Family-friendly Yakitoriya

Once in a while we adults want to have yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, but many yakitori-ya are smoky joints that are not kid-friendly. Iseya in Kichijōji near Inokashira Kōen Park is both family-friendly and a good value. It is also perfect for groups as it is a large space. The only challenge is that it is wildly popular. On weekends there is a perpetual line out the front door. Bring along something to keep your kid occupied while standing in line.

First things first, large mugs of cold beer for the adults and barley tea for the kid. We ordered vegetables like edamame, potato salad, green salad, kimchi, and cucumbers to get started. At the same time we ordered a variety of chicken skewers like thigh, gizzard, liver, chicken balls complete with minced cartilage for crunch, and chicken skin. The vegetables come out immediately and just when we are ready for the yakitori a giant plate is placed on the table with the skewers.

Inokashira Kōen is a great spot for the kids to run around after lunch. On the north side of the station is a great shōtengai shopping arcade with many food shops.

Iseya Sōhōten いせや総本店

Musashino-shi, Kichijōji Minami-chō 1-15-8

武蔵野市吉祥寺南町1-15-8

12 noon – 10 p.m.

closed Monday

no website

 

Advertisements

Family-Friendly Sushiya Chain

Going out for sushi as a family cuts out many options. High-end sushiya are out of the question as are many mid-range spots. Our kid loves sushi, could eat it three days a week and when we go out, it’s often for sushi. We eat a lot of sashimi at home and will also make donburi rice bowls and make luscious spreads for temakizushi hand-rolls. But, we don’t make nigirizushi and go out for that.

Sushi Zanmai is a popular chain with branches throughout the city that is kid-friendly and offers a good value. The owner, Kiyoshi Kimura, is famous around the world for having paid $1.76 million dollars for a tuna a while back. Kimura-san is a tuna fanatic and if you love tuna, then go for the maguro-zukushi (maguro-zanmai at his shop) plate which is made with different cuts of tuna. There are about a dozen stores in the Tsukiji/Ginza area alone.

The weekday lunch sets start at about 1,080 JPY ($10). Sushi Zanmai has a variety of shops including kaiten-zushi, revolving conveyor belt sushi, to proper restaurants with a counter and tables. All of the shops we have been to are boisterous. Some shops do allow smoking, so frustrating. At a recent visit we asked to be moved away from a smoking table.

I was in the mood for vegetables this evening, so I took the handrolls which was made of cucumbers, umeboshi, takuan (pickled daikon), shiso, natto, and kampyō (soy simmered gourd). Hit the spot for me.

Below is the link for Sushi Zanmai. On top you can change to language to English to see what is in your neighborhood.

Sushi Zanmai

http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/

Sushi Chain to Put on Your Radar

Living in Tokyo it’s good to have a few sushi chain on your radar, especially if  you are parents and dining out with kids. Some popular sushiya on the budget side include Midori Sushi, Sushi Zanmai, Sushiro, Choshi Maru, and Kurazushi. One to know about is Uoriki, which is not only a sushiya, but also a seafood retail shop, so the company is buying a lot of seafood and can offer sushi menus at a good value.

Uoriki is unbelievably cheap for what it is offering. The set lunch in the upper right photo was only 1,290 JPY ($13). Check out the size of the anago (simmered sea eel). It also included ikura, chutoro, scallop, and shrimp.

The bottom photo is of silvery skinned fish, which took me a long time to get used to, but now I love these. At lunch this was only 750 JPY and consisted of: Pacific saury, horse mackerel, sardine, Pacific mackerel, and gizzard shad. As these are the fishy in flavor, they are often garnished with ginger, garlic, chives, or even pickled in salt and rice vinegar to make them more palatable.

A very easy branch of Uoriki Sushi to get to is in the Shibuya station building in the Tokyu Toyoko-ten depachika. There are a few shops on the Chuo line which we frequent. The take-away sushi is also very cheap and is usually made without wasabi so it is kid-friendly. Wasabi is served on the side.

The name, Uoriki 魚力, literally means strong fish. What a great name for a seafood retail and restaurant chain.

