ゑすじ郎
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawaゑすじ郎

8 best izakaya in Shibuya

Serving classic local fare from sashimi to karaage fried chicken, here are Shibuya's top Japanese gastropubs

Emma SteenMari Hiratsuka
Contributor: Mari Hiratsuka
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There are endless things to do in Shibuya, from the famous Scramble Crossing and shopping, to music gigs and casual drinks. But more often than not, those who wander into this bustling district usually end up at an izakaya one way or another. 

The only problem is that Shibuya is crammed with so many pubs and restaurants that it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the choices. We’ll save you the stress of ambling around aimlessly with this list of our favourite Japanese gastropubs in the area. From quirky underground neo-izakaya to old school sake hubs, here are the spots to bookmark for your next catch-up with friends.

RECOMMENDED: 12 best restaurants near Shibuya Crossing

  • Shibuya

A spacious venue with a capacity for a hundred people, Hanchika – meaning ‘semi-underground’ – is a trendy izakaya that occasionally doubles as an event space for flea markets and music gigs. It’s owned by the same people who run the Shibuya udon bar Mansai, but unlike its noodle shop counterpart, Hanchika specialises in dishes steamed in small bamboo baskets like pork and shrimp shumai (¥1,232 for four pieces).

The izakaya also prides itself on its ever-changing selection of indie wines sourced from different corners of the globe, but if you’re not into natural vino then you can opt for a highball (¥660) made with one of the five house-infused spirits flavoured with ingredients like black tea, raisins and dried lemon.

  • Shibuya

You don't need to travel all the way to Toyosu Market to enjoy some of the freshest sashimi in town at a reasonable price. Seafood izakaya Uoshin has earned a reputation for serving generously portioned dishes featuring the day's catch in a relaxed Japanese pub atmosphere.

The menu – a sheet of A4 paper scribbled with the daily offerings and streaked with orange highlighter to indicate signature items – changes frequently based on the availability of seasonal produce. Offerings include a wide variety of hot and cold dishes like vibrant sashimi platters for ¥1,300 per person and grilled miso-marinated swordfish for ¥1,090. It’s best to get there on the early side if you want to sample the most sought-after items before they sell out.

The drinks list is updated almost as often as the seafood menu, with the izakaya rotating bottles from various regions across Japan. If you're unfamiliar with the options, just ask the staff for a decanter of the day's recommended sake.

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  • Cocktail bars
  • Shibuya

Behind a nondescript door on the second floor of an old office building in Shibuya is one of the city’s greatest izakayas specialising in lemon sour cocktails. These aren’t your classic izakaya lemon sours, mind you. A sister establishment of our beloved SG Club (ranked Japan’s best bar by Asia's 50 Best Bars list), the menu of SG Low is more of a playful modern take on familiar favourites. Like your standard izakaya, SG Low serves up an otooshi (welcome appetiser) included with the table charge, but instead of chilled tofu or a bowl of edamame, the opening menu item here is a seasonal welcome martini. 

As for the food, think sharing-style izakaya staples with a fresh twist. Deep fried nankotsu (chicken cartilage) is tossed in fiery red buffalo-wing sauce while the potato salad is dressed up like a mini bowl of ramen. Dishes you can’t leave without trying include the irresistibly gooey mentaiko mac 'n' cheese and the mazemen noodles with uni and a side of bone marrow. 

Everything is made to pair perfectly with a crisp lemon sour, and the bar has endless variations of them. There are versions that range from the Sauna Sour with a twist of salt to one that actually alters your taste buds for a span of 30 minutes, but the staff recommend starting off with the ‘normal lemon sour’ (¥880) and working your way down the list.

  • Shibuya

Hidden in one of Shibuya’s back alleys, this new izakaya is all about grilled chicken and seasonal fruit sours. Specialities here include meaty gyoza wings, where chicken wings are stuffed like dumplings and grilled until the skin is crisp.

Dishes like this normally call for a classic lemon sour – freshly squeezed lemons mixed with shochu and topped with club soda – but Toridosi offers other variations of the izakaya staple that will turn heads. These include toppings of fresh strawberries, passionfruit, mango or watermelon, depending on the time of year. 

The pièce de résistance here, however, is the succulent grilled chicken leg, which the staff will slice into bite-sized pieces for you at your table. You’ll be tempted to finish the entire dish, but don’t. Ask the staff to take the remaining chicken and juices back to the kitchen and use them to whip up some garlic fried rice topped with spring onions to finish your meal. 

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  • Shibuya

A 12-minute walk from Shibuya crossing, this neon-lit pub is slightly separated from the district's central hub, but its eccentric dining space and night market-inspired dishes makes it well worth the journey. The portions here are deliberately small so you can try a little bit of everything even if you’re a party of two.

To start, get the sakura-pink lemon sour (¥650) made with crushed ice and pickled lemon rind to go with the pub’s signature omelette (¥1,000), which is cooked on a teppanyaki grill. This comes with a choice between spicy tomato and oyster sauce, with optional toppings like enoki mushrooms, cheese, shrimp and sliced pork. 

  • Japanese
  • Shibuya
  • price 1 of 4

This sleek, warmly lit locale by Aoyama Gakuin University serves a fiery fusion of Chinese and Okinawan cuisines.

Dishes include homemade sausages with chilies from Okinawa and zesty coriander salad, but the true star of the show here is the taco rice – a Japanese take on Tex-Mex that happens to be a popular comfort food in Okinawa. Made with premium Ozaki beef, this surprisingly budget-friendly dish is the perfect way to end a long night of bar-hopping.

Wine lovers will appreciate the eclectic array of natural wines that line the restaurant’s shelves, though the fruit-infused awamori (Okinawa shochu) pairs well with just about anything.

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  • Shibuya

This cheerful izakaya on the narrow roads of Udagawacho is famous for its hilariously big beer jugs that you need two hands to hold.

Standard izakaya platters that can be ordered in specific portions range from the seasonal assortment of sashimi (¥1,408 per person) to deep-fried oysters (¥275 per piece), but the majority of the dishes on the menu are cooked on the teppanyaki griddle and served on hot iron plates. These include the skirt steak with onion dressing (¥1,485) and the smoked duck tataki (¥1,628), though you could also just go for a casual plate of fries.

If it’s someone’s birthday, ask the staff to help you celebrate and they’ll pull out all the stops to commemorate the occasion.

  • Japanese
  • Shibuya

Shirubee may boast that 99 out of 100 customers get lost while looking for the place, but that hasn’t stopped this secluded izakaya from becoming a local hotspot. (Tip: it's at the rear of the building next to ABC Mart – go to the end of the corridor, then follow the door leading out to a passageway overlooking the railway tracks.)

Once you've made it past the squat doorway, you'll find a spacious restaurant with room for a hundred people – though you'll normally have to book in advance if you want to count yourself among their number. Shirubee's novel location isn't the only attraction: the food menu offers well-executed renditions of a range of izakaya staples, from fresh sashimi to Japanese-style beef stew. 

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