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JinYo's Reviews

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  • Iseya Sohonten (Izakaya / Kichijoji)
  • 2008/06/10
  • Iseya is often ranked the number one hotspot of Kichijoji in magazines introducing the area and rightly deserves to be so. The food is great, the atmosphere is fun, and the price is right.

    As you approach the place (I hesitate to call it a restaurant -- the word is too upscale for Iseya), even from a distance you cannot avoid noticing the huge white smoke billowing out and hearing the excitement from within. If you visit the Park location, the shabby building facing the park seems like it has been there for ages. The stairs are crooked and incredibly steep, the glass is permanently clouded, and overall, it's just surprising it hasn't burnt down already. The main location has recently been completely rebuilt and has lost its signature characteristic, its oldness, but even in its new form, it continues to offer an exhilerating experience.

    At both locations, you see sweaty men turning yakitori sticks in the blazing heat of their grills. Waiters and waitresses are constantly running around catching and delivering people's orders. The customers themselves are all over the place from being completely inebriated. Don't come here for a quiet meal.

    The yakitori is 80 yen a stick. The meat comes from all over the chicken and sometimes not even from the chicken at all. Names even unfamilar to Japanese people dot the menu - gatsu, shiro, kashira to name a few (these correspond to stomach, ???, and head). I personally recommend their hatsu (heart) and tan (tongue). The usual kawa (skin), tsukune (meatball), nankotsu (cartillage), and such are also very good. The giant shumai ("tedukuri shumai") is the best shumai I have ever eaten in the whole world.

    After having eaten 10 sticks, a couple beers, a bowl of rice, and shared a plate of shumai, the bill almost never hits 2000 yen. I always stagger out wobbling from the alcohol and carrying my very heavy stomach. I can hardly stay away from this place for more than a week!
  • Tanaka-Tei (Bakery / Kichijoji)
  • 2008/06/11
  • Tanaka-Tei is an often mentioned favorite amongst Kichijoji aficionados. It's located on a quiet street behind the Tokyu department store alongside other pretty cafes and restaurants. As its motto states, Tanaka-tei heavily values atmosphere-building and providing high quality sweets and drinks.

    The entrance of Tanaka-tei is lined with beautiful pastries. Next is a glass case of their famous cakes and pies. You can chose to sit at a table or at their counter. Behind the counter is an entire wall lined with tea cups, a clear display of their devotion to their trade (and a nice decoration, I might add).

    Their most popular cake is the Mont Blanc. Being a guy, I'm actually not a huge fan of cakes or sweets in general. However, I wouldn't mind cutting down the size of my main course to come here for dessert. Their Mont Blanc isn't too sweet but sweet enough to want to reach for your accompanying coffee -- and what an accompaniment it is. I'm not sophisticated enough usually to know good coffee from bad, but I could tell this one was on the good side.

    The lemon pie was also very tasty. It was sweet and tangy, for the kind of person who'd rather have a sorbet instead of ice cream. Like the mont blanc, very delicious.

    And finally, again, the atmosphere and location are just perfect. It's really quiet and cool, the perfect place to come on a bright sunny day!
  • Tokyo Kichi (Bars / Others)
  • 2008/06/11
  • Tokyo Kichi is a casual Italian restaurant found along the Chuo-sen tracks near Kichijoji station. It's located on the basement floor in a slightly hidden spot. The theme of Tokyo Kichi is a secret hideout, like the kind you used to make when you were a little kid but grew out of as you become an adult. The specialty is risotto, with over 10 different items and changing seasonal dishes.

    This restaurant has a nice atmosphere with a very interesting interior. It's dimly lit, the tables and chairs are not uniform (as in, they look like they were taken from random flea markets and garage sales), and decorated with random items like old irons and typewriters. Being very small, it seats very few people and as a result, creates the cosy, "secret hideout" atmosphere, (though I've never actually had a secret hideout as a child).

