Eating in Japan: Yakiniku — You have to try this!

First post to my travel blog. And it’s about food. And it comes with the most serious suggestion I will ever give you:

GO and EAT Yakiniku in Japan!

Of course you can eat it anywhere else in the world, but it’s just more original in Japan. But if you can’t go for the next time, just search a local Yakiniku place. Hopefully you have one in your town. They are quite rare.

Slight warning: Yakiniku is a little bit expensive, it’s like a visit to your local steakhouse and not opting for simple local steak, but the Argentinian Beef filet or even a Japanese Wagyu Beef-Filet.

So if you come to Japan, just use Google Maps, search for Yakiniku and you will find these restaurants all over the place. Most probably you will be in Tokyo and there you have hundreds of Yakiniku restaurants. But also every other major cities will have them in masses. And from my experience most are good. So far I haven’t been to one bad Yakiniku place. No matter if it’s a big chain of restaurants that exists all over Japan or if it is a small place with less than 20 seats.

But before it gets to boring, let’s start with the photos…

These signs are the typical signs outside a Japanese house, with multiple restaurants in it. It usuallys says the name of the restaurant and on which floor they are, with 1F being the ground floor, 2F the second floor (first floor above ground), etc. Usually there are then signs/adverstisements around the main entrance, showing you nice photos of what they serve. If you can’t read Japanese, this is then probably the easiest way to find out what kind of restaurant this is.
Usually I go to Gyu-Gaku (see the yellow lower-left sign). Gyu-Gaku is a chain and you find them all over Japan. But they only open up around 4 or 5 pm, depending on the location. So I had to search for something else to get lunch. I quickly entered “Yakiniku” into Google Maps and found another place just 700 meters from where I was near Okachimachi Station.

The great thing is, when walking between Okachimachi and Ueno stations, you have these small streets (multiple of them), quite long, with an endless number of restaurants and street-food places. Here are some photos:

So after about 10 minutes I had reached my destination, this mini-skyscraper, so typically for Japan, to fill even the smallest ground with a “high” building:

Nagomiya Yakiniku…. let’s go inside:

That is the place inside, small restaurant, one chef, one waitress:

The secret about Yakiniku, you probably discovered it already, is that every table comes with a little grill/BBQ. Once inside the waitress will bring you to your table and you take your seats. You will get a menu and can order drinks. I recommend Japanese beer, which is usually excellent. I love Asahi, but also most other brews are good.

I could say from now on it’s all about eating as much meat as you can, but the menu usually comes with a lot options, so let’s break it down into the four main categories what you can order:

  • Single portions of certain types of beef (at some places also pork and chicken, but 80% is beef, and sometimes beef only). Usually a single portion is 3-4 little pieces of beef/meat and costs around 4 to 12 Euro, depending on the quality and from where it comes. It would be normal to order 4 to 8 of such single portions for a full size meal.
  • An “Assortment Plate” or “Set Menu” (typical terms in Japan), which gives you a pre-selected number of these little portions. Depending on the quality such a set-menu can cost between 15 and 40 Euro, where the 40 Euro plate usually consits to 100% of Wagyu Beef and will stuff you really nice.
  • A “all you can eat in 90 minutes” deal. Not available in all Yakiniku places, but most of them have this. Usually this requires at least two persons and is not sold to single guests. This deal often comes with free beer, too, what is quite cool considering the prices of drinks in Japanese restaurants. Available at nearly all Gyu Gaku restaurants.
  • Extras, like rice, vegetables (stuff no one needs), ramen and other food cooked in the kitchen.

So drinks at my table, the grill is heating up, now waiting for my food…

This time I was alone, so I couldn’t go for the all-you-can-eat option, thus I went with a set menu and chose the large Wagyu Plate.

From there on you are on your own. You have some of the best meat available in the world. Put it on the grill, don’t let it burn, these are very thin slices. Once ready, dip it deeply in the provided soy sauce and eat it with a bit of steamed rice.

It’s tasty. It’s AMAZING! Just look at it: