Often likened to be a pub or a tavern which most Western countries have, izakaya is somewhat halfway meeting between a pub and restaurant, a marriage between food and drinks. They serve plenty of drinks which range from sake, sours, and beers but at the same time, also serve authentic and delectable Japanese dishes like sushi, tempura, and the delicious yakitori which goes pretty well with your beer. Unlike some pubs which are always packed with people, most izakayas have limited seating capacity so you can enjoy more of your beer and chat better with your companions. Many izakayas offer two deals to its new and returning customers: nomihodai (drink all you can) or tabehodai (eat all you can) but of course, if you’re planning to binge and drink all night, they can offer a pretty good value too.
Izakaya is the place where most Japanese working class frequent to. After a hard day’s work, of course you’d want to relax and have a good time and izakayas are the place to be for these folks. It’s a place where you can share good conversations with your companions, eat good food, and have a friendly drink or two. You can even meet new friends in izakayas because of its lively vibe and colorful neon lights placed inside and outside of the place. If izakaya is the one you want to indulge in the busy streets of Japan, then Tokyo is the place for you.
Here are top ten izakaya in Tokyo where you can score great drinks and great food:
- Gonpachi – once you enter the restaurant, you’ll immediately recognize the familiar backdrop that is Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. This two storey izakaya restaurant has a dark yet inviting atmosphere, like you’re almost in the earlier periods of Edo. They offer a wide array of food in their menu but it’s the drinks that most guests return to. They also have very friendly staffs that speak English well and can get pretty chatty too with their guests, which is always a good thing. It can get pretty packed during dinners, even on weekdays so it’s highly suggested that you call for a reservation. Located in 1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato, Tokyo.
- Warayakiya – it’s hard to miss this izakaya restaurant without noticing the giant hanging lanterns outside. It’s located in the heart of the ever lively Roppongi where most of their patrons say that this is the best izakaya restaurant you’ll ever visit and we’re pretty sure they are telling the truth. Inside, in the middle of the restaurant, you’ll be welcomed by a fire straw pit where they prepare their dishes like katsuo no tataki (seared bonito) and tosa-style grilled chicken. But there are also dishes for the daring ones like whales and horse, which can be pretty intimidating but you’re in for a treat. Order up and enjoy a great night drinking and eating. Located in 6-8-8 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo.
- Uoshin Nogizaka – if you’re a fan of sushi and definitely a fan of drinks as well, then this one’s for you. Some say it’s really a sushi restaurant but others claim that it’s an izakaya restaurant. Either way, it works quite well even on its own. There is a wide selection of sushi dishes that you can indulge yourself to and after that, you can order up your drinks and enjoy the night away. What’s great about this restaurant is how reasonable their prices are without scrimping on flavors and quality. Try their most notable dish: zenbunose, a unique dish that is a compilation of seafood ingredients all rolled in one. Located in 9-6-32 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo.
- Sasagin – this friendly and modest izakaya restaurant earned its Michelin Bib Gourmand Award because of its great and mouth-watering dishes which are all best accompanied with a drink. They specializes in sake, which they have a wide selection of and very bountiful. If you’re feeling quite lost as to what to order for a drink, the owner Narita-san will happily help you look around until you find the perfect drink for you. Get yourself some sashimi platter for starter and you’re good to go. Located in 1-32-15 Uehara, Shibuya, Tokyo.
- Robata Izakaya Jomon – this izakaya restaurant serves one of the best robata (grilled food) dishes in town. Most of its patrons will patiently wait for themselves to be seated but if you’re not that picky with choosing seats, you can always opt to sit down on beer crates. This is what makes this restaurant charming and quite interesting because you still get to enjoy your drink and your grilled dish sitting down that beer crate. It earned its rave reviews from Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor because of the way they make robata like its made just for them. It can get pretty smokey inside so make sure to request seats with a window beside it. Located in 5-9-17 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo.
- Shirube – once you enter inside, you’ll feel like you’re somewhere else but this izakaya restaurant. It boast of fine furniture and it doesn’t hurt that they have one of the friendliest staff and most extravagant and delicious dishes served for you. You have to try aburi saba (flamed mackerel), a dish where it will be blowtorched right in front of you or the bizarre yet interestingly delicious dessert which is a compilation of saltines, cream cheese, tofu, and honey. It’s a Shirube classic. They also offer a good deal of nomihodai. Be sure to make a reservation first because it can get crowded during dinner. Located in 2-18-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo.
- Kaikaya by the Sea – the mural outside is already a giveaway as to what this izakaya restaurant offers. They specializes in everything seafood from eastern to western cooking. They create one of a kind seafood dishes that you won’t see in any other restaurants. Their specialty, which is maguro no kama no supearibu (tuna spareribs), boasts of mouth-watering flavors and if that doesn’t convince you, you can always check their menu out to look for other dishes. Located in 23-7 Maruyamacho, Shibuya, Tokyo.
- Moritomo – what is an izakaya restaurant without its best companion for drinks? This restaurant serves one of the best yakitori dishes in town which goes pretty well with your choice of drink. It’s mostly packed with Japanese working class people but you’d often see foreigners drinking and chatting with one another. They offer a wide array of dishes but it’s the chicken that everyone wants to get their hands to. It’s a must for you to try tori sashi (chicken sashimi). They also offer seasonal dishes like sparrow or duck so be sure to be there during those months. Located in Hamanoue Building 1F, 2-7-4 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo.
- Shinsuke – this family restaurant has been running for eleven generations already and is a hidden gem found in the streets of Ueno. It can get pretty quiet in this izakaya restaurant but fear not for their offer authentic Japanese dishes that is made fresh daily for its patrons. Once inside, you’ll be welcomed by a long wooden counter where you will different types of drinks displayed on it. You should try iwashi no ganseki (deep fried sardine rocks) which will absolutely blow your mind. Located in Yushima 3315 Building, 3-31-5 Yushima, Bunkyo, Tokyo.
- Asadachi – run by an old couple, this strange izakaya restaurant is open during their laidback hours and if you manage to find it open, be sure to welcome yourself inside and be surprise with what they offer. They have grilled salamander, turtle soup, and raw pig testicles which the owners claim are for “stamina” power. Albeit the unusual treats they offer, it’s a pretty good izakaya restaurant and you’ll probably enjoy it even more the next time you visit. Located in 1-2-14 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo.
She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.