    The food is great. I really recommend "butaniku no sote- sarada jitate" (a salad with pork sautee). The salad is a size for two. Then there's the risotto. Each risotto is a mere 800 yen (or 900 for a few) and come to the table in the skillet they were made. The portions of each risotto are small, but that allows you to order a few with your group and try each others' out. Be careful not to order too much though, as they are surprisingly filling. I ordered a Corona to go with the meal, as the people next to me were ordering and made a good accompaniment to the meal.

    As a guy though, I felt kind of embarassed being there. I would come here on a date or with maybe some female friends, but not with a bunch of guys. All the other customers were women or couples. It's not the place to come to fill yourself completely up or get drunk and really rowdy. For a guy's kind of meal, go to Musashiya, the awesome ramen place across the street.
  • J.S. Burgers Cafe: Shinjuku (American / Shinjuku)
  • 2008/06/11
  • J.S. Hamburger Cafe is located right under Takashimaya on the New South exit of Shinjuku station. It's on the third floor right of the Starbucks, facing it.

    As many people complain, it's hard to find the perfect burger in Japan. Especially when everyone has a different idea of what the right burger is. I came here by recommendation by an American who said the hamburgers here rate second best in Tokyo for him (first was Kua'aina). In my opinion, though the hamburger I had here was good, it's not the best and doesn't taste like the fat, decadent delights I ate in America.

    But, for the price, I have no complaints. The hamburger was delicious. The buns were toasted, I could choose some fillings like bacon or cheese and some rather non-canon fillings like pineapple, avocados, or egg, and the fries were just right. My complaint is that it's still a bit on the dainty side. The patty wasn't fat enough (but probably as fat as it can get for the price) and the bacon wasn't crispy (it was the Japanese kind of bacon, just a little too sophisticated for a dish like a hamburger).

    What makes J.S. Burgers great though, is its location slash atmosphere -- right under Takashimaya, in the clean parts of Shinjuku and three floors above the streets. It has a roofed balcony with lots of seating as well as indoor seating. I liked how it didn't try too hard to mimic the "American hamburger joint" and was very clean.

    The menu had a lot of choices as well. During the month I went, the specials were all healthy-choice items, so that was kind of nice too. Their selection of desserts is wide and serves as a great cafe as well when the Starbucks next door is full.

    1000yen set for lunch with a small dessert (at the time I went). It's an unbeatable price. I love it here, but if you're looking for "the perfect burger," go someplace else.
  • Shouhachi (Fast Food / Kichijoji)
  • 2008/06/11
  • Shouhachi is a gyudon chain-style tonkatsu restaurant. Here, you can enjoy, for Matsuya prices (500-1000yen), relatively good quality tonkatsu. There are very few of these restaurants in Tokyo and the one on the first floor of the Matsuya HQ in Mitaka is one of the few rare ones.

    Like Matsuya's other chains, you choose your dish and buy your ticket on a vending machine beforehand. Choose from either a counter seat or a table and hand the waiter your ticket. In short time, about 5 to 8 minutes, your food is already brought in front of you.

    The quality of the food is good for the price. It's not the best tonkatsu you'll ever have but the meat is surprisingly tasty. They don't overdo the breadcrumbs and make it too greasy and the meat is thick and tender. The rice is good as well. They probably use the same rice as the ordinary Matsuya. As for the curry, I'm not a big fan of Matsuya's curry, but for the price and volume, I was able to enjoy their flavor.

    The place does takeout as well, so at around lunch hours (12:00-13:00), gets very crowded. I often find myself coming here pretty late at night instead, when few places are open, and I'm craving for a heavy meal.
  • Musashiya (Ramen / Kichijoji)
  • 2008/06/12
  • I must begin by telling you I have been going to Musashiya for 5 years now without growing tired of the place. I've visited tons of other ramen places across Tokyo and waited in lines for countless of hours. But I always find myself coming back to this old place. It's just perfect.

    The ramen soup here is standard tonkotsu/soy sauce based. It's not too white and smelly like plain tonkotsu, but thick and heavy enough to fill you up good. Toppings are very standard: chashu (roast pork), nori, and spinach. The chashu isn't too soft and oily like some places can get. It's firm but gets soft as it soaks in the soup. The noodle is thick and short. It looks like udon noodles, but when you eat it, it's definitely ramen noodles. The noodles here are quite possibly the best I've ever had in a ramen place.

