Mr. Selfish and I certainly enjoyed dining at izakayas while in Japan. The casual atmosphere and the abundance of drinks and food undoubtedly lead to a good time. We visited two well-known izakayas in Tokyo to see which one was better.
The 35 Steps
First, we went to the 35 Steps (B1 Shibuya City Hotel, 1-1 Shibuya), which is located near the love hotel district in Shibuya. As you may have guessed, the 35 Steps is in the basement, and you have to walk down thirty-five steps to get to there. But it’s certainly worth the trek. The 35 Steps is known as one of the friendliest izakayas around, and it didn’t disappoint. The service at the 35 Steps was impeccable, and it was clear that the staff enjoyed their jobs.
Mr. Selfish and I sat at the counter and were right amid the action. All of the food was cooked right before our eyes, and the aromas were intoxicating. Our favorite dish at the 35 Steps is the cured mackerel, which is seared in front of you. The mackerel is tender and melts in your mouth. The flavor is outstanding; you taste the blackened sear as well as the delicate fish.
Other highlights of the meal included: the appetizer salad, the cheese tofu, the sashimi, the karaage, the daikon, and the crème brulee. We also enjoyed the sake served in bamboo and the strawberry and sweet milk shouchu.
All in all, the 35 Steps is an excellent izakaya. The service, food, and atmosphere were all top-notch. Also, it was mostly frequented by locals. There was only one set of English menus, which were taken away from us when another English-speaking couple arrived. I highly recommend the 35 Steps if you visit Tokyo.
Mr. Selfish and I are huge Quentin Tarantino fans. We, of course, had to visit Gonpachi, which is the izakaya that is allegedly the inspiration for the izakaya in Kill Bill. It is located in Roppongi (1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato).
Unlike the crowd at the 35 Steps, Gonpachi’s crowd was definitley more Western. All of the menus were also in English. Nevertheless, the service was fast, and the food was pretty good. Mr. Selfish and I enjoyed the Gonpachi house salad, the avocado and camembert cheese tempura, the karaage, and three skewers of toro tuna, foie gras, and kuroge beef. For dessert, we had the black sesame and vanilla ice cream.
The highlight of our meal was the tempura, the skewers, and the ice cream. I adore Japanese ice cream and wish that I had more of it while we were in Japan.
Although both izakayas are worth visiting, Mr. Selfish and I enjoyed the 35 Steps a bit more. We felt that it was more authentic feeling, that the food was better, and that it was a bit better priced. That being said, I wouldn’t mind going back to either izakaya at this point.