Meals are better when shared with others, and izakayas are the perfect place for that. In Tokyo, we got to experience what the majority of locals do after work, stay in the city and hang out with coworkers and friends. They usually view izakayas as extensions of one’s home, so they find their favorite spot and designate that as their meeting place. It’s a place to drink, eat, and just have a good time. With limited space in the cities, most of the bars and izakayas are tiny, which makes them more intimate and homey.
Instead of venturing on our own, we thought it would be best to join Ninja Food Tours’ Best of Izakaya. With the help from our tour guide Giulia, we were eating our way through Shinjuku with great company. The first part of our tour was walking to Golden Gai, a collection of bars and izakayas that seat only a handful of people at a time. Some bars had signs that said members only or foreign-friendly. We walked through during the day, but at night the place totally transforms. Now on with the tour.
Right above our first stop was the famous Godzilla Head! Gindaco, a takoyaki chain, is known for their Tokyo-style octopus balls. Their takoyaki is a little crispier on the outside, super hot inside (let it cool), and just 100% delicious every single bite. Takoyaki is a popular street food snack, batter balls cooked with bits of octopus topped with various toppings, like onion, mayo and bonito flakes!
2. Niimura Tonkatsu
Our next stop has been serving up Shinjuku for over 50 years. We gathered outside to try their famous tonkatsu, which is deep fried pork that is also grilled in the oven for that perfect texture. We dipped our piece into the provided sauce (ketchup + soy based) and each bite was super crispy and delicious.
We made it to our first izakaya, Buchiumaya, known for the tastiest okonomiyaki in the area. Our group took our places right in front of the grill where Mr. Takao, the owner and chef, greeted us with a welcoming smile. He started cooking while we ordered our first round of drinks. I decided to try a Hoppy, a non-alcoholic beer mixed with shochu. We started with grilled squid and rolled omelette, and then we tried two different styles of okonomiyaki, one with cheese and rice cake and the other topped with green onions. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style pancake that’s grilled with many layers. It’s definitely big enough to share with another person!
We walked into our next izakaya and to my surprise, they had an Avril Lavigne album playing (my jam). Takamaru is a seafood spot with menus that change every day. Our table ordered a round of highballs and had fresh sashimi to share. The tuna serving was generous, thick slices of fish! We also had crab croquettes and grilled fish head!
5. Chano Ikedaya
Our last stop took us to Shinjuku station, which has over 200 exits! In Japan, people are always on the go and constantly commuting, so eateries and shops at the stations are high quality and shouldn’t be underestimated. We ended our tour with Chano Ikedaya, home to matcha ice cream made with real matcha powder. We got to choose if we wanted straight matcha or with a vanilla twist.
Our night out in Shinjuku was complete and we got to experience the social culture that the city had to offer. Thanks for showing us the best of izakayas Ninja Food Tours!