    In addition, you get to choose how your ramen is done. The thickness of your soup, the oiliness of it, and the hardness of your noodle. I see others ordering extra nori or without spinach, whatever your fancy. I always order the chasumen with slightly harder noodles. For 750yen, you won't find a better bowl.

    Other than ramen, there are fried rice for 100yen a bowl and a small bowl of lettuce with dressing. The ramen place next doors is also by the same people and serves many more non-ramen dishes. The sign outside mentions "the second best shogayaki (ginger pork) in Kichijoji."

    Oh, and on your way out, don't forget to grab yourself a popsicle for only 30yen more.
  • Narrow K's (Cafes / Kichijoji)
  • 2008/06/12
  • Narrow K's is located right above the Baskin Robbins in front of Kichijoji station, north exit. The view from the counter seats overlooks the entire rotary and from the tables, Heiwa doori. In the winter, there is perfect view of the illuminations in front of the station.

    Narrow K's is a cute little cafe, quaint and somewhat nostalgic. It's very quiet as most of the customers are there reading a book or alone, enjoying their coffee. It's perfect for when you have some thinking to do or need a place to meet someone.

    The cake and coffee is kind of pricey, but if you stay for an hour or two and enjoy the atmosphere and view, you will find it was well worth it. I usually order the cake set with the New York style cheese cake.
  • Asuka (Ramen / Shibuya)
  • 2008/06/14
  • Asuka is my most favorite Tantanmen place in Tokyo. It's located south of Shibuya station, across the pedestrian bridge from the West exit (where the Moyai statue is located). The place is often packed and you'll have to wait your turn, but never for longer than two or three persons.

    They have several different kinds of ramen - standard shoyu ramen and chashumen to tantanmen and cold ramen too (during the summer). The first time I visited, I ordered their chashu tantanmen. I immediately fell in love with their soup and noodles. I often describe the taste to my friends as very similar to Buffalo wing sauce. It's very spicy, but so addictive, you can't stop having more despite how sweaty you are getting. The chashu was also very good.

    However, if you come to Asuka, you are missing out if you don't order their paiku. Paiku is fried pork ribs. The paiku-tantanmen combination is just perfect. Of course, it can't possibly healthy for you either (but if you care about your health, you shouldn't be eating ramen anyway, so you might as well go all out).

    Also popular is their hiyashi, or chilled, ramen. They have hiyashi tantanmen, which I'm definitely ordering next time. I believe they only serve this during the summer.

    I definitely recommend this place. I came here almost everyday for about a week when I used to work in the area. It's the best!
  • La Befana (Italian / Kichijoji)
  • 2008/06/15
  • La Befana is a pretty restaurant on the Park Exit side of Kichijoji station. From their food to their atmosphere, even the price, there's basically nothing to complain about.

    First, the atmosphere: Half the restaurant is outdoors, roofed and lightly fenced from the street. I went on a beautiful sunny and breezy day. The shade, the breeze, and privacy from the streets made it a perfect table. I was also able to see from my table, the wood fired oven inside, where they were making my pizza. The smell was intoxicatingly good.

    Next, the food: one word, excellent. I had the lunch set, which consisted of a salad, pizza, and drink. I ordered the "Panna" while my partner had a Margherita. Panna was a creamy, white pizza, kind of like a carbonara. I don't normally like white pizzas, but I will come back again for this one. The margherita was also delicious. What made both pizzas so great, was the softness or chewiness of the dough. I found the crust just as enjoyable as the rest. The "spicy oil" that came with it was an terrific accent to the pizza as well.

    Finally, the price: 1050 yen for the above lunch set. Unbelievable. You won't find a better deal for Napoli style pizza, or any kind of lunch for that matter, anywhere else. Don't miss this place.
  • Konig (American / Kichijoji)
  • 2008/06/16
  • Konig is a shop blessed by its location. The sausages are certainly not the best I've ever had, nor is it the best you can have in Tokyo alone. But when you pass by the shop on a hot, sunny day, you cannot help but find yourself getting one to go.

