The essential yakiniku top ten
In the Meguro-Gotanda area and hungry for meat? No worries – this carnivore heaven is just a quick walk away. Their spicy appetisers prepare you for their masterpiece, the kuroge wagyu beef tongue (¥1,500), a rare, gently elastic delicacy that everyone should sample at least once. Penny-pinchers might want to choose the five-course set (¥3,500), a combination of rare delights soaked in slightly sweet barbecue-style sauce. We'll even let you in on a secret: it's not on the menu, but staff will serve beef sweetbread if asked.
An essential stop on the Tokyo yakiniku trail, this sleek Aoyama giant is best enjoyed by ordering one of the prix fixe ‘courses’. More than just a long list of different cuts and flavours, these feel like carefully thought-out love letters to meat, all composed with expertise and dedication. Highlights include fluffy, supermodel-slim chateaubriand, beef served with truffles and deep-fried, breaded fillets – all dishes that were first introduced by Yoroniku and then taken up by competitors. Yakiniku isn’t usually considered a seasonal pleasure, but here you can be sure that the time of year shows up on the menu.
Fat be damned – Kunimoto is the finest lean beef-focused yakiniku joint in town. Choose from one of the three dinner deals – ¥6,000, ¥9,000 or ¥12,000 – to receive a beautifully decorated wooden box full of top-quality, expertly seasoned cuts. Additional portions, including their famed kiriotoshi platter (¥1,250, ¥2,500 for a large size) can be ordered by the plate. Not the kind of meat that’ll melt in your mouth right away, these slices require some serious chewing but tasty absolutely heavenly.
Considered overpriced and inaccessible, Ginza’s yakiniku eateries don’t have the best of reputations among the capital’s price-conscious carnivores. But Cobau is the exception that proves the rule: with prix fixe deals starting from ¥9,180, it’s far from cheap, but provides value with an impressive menu of rare, gorgeously plated kuroge wagyu cuts. One of the few places in Ginza that combines quality with variety, the refined, chic restaurant also offers a wide range of non-yakiniku meat dishes, including Korean-style sukiyaki and simple nikomi stew.
Shirokane is Tokyo’s fiercest yakiniku ‘battleground’, and this spot near Shirokane-Takanawa Station is one of its finest representatives. Top-quality Yamagata beef is served in small portions, with the chateaubriand and sirloin particularly well worth a try. Don’t miss the hamburg steak or stewed tail either. For the full Kim experience, go for the omakase (chef’s selection), which can include anything from a heavenly burger to some old-fashioned nikomi stew.
You've sampled the standard steaks and and offal, and are looking to climb the carnivore ladder. There's no better place to begin your quest than this Ichigaya eatery, which always stocks finest-quality kuroge wagyu beef. Book in advance if you want to sample their famed beef tongue, a truly luxurious treat. The eight-course daily specials (from ¥17,000), composed only of A5-grade product, represent the zenith of yakiniku in Tokyo.
Raw meat requires a little getting used to, but once you’re addicted there’s no turning back. The second sister shop of Aoyama’s famed Yoroniku (featured above), Namaiki specialises in uncooked delights. While value for money is what has propelled this less than centrally located spot into the limelight, variety is its greatest strength: the menu lists six types of yukhoe alone, plus a rich selection of meat sushi and sashimi. If you still have room for dessert, don’t miss the basil and lemon kakigori.
Firmly committed to using only the best quality A5 wagyu, Cossott'e always purchase the whole cow, always a female, and then use every part of the animal for the menu. Each cut of meat is carefully prepared by the chef for optimal grilling at your table. Sirloin, tongue, rump and chuck roll are all treated individually with variants in thickness of the cut, seasoning and dipping sauce. The sirloin, prepared as yakishabu, is a standout and the only item that the staff themselves will cook at your table. The supreme quality of the wagyu is clearly reflected in the taste of each cut; the meat has a richness and juiciness that’s truly incomparable.
Having spent five years honing their skills at Tsukishima yakiniku favourite Denden, the duo behind this hidden Yushima gem are especially well-versed in fresh offal and various organ meats-based dishes. Pleasantly seasoned and cut into easy-to-eat pieces, these make for the perfect companion to beer on a hot day. The menu is extensive to say the least, but you can’t go wrong with the offal gyoza, deep-fried beef tongue or diaphragm cutlet (harami katsu).
Serious fans of grilled meat flock to Jambo’s four Tokyo restaurants, the first of which opened almost three decades ago out east in residential Edogawa. Hanare in Hongo is their newest outpost but has already earned a fervent following, so reservations can be difficult to come by. Snag one and you can look forward to meaty masterpieces including lightly broiled wagyu sushi with rice boiled in genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice), noharayaki (a huge slice of sirloin flavoured with Jambo’s ‘secret sauce’ and eaten with raw egg) and super-thin, shabu-shabu-like yakishabu beef slices.