Uoriki Sushi

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-24-1, Tokyu Toyoko-ten Depachika B1

渋谷区渋谷2-24-1 東急百貨店西館B1F

Other branches (in Japanese):

http://www.uoriki.co.jp/tenpo/index.html#insyoku

I was recently interviewed for this piece for Saveur magazine, by Laurie Woolever:

http://www.saveur.com/conveyor-belt-kaiten-sushi

Shinjuku Restaurant with Kids – Mimiu

Shinjuku Mimiu

Shinjuku Mimiu

Dining out with kids can be challenging in Tokyo. One tip is to look for restaurants that have koshitsu, private rooms. You can then close the doors and the kids can play in the private room without disturbing the other diners. Adults can enjoy some conversation without worrying about the kids. Koshitsu are also nice when getting together with family or friends and you’d like some privacy.

Mimiu near Shinjuku station has several private rooms exactly for this occasion. It is a popular restaurant with families, so best to book a private room in advance. Be sure to inquire about seating. Some koshitsu have tables and chairs while others are tatami mat rooms with low tables. Ideally there will be a hole under the table with a sunken floor, called horigotatsu. These can be surprisingly comfortable.

Some other tips when using a tatami room. You’ll be asked to take your shoes off. If you need to use the rest room while dining use the sandals that are set near the room. Most koshitsu will have a bell to ring when you need something.

Mimiu has a few set lunches to choose from, starting at about 2,200 JPY. Above is one of the lunch sets. The food was not spectacular, but was passable. I was surprised that they did not have options for the kids. The set menu was definitely too much food to order another lunch for the kids, so we shared.

This location is conveniently located a minute or two from Shinjuku station. Mimiu has a few other locations in the city. When we reserved the room we were told that there was a two-hour limit.

Mimiu 美々卯

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-37-12, Shinjuku Nowa Bldg. 6F 新宿区新宿3-37-12新宿Nowaビル6F

http://www.mimiu.co.jp/

Best Cafe for Train Fans – N3331

N3331

N3331

Did you know that in the heart of Tokyo there is a cafe that sits on the train tracks? It is actually located in between the inbound and outbound lines of the Chuo line. The station is just between Ochanomizu and Kanda. It is also a short walk from Akihabara station. Here is the view from the window. We are just a few feet from the trains whizzing by.

Cafe is on the train tracks

Cafe on the train tracks

Here is the view from our seat looking as two Chuo trains pass us.

The cafe opens at 11 a.m. We came early and were the first in line, but by about 10:45 a.m. there were about a dozen waiting to get in on a weekend.

We ordered a sandwich and a curry. Both were terrible. The lettuce on the sandwich was so wilty, it surely was made the day before. The 7-11 sandwiches have fresher lettuce. As for the curry, I’ve had better curry from a pack. Bummer as the cafe itself is so sweet. When we go back I am just going to have something to drink. We did order some ice cream which was good. But, don’t come for the food. Sad as this is such a great dining city. It is a shock to come across food so awful. Come for the view and the experience.

Outdoor seating at N3331

Outdoor seating at N3331

There is indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating has the best views of the trains coming and going. Note that there is NOT a roof over you, so don’t go when it is raining. And, note that it is very hot out there under the sun. We will go back, but I will wait until autumn. You do hear the trains as they pass by.

Ichiro Whiky

Ichiro Whiky

If you like whisky, they have a great selection of Ichiro whisky. I should have ordered a glass after the shock of the food.

The station is the old Manseibashi station. Underneath the tracks there are several great little shops and restaurants. Get your food down here. The cafe is only good for experiencing the train. But, if you are a train fan, or with kids, it is pretty awesome to be on the tracks with trains passing by just in front of you.

There is a part of the cafe that is covered and air-conditioned, but it opens onto the open-air cafe so is not too cool. I will definitely be back, but most likely after the weather cools down.

www.maach-ecute.jp/shop.html

N3331

東京都千代田区神田須田町1丁目25番地4

Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Sudacho 1-25-4

n3331.com

A good access map:

www.maach-ecute.jp/access.html