    They're located just steps away from Inokashira Park, right before Iseya and Starbucks. On beautiful weekend days, that street feels just like a matsuri. The smell of yakitori from Iseya, the beer being sold on the street from Mishima, the ice cream, the street performers, and everything... Konig is just part of the fun.

    Grab a dog, a beer, and a few friends and you have a perfect day off.
  • Zest Premium Burger: LaQua (American / Iidabashi)
  • 2008/06/17
  • Zest Premium Burgers does deliver and I'm not talking about delivery service. I'm talking about quality. This great burger place offers delicious hamburgers and a fairly reasonable price.

    Ordering happens fast food-style - at a counter. But according to their website, the beef, which is 100% Angus, is ground after receiving your order. I didn't notice if the grinding part was true, but the beef was definitely Angus. The restaurant reeked of the delicious, intoxicating aroma. Not just the smell, but the meat was truly juicy and flavorful. The hamburgers were brought to us on a plastic tray at our table which we chose. The buns, slightly sweet (Japanese style), were lightly toasted and accompanying veggies were colorful and fresh. I foresee many Americans complaining about the mayonaisse/mustard-like sauce inside. I found the sauce to taste really delicious, but perhaps not everyone will think so. The fries were also fantastic. They reminded me of fries I have back in the States, the thin, slightly crispy kind.

    I had myself a Double Burger with fries and a coke. My partner had an Avocado burger. They were both amazing. On top of which, you can choose additional toppings. Our only complaint was that we were still slightly a bit hungry after our meal. I must admit that we were terribly famished but I'm sure many will agree with us on our complaint over size.

    Zest offers a good burger but don't expect nostalgic American burgers. Just come hoping for a great tasting burger and Zest will deliver.
  • Benihana (Teppanyaki / Hibachi / Nihombashi)
  • 2008/06/18
  • I visited Benihana at their Tachikawa location and it was quite a big disappointment.

    There is no teppanyaki-ing at your table. The food is just brought to you on a hot plate kind of like at Furansu-tei or Denny's. The easiest way to describe the Benihana at Tachikawa is, it's just like a famiresu (family restaurant, e.g. Royal Host, Denny's, Gust).

    The food wasn't bad. It just wasn't the high class food you might expect from Benihana. The store front is lined with plastic models of the food and the prices were around 800 to 1500yen (for lunch). Buttons are on the table for you to ring over the waiter. There were many kids and groups of young women as customers.

    As a person who had recently been to the Benihana in New York, I was at first unable to recognize that this was the same restaurant. No fancy tricks like in the States or even authentic teppanyaki you'd have in Japan.

    To sum up, come here if you are in the area and want famiresu quality food. It's honestly good, but again, at the famiresu level.
  • Richoen (Yakiniku / Kichijoji)
  • 2008/06/20
  • I am a big fan of yakiniku since I was a little boy. I don't know if the years that I was a kid count, but that makes me a 15 year connoiseur of yakiniku. That having been said, I assure you that Richoen is amongst the best.

    There is nothing to be said about the meat. It's perfect. Don't miss out on their tokujo karubi. For the price you're paying, you'll never see meat marbled that much. Their ordinary karubi is also delicious of course. Tan shio is almost one of my favorites.

    What I especially like about Richoen is the mood. It's very much like the yakiniku places I grew up as a child going to. It's an older version of what Japanese people thought Korea or Korean food was like. What I also like is that the people who work there don't act like robots in the huge chain restaurants. They are very down-to-earth, shitamachi folk.

    In the end, it's hard to explain yakiniku at a particular restaurant. It's just best for you to go. You will not regret visiting here.
  • Toraji Chun-Ha-Chu-Dong (Yakiniku / Tokyo Station)
  • 2008/07/21
  • Anyone going for yakiniku in the Marubiru is expecting the best of the best. In quality, quantity, and atmosphere, there can be no compromise. That having been said, I can say with absolute integrity that anyone leaving Toraji is leaving satisfied. Toraji delivers on all respects.

