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6 best yakiniku grilled beef restaurants in Tokyo

Our favourite go-tos for table-top grilled beef, from cheap and cheerful joints to high-end wagyu restaurants

Emma Steen
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There’s nothing quite like the anticipation of listening to the sizzle of thinly sliced beef on a table-top barbecue grill, as the colour of the meat goes from deep pink to slightly charred golden brown.

With roots in Korean barbecue, yakiniku offers an interesting range of price points and dishes with a Japanese twist. On one end, you’ve got the cheap and cheerful joints with standing-only dining counters or personal grills for single diners. On the other, you have luxurious wagyu restaurants that require advance reservations.

Put your paper bibs on – this list of the city’s most popular yakiniku venues is sure to satisfy your meat cravings. (If you don't eat beef, check out this excellent fish yakiniku restaurant in Tsukiji.)

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Six of the best

  • Nishi-Azabu

This sophisticated, brightly lit restaurant in Nishi-Azabu has just the right touch of fine dining luxury that’s suitable for special occasions without making you feel tense. The menu offers multi-dish courses as well as a selection of à la carte dishes in case you want to order a couple extra things on the side.

We recommend opting for the ¥6,100 tabegoro course, which includes roughly nine small platters of different cuts of beef ranging from thinly sliced beef tongue to thick-cut skirt steak. A highlight is the melt-in-your-mouth chuck roll, which is served with a miniature bowl of rice, sweet-savoury sukiyaki sauce and a rich egg yolk as a one-bite dish that’ll have your taste buds singing. 

For your last savoury course from the prix fixe menu, you can choose one item from a selection of rice or noodle dishes such as chewy chilled bibimmen noodles or a bowl of Ushigoro's signature curry rice.

We’re big fans of the dessert options (also included in the tabegoro course), which range from the impossibly smooth custard pudding to the aromatic coffee blancmange.

  • Aoyama

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.

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  • Suehirocho

A sister shop of the high-end Yoroniku restaurant, this foodie favourite near Akihabara has a slightly more casual feel to it than its Aoyama counterpart – and it’s cheaper, too.

On top of the prime cuts of wagyu and beef tongue that the staff will grill for you at your table, Namaiki is also known for its raw meat dishes that are served in the courses – think beef tartare or Korean yukhoe.

Though it’s always the mouthwatering meat dishes that draw in customers here, a firm fan favourite is the mountain-high kakigori shaved ice dessert – a Yoroniku speciality – to be shared by the table.

  • Shibuya

Yakiniku is generally treated as a communal dining experience, where multiple platters of meat are cooked on one shared grill. That said, we firmly believe that solo diners should treat themselves to the city’s culinary delights, even if their friends are unable to make it.

At Yakiniku Like – a restaurant catering to solo diners as well as groups – you can eat your heart out with budget-friendly set meals that include different types of marinated pork and beef. The cheapest set, which only costs ¥790, comes with rice, seaweed soup, kimchi and condiments for your yakiniku, which you can cook on a small grill designed for one person.

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  • Ichigaya

You've sampled the standard steaks and entrails, and are looking to climb the carnivore ladder. There's no better place to begin your quest than this Ichigaya eatery, the successor of famed Minowa joint Shichirin.

Nakahara specialises in high-quality yakiniku and always stocks excellent kuroge wagyu (Japanese Black cattle). The eight-course daily specials (from ¥21,500), composed only of A5-grade beef, represent the zenith of yakiniku in Tokyo.

  • Hongo

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 its 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 cooked 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.

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