Kushikatsu in Tokyo – Deep Fried Delicious
Kushikatsu in Tokyo (a food) and Shinjuku Sanchome (a nightlife area) are relatively unknown outside of Japan. Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho and Golden Gai are now firmly in the hands of tourists and YouTubers. The other night while taking someone on a tour of Omoide Yokocho I saw an Instagram Vaping Influencer stand there for 30 minutes while his lady companion took photos of him puffing out thick clouds of smoke. While it is admittedly an awesome backdrop for photo shooting, he could have at least purchased a beer from one of the numerous alley food stalls he was blocking access to. Shinjuku Sanchome however is just a short walk away and one of the best neighborhoods in Tokyo for food. It is also extremely lively and not a major tourist destination. Also, if you’re wondering where to eat Kushikatsu in Tokyo, look no further.
Welcome to Kushikatsu Tanaka in Shinjuku Sanchome
Kushikatsu is basically carnival food. With better ingredients most likely. I’ve not been to all the carnivals but there are only so many ways to deep fry a Snickers. While this food is most famous as an Osaka dish, Kushikatsu in Tokyo is not to be missed. Kushikatsu is meats, fish or veggies that are skewered, battered and deep fried. Kushikatsu Tanaka has the full lineup of your standard Japanese veggies. Lotus root, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, yams, leeks and yamaimo (a very starchy type of potato). For your proteins you’ve got most white meat fish, salmon, pork, chicken, beef and QUAIL EGGS!
Two things will happen as soon as you’ve sat down. You’ll be handed a bowl of cabbage and a tin of sauce. The sauce is for dipping absolutely everything in. It’s a mixture of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, ketchup and then a slew of secret ingredients that gives each Kushikatsu place its own flavor profile. Kushikatsu Tanaka’s sauce is sweet, tangy and inspires you to start ordering highballs.
I say go with half veggies and half meats to get yourself started. I honestly think the veggies are more fun with this style of dining. There are also some pretty cool veggie options that you dont see too often outside of Asia. While there is beef on the menu, keep in mind this is not a wagyu place. Kushikatsu is cheap, dirty and a staple of the younger, out until the first trains of the morning crowd. That being said, the beef is still delicious.
On plate number one we have have leeks, quail eggs and beef. Let me tell you, those quail eggs are sublime. They are piping hot when served but the yolks are still runny. I love a runny yolk so consider yourself warned.
Deep fried to perfection. Yet somehow Japan produces the longest living people on Earth. Despite Kushikatsu Tanaka and their best efforts. Fun fact, artificial sweeteners and reduced fat foods are almost non existent here.
On plate number two we have lotus root, eggplants, onion and potato wedges. The wedges were steamed before they were deep fried so it was like eating a deep fried morsel of mashed potato. Taste-tacular.
To eat, simply select your preferred morsel of deep fried nosh and dip it into the sauce. Double dipping is a no no. The tins are also set up in a way that you can’t really overdo it on the sauce. As with most things in Japan the visuals are very important. A skewer of kushikatsu covered in sauce is far more appetizing in appearance than one completely doused. You need the dark color of the sauce to contrast with the golden hues of the batter anyway. #instadelicious
On plate number three we have minced chicken and perilla meatballs, cherry tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and benishoga. Benishoga is the bright pink, pickled ginger you sometimes see at Japanese restaurants. Also, watch out for those cherry tomatoes. They are basically filled with scalding hot tomato juice.
Best Places to Eat in Shinjuku Sanchome
I have started or ended so many incredible nights in this neighborhood. There is good, cheap food absolutely everywhere. It is 5 minutes walk from three of Tokyo’s most heavily trodden tourist areas. Omoide Yokocho, Golden Gai and Kabukicho are wonderful but they are at times overrun with selfie stick wielding photogs who dont actually contribute to the area or partake of the best it has to offer.They take the photo, update their Instagram story and move on. Which is fine and I understand the appeal. However, there is so much fun to be had by just taking a spot out in front of one of the countless bars in Shinjuku Sanchome and planting yourself for a few beers. Then simply sit back and watch a never ending parade of people who all seem to be having an incredibly pleasant evening.
Where to eat Kushikatsu in Tokyo
Want more of the best places to eat in Shinjuku Sanchome check out Kowloon for some gyoza.