    Atmosphere: It's classy and high-end, but remains lively and exciting (it IS yakiniku). It's very clean and well ventilated -- no stickiness or smokiness. The staff is on top of their game and even includes Koreans, so there seems a degree of authenticity (though don't get me wrong, it's very much Japanese yakiniku served here).

    Food: I had myself the 6000yen course, for which I was very satisfied. The meat was pink and marbled, almost like toro. It was nice and thick as well. Kalbi was delicious, of course, but their tan was amazing as well. The course included beef sashimi, and despite not being so excited about raw beef, I had myself a welcome surprise. Not only the quality, but I have no complaints with their quantity either. By the time the bibinba came I was already stuffed. After fitting the bibinba in my stomach, I then had to find room for dessert. Both of which tasted great despite being so full.

    This is a great place to come with friends/family and even for the slightly casual business occasions too. I highly recommend it.
  • Saboten: Tokyo (Tonkatsu / Tokyo Station)
  • 2008/07/21
  • Saboten is a very typical, standard tonkatsu chain. Their price and quality is in line with Wako, another tonkatsu chain. And like Wako, they also serve their tonkatsu with sesame, which you grind to your liking, and free refills on their cabbage and rice.

    The tonkatsu is good though, despite being very typical. You can spend a little more and order the iberico pork tonkatsu if you really want good tonkatsu. The sauce is on the slightly sweeter side, which surprisingly matches really well with the cutlet.

    I like coming here for lunch. It's very convenient for those working in the Marunouchi area and is very filling. But this is not really a business dinner place. It's a very low-key, chain restaurant -- that must not be misunderstood.
  • Kyodori Sankei: Tokyo (Yakitori / Tokyo Station)
  • 2008/07/21
  • This is another one of those places in the office buildings of the Marunouchi area. At lunch times, it's filled with suited workers catching a quick, satisfying, filling lunch. At dinner times, there are those who are working late or are finished and drinking away their stress.

    If you're a part of that crowd of Marunouchi salarymen/women, this might be another choice to add to your lunch or late dinners. It's a very standard restaurant chain you'd expect from restaurant floors you see in an office building. Mind you, it is in Marunouchi so it's slightly better than some random place anywhere else.

    I wouldn't come here if I weren't working near here -- there's nothing special about this place. But then again, the food isn't bad, I've never left complaining.
  • The Hump: Tokyo (Sushi / Tokyo Station)
  • 2008/07/21
  • If you want a slightly funky, unconventional, high-end sushi experience, why not head over to the hump in the Marunouchi area. You'll enjoy the view, atmosphere, and the food for a moderate price.

    the hump is found on the second floor of the Meiji Yasuda Seimei building (otherwise known as Marunouchi My Plaza). Since most of the restaurants are in the basement, on the restaurant floors, this is a bit secluded and hidden. Inside, it has a lounge-like atmosphere, dimly lit with modern furniture. From their large windows, you can see the Imperial Palace right across the road. At first glance, you would not know this is a sushi restaurant. But sure enough, in the back, there's a counter and itamae squeezing some sushi.

    the hump was originally a sushi restaurant in Santa Monica, in a private heliport, serving to only select customers. They opened a restaurant here in Marunouchi and serve to the Japanese crowd, traditional edomae sushi as well as California style rolls. The sushi is good. That you're not sitting right in front of the itamae-san and ordering from him does not lower the quality. The fish is fresh and delicious, of the standard you'd expect from the Marunouchi area. The pieces are shockingly small though (or kawaii, depending on your viewpoint), even for Japanese standards. I ordered the naminigiri from the edomae sushi section of the menu which was 8 pieces of standard nigiri for 2950yen. If you're going there to stuff yourself, well, first of all, I wouldn't recommend sushi. Second of all, this place is especially small portions -- I suggest ordering more than you would normally. I did not get a chance to try any of the rolls, so unfortunately, I cannot comment on those.

