...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 Saitama (6)


Heisaku, Mizuhodai  平作、みずほ台

Better known for its soba and udon noodles, Heisaku (about 5 minutes from Mizuhodai station, on the Tobu-Tojo line) is actually a reasonable izakaya providing a distinct Showa era flavour and generous portions.

Spread across two spacious tatami floors, tables are low, and seating in the form of cushions upon the mats – prolonged sessions can result in discomfort.

The décor is hardly noteworthy, but this izakaya isn’t trying to score points for style.

Popular with locals, Heisaku is not only a venue for a casual dinner or drinking session, but seems also to be favoured for company parties, wakes and other formal gatherings.

The broad menu and generally good quality of food, however, do deserve praise.

Aside from the delicious noodles, the sashimi, simmered fish, tempura and yakitori are all satisfying – the yakitori in particular stands out for its size and rich tare sauce.

The tempura, the huge shrimps in particular, is excellent, although the batter is of a heavier, darker, oilier variety than encountered at more refined tempura restaurants, such as Tsunahachi.

Yariika gesso sashi


Sashimi - maguro, aji, tai



Shirauo no karaage

Sashimi moriawase

Tempura moriawase – shrimp, mushrooms, peppers, aubergine

Negima – tare

Negima – shio

Norwegian salmon steamed with mushrooms 

Soba – kimono jiru

Yaki ika

Tofu salad

Ice cream





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. 






Don Italiano, Naka-Urawa ドン イタリアーノ、中浦和

The trio of Don Italiano eateries belong to a sprawling nationwide chain specializing in a variety of cheap fare – mainly steaks and shabu-shabu. No prizes for guessing, but not much chance of a Michelin Star coming Don’s way.

A bit better than a family restaurant, the lunchtime deal is simple. Choose from three set courses, each slightly better equipped than the other at cost increments of around ¥500.

I did the cheapest; salad, pasta and all-you-can-eat pizza, complimented with unlimited access to the drinks bar (fruit juices, teas, coffees, etc.) – although beer was the order of the day on this occasion, at extra cost.

My dining partners had the slightly more extravagant course, replete with Caesar salad and desert.

My standard salad was dull. The Caesar was salad better, especially as it was graced with shavings from a huge full Parmesan cheese.

Annoyingly, our pastas were less fortunate, being topped with crappy shake-n’-vac Parmesan instead.

The pastas were beef in tomato sauce and a wafū seafood effort. Both were edible. Both were too salty. Expect full points on Tabelog then.  

The tabehōdai pizza system is straightforward. You wait at your table and the staff constantly do the rounds with an ever changing variety of pizza. When you need a rest, you turn a little sign atop your table to “rest” and they pass you by until you return said indicator to “fill me up” (or something like that).

The pizza is poor – naturally – but fun all the same. Lots of tomato-based toppings, embellished with auberigine, avocado, mushrooms, mocha and bacon, to name but a few.

There was even a “desert” pizza involving canned cream and bits of banana… My dining partners’ deluxe course even afforded the opportunity to sample a rude cheese cake. Great fun. 





Anthem, Mizuhodai  アンセム、みずほ台

Spend too long on the wrong side of the Tamagawa and you may eventually be blown down the tracks to Mizuhodai.  

It has its attractions, but not many.  Food wise, not much recommends itself; a half-decent looking Indian restaurant had promise, but locals were put off when the proprietors started advertising jobs for “young, attractive women.” In surrounding Fujimi there’s more on offer, such as great yakiniku and udon, but that’s another story.

Today’s lunch landed my dining partners and I at Anthem; a spick and span cafe-bar-deli-diner affair that is most certainly way too oshare for the locality. It’s mostly filled with octogenarians, who come in to keep warm. The staff look after them, and comport themselves with a modicum of grace while doing so, but probably dream of being elsewhere one day.  

The menu covers cakes and pastries, sandwiches and pizza, and the specialities of the house - gratin and dorian. The lunch sets, a little under ¥1,000, consist of bread, salad and either gratin or dorian in about five varieties, complete with a drink (non-alcoholic). Yebisu beer is available though, should you need it. 

The bread is forgettable, the salad uninspired (the highlight being the sweetcorn...), and the coffee good - all things considered. They used to serve the lunch sets with warm croissant, but harsh times call for harsh measures and now such francophile delights are reserved for the “dinner menu” (which, I assume, is exactly the same as the lunch one, only served after 6pm). 

My sausage and potato gratin was hot - lava hot, and although tasty, especially when topped with Tabasco in both red pepper and jelapeno flavours, took too long to cool to a safe temperature. My dining partners both had the seafood dorian. Both dishes would have benefited from more broccoli, in my opinion. 





Burger King, Kawagoe  バーガーキング、川越

Not an izakaya, I know, and not really a restaurant or even a true “burger bar” for that matter. Certainly not as interesting, or creative, as Giggle or Blacows. Nonetheless, the festive season afforded a rare excuse and opportunity to visit a Burger King after many years.

Back in the old country I used to enjoy Burger King, often preferring the more “natural,” grilled taste of their burgers to McDonald’s’ fare, although the latter’s fries were undoubtedly superior.

Burger King has endured a rough ride in Japan, famously having left these blessed isles with its tail between its legs after failing to tempt the Japanese public away from homegrown chains or the pleasures of the Golden Arches, only to return, Ikea-like, for a second round.

Anyhow, back in November of last year I read an article concerning the then imminent release of a limited edition, pizza-like burger measuring a kingly 22cm in diameter. I could hardly contain my excitement. Of course, I then promptly forgot all about it, until in late-December chance had it that while strolling along the ridiculously lengthy shōtengai that is the highlight of contemporary Kawagoe (in stark contrast to the wooden facades and traditional wares of “little Edo,” as the more historic quarter is known) my dining partners and I chanced upon a distant Burger King outpost. I’ll not bore you (any further) with needless descriptions of the outlet itself; they are much of a muchness after all.

The NY Pizza Burger itself however merits some description, if only to try and make sense of my disappointment. Upon ordering we were informed that it would take about seven minutes to prepare, which only heightened my expectations. It arrived, just as watching chain-smoking country types was becoming boring, in a large pizza box. The burger itself was smaller than I’d imagined, and not nearly as deep nor succulent as, for example, a Double Whopper. In fact, the appearance was plain, somewhat dry looking and most certainly lacking in volume. The taste, too, was disappointing, being flavoured like pizza. Perhaps I should have guessed…  Pizza-flavour burger was just weird. Enough said.


Tel: 049-224-7996


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