that enjoys near mythical and utterly unjustified renown. It is, at best, passable. Sure, it’s cheap. Tastes okay, or at least doesn’t induce nausea. But is surpassed in both quality and quantity by a myriad of other yakitori-ya. Some dishes, the liver in particular, are especially bad. Presentation isn’t even considered, and is not made up for by the flavour. The stand out dish is easily the handmade gyoza, which for a shop famed for its skewered chicken and pork nankotsu is almost shameful.

Tobi-chan had this to say about Iseya, while Marxy helps perpetuate the myth here.

Still, it is fun. A glimpse and, more than likely, a real taste of the past. A past before Michelin stars and restaurants aimed at monied expats. Go for the atmosphere, go for the surroundings, just don’t expect to go back for the food.

UPDATE 12/07/12: 

Upon hearing the sorry news of the venerable Iseya's impending closure (for rebuilding), it seemed sensible to go for one last look before its ramshackle, smoke-filled interior and particular atmosphere became nothing more than memory. 

Of course, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, half of Tokyo had the very same idea. Even arriving at noon, the queue was lengthy, soon doubling back upon itself and suggesting a long wait. While Woody and Tobi-chan kept a place in the line, the rest of us took it easy for a while in bar Mishima (post pending). 

Picking up some chilled beers on the way out of Mishima, we got in line and after three-quarters of an hour secured a table in the central conservatory-like ground floor dining hall. 

The atmosphere, much helped by the shabby, somewhat austere furnishing and pealing walls, was still worth the trip, the patrons clearly all having a splendid time and the food (as mentioed above) fairly poor. 

The yakitori, as ever, was secondary to the large, succelent gyoza and delicious, cruchy corn-on-the-cob. The Hoppy and shochu sets were perilous, and the nihonshu undrinkable (Woody eventually managed to smuggle in something more palatable). 

Despite the rough fare, Iseya was a great location and immensely enjoyable, and will without doubt be long-missed, even when it reopens... 


Tel: 0422-43-2806