    Overall, I loved the experience. It was a chance to eat sushi in a very foreign atmosphere in Japan. I would suggest maybe coming here on a date, perhaps. There's a bar that's open late, so it's good for dinner and some drinks afterwards as well.
  • Beer Station Ebisu (Beer Bars / Ebisu)
  • 2008/07/21
  • Summer is the season in Japan for drinking beer! Hordes of Japanese business men/women, college students, freeters and whatnot gather to beer halls, beer gardens, and izakaya to drink themselves silly. And Ebisu's Beer Station is one of those hot locations! They serve beer at reasonable prices and serve lots of great beer food in a fun environment.

    Beer Station is located right in front of the Garden Plaza, when you get off the moving walkways from the East exit of Ebisu. It's a huge brick building with two floors and outdoor tabling as well. You can come in large groups and organize parties or come with a small group of close friends. I wouldn't really recommend this place for drinking alone -- it's not a bar, there're no counters or girls to pick up.

    You come here for the beer. Order Suntory, Ebisu, Guiness, Becks, whatever, in pitchers and jugs (or small cups) and drink yourself silly! On the side, order Bavarian sausages, fried chicken and other great finger food. I highly recommend the Bavarian Plate and the Mountain Chicken Fry. I went with a group of five and those two plates, plus the Sausage no moriawase, filled us perfectly. I have to say, though their speciality is in beer, the food is all pretty good too.

    Unfortunately, there might be a little line-waiting to do. When I went, the line wrapped up the stairs to the second floor. It might have to do with the fact that I went on a Saturday night of a three-day weekend, but I assume it gets crowded regularly. However, there are lots of seats so the line goes pretty fast, especially if you're waiting with a group of close friends. It was worth the relatively short wait (maybe 20minutes).

    So, if you're looking for a good time and some good food, with some good beer, try heading to Ebisu's beer station. You won't be disappointed!
  • Barbacoa Grill (Brazilian / Omotesando, Aoyama)
  • 2008/08/17
  • My experience at Barbacoa was at their Shin Marunouchi Building location. The price was 5800yen for their Churrasco all-you-can-eat dinner.

    This is probably one of the best places to go for meat even including all the amazing yakiniku places. The meat here is much closer to American style steaks, not so marbled, crisper on the outside and slightly tougher. Like yakiniku, you get a lot of different selections of meat based on parts, cooking style, and also what animal. Everything tastes amazing and you truly get all that you can eat. Oh, and surprisingly, the salad bar is pretty good as well.

    The restaurant is also very fun, while pretty upscale. Gigantic chunks of meat are brought to the table and cut right in front of you. Sometimes they bring a little model of a cow and point out where in the cow you are eating. What's also great about the Shin Maru location is the view. Overlook the Imperial Palace, the Diet building, and even see Mt. Fuji on really clear days.

    This is a great place to go when you're craving meat and also when you need a nice, but not too stiff place to take someone.
  • Tony's Pizza (American / Kichijoji)
  • 2008/08/24
  • Tony's pizza is a cute little shop found in a quiet area of Kichijoji, a little distanced from the more popular areas like Sun Road. From the outside, you can see the owner rolling pizza dough. Inside, the restaurant is decorated with photographs and posters elicitting the '50s or '60s. There are only a few tables and some counter seats so it feels very cozy.

    They boast of their New York style pizza, but frankly, I've never had pizza like theirs in New York. When I think of New York pizza, I think of slices of plain cheese pizza with a somewhat tough, doughy, crust. Tony's pizza is really thin and especially cheesy. However, though I wouldn't verify their authenticity, I can verify how good it was.

    People who like really cheesy pizza will immediately fall in love with Tony's. When you pick up a slice, the cheese just stretches forever. Not only do they have volume, but the flavor of the cheese is fantastic as well. They apparently dedicate a lot of effort in their cheese and mix several different types together to make their distinct Tony's flavor. It's not Italian pizza and it's not New York pizza either. It's very distinctly Tony's pizza.

    And finally, it's incredibly cheap. I came here on a beautiful weekend day, enjoyed a nice, quiet lunch and headed out strolling around Kichijoji afterwards. I highly recommend this place.