Saiseisakaba in Shinjuku is one of my favorite standing bars in Tokyo. Located in Shinjuku Sanchome it is close to Isetan department store.
We asked the server for something unusual to start off with. He suggested brain sashimi. We were game, but when it arrived, my husband Shinji (who is a fishmonger and is accustomed to eating many weird things) was not willing to take the first bite. I dug in and actually enjoyed it, similar in texture to shirako (fish sperm sacs).
Moving onto something cooked we had gyutan (cow tongue) that is simmered for a long time until tender, one of my favorite dishes at Saiseisakaba.
The grill at Saiseisakaba
This interior shot overlooking the kitchen shows the sumi (charcoal) grill. Saiseisakaba also offers a variety of different offal grilled. These foods go with beer, sake, or shochu.
Shinjuku 3-7-3, Marunaka Building 1st floor 新宿区新宿３−７−３、丸中ビル１階
Near the Asakusa temple district is Kappabashi, an area where chefs and restaurateurs come to buy anything they need to set up shop. Open to the general public, it is a great destination for anyone who likes to cook at home. It is an easy area to navigate as most of the shops line a major street. There are several pottery shops, but one of my favorite is Dengama, just next to the police box (koban). The two floors of the shop offer everything from teapots, rice bowls, chopstick rests (hashioki), and much more. There is a shipping service, often next day. The shop is oven seven days a week.
I am often asked for restaurant suggestions in Tokyo. There is one restaurant that I recommend time and time again. Chef Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari was the 2002 Iron Chef winner, and the trophy is displayed when you first walk in. I love this restaurant for lunch or dinner. For a multi-course kaiseki dinner incorporating seasonal ingredients, you get a meal for a good value. Lunch is also reasonable. If you want to splurge, call ahead and order the Yukari bento box, pictured here. The last time I went this was 3,675 JPY.
The food here is prepared using classic Japanese techniques. Chef Nonaga trained in Kyoto at Kikunoi with Chef Murata, author of the gorgeous Kaiseki book published by Kodansha International.
If possible, sit at the counter so that you can watch Chef Nonaga perform his magic. And, tell him Yukari sent you. If you go with a Japanese speaker you can talk to him about the seasonal ingredients, how the food is prepared, and observe his passion for traditional Japanese cuisine.