Where to eat in Omoide Yokocho – Torobako Izakaya
Figuring out where to eat in Omoide Yokocho. can be a little bit confusing. It feels like the Tokyo version of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. Except instead of children with wands it’s tourists with selfie sticks. Which is unavoidable because who wouldn’t want to see Diagon Alley? There is a ton of yakitori being served inside the little alleyways, and it’s great. However there is better and far more exciting to be had on the edges of Omoide Yokocho just west of the Chuo Line train tracks.
An Izakaya is a casual restaurant that serves beer, highballs, shochu (lemon, lime, etc.) and plum wines. You typically wont find Western cocktails in an Izakaya. The food is all shared. There are no entrees. The Kanji for Izakaya looks like this 居酒屋. The individual characters mean “stay,” “alcohol,” and “room” or “shop.” So an izakaya is “a shop for people to stay with booze.” You’ll see these characters on bright red lanterns all over Japan. Torobako is a seafood Izakaya. The decor is “Japanese Fishing Village of Yesteryear” and the chairs are refurbished delivery boxes for sake bottles. I’m obsessed with it. So if you’re wondering where to eat in Omoide Yokocho and also wanting to spam Instagram with some bonkers seafood pictures you’ve come to the right place.
Some of Tokyo’s Freshest Seafood
The freshest seafood in Tokyo is not typically found on the English menu. Torobako does have an English menu but it is filled with your year round fare like edamame, maguro and french fries. However if the buyers for the restaurant happened to get a great price on some primo snow crab at the Toyosu Fish Market auction it wont be reflected on the English menu. They slapped it together, clicked the print button and moved on with their lives. This laminated menu in Japanese however has the daily recommendations. Figuring out where to eat in Omoide Yokocho may involve a bit of pointing at menu items you’re unable to read.
Unsurprisingly the best place for dinner in Omoide Yokocho is serving Yebisu beer, my favorite of the big label beers in Japan. I like Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo just fine. Yebisu however is my absolute favorite to pair with seafood. The logo on the beer mugs is Yebisu, the fattest of the Seven Lucy Gods and is even sitting there holding a massive sea bream.
Look at this madness. They have these tiny gas cassette grills on the table for cooking up your dinner. We started with the shellfish set. On the far left we’ve got Turban Shell Sea Snail. In the middle are two large white clams and on the right is a giant scallop. Dont worry if you’re not sure how to cook these. The staff here have their eye on you and will help you cook things and tell you when they’re ready. They also pour some ponzu sauce on everything and it smells amazing when everything starts boiling inside the shell.
That’s a Turban Shell Sea Snail. If you look inside the shell you can see some very tasty broth inside. It’s a briny, citrusy shooter for after eating the sea snail. Which tastes great but has a very bitter after taste. The broth helps clear it up.
If you’re wondering where to eat in Omoide Yokocho and are also a sashimi fan this place serves some of the best bang for your buck sashimi samplers around. The little bamboo bowls are a nice touch as well. That maguro was amazing.
Time for Tofu
Izakayas are all about tiny, inexpensive dishes that come out like clock work. This is age dashi tofu, one of my favorite ways to eat tofu. They are deep fried on the outside and soft on the inside. They are covered in a dashi broth, which is bonito based. So once again, this is still very much a seafood dish. The green is wakame, a type of seaweed that is incredibly good for you and a big part of the reason why Japan continues to dominate the life expectancy charts.
Kentucky Fried Fish
Deep fried mackerel. One of my favorite fishes whether grilled or deep fried. In Japan deep fried mackerel is usually eaten with Worcester Sauce, lemon and a bit of spicy mustard. These goes down a treat with beer.
Grilled Tuna – Kama
Kama is the neck of a bluefin tuna. This particular part of the tuna does not work as sashimi. The sashimi grade parts of the tuna such as the belly and cheeks are never grilled. That would be madness. This bit however is awesome grilled! This was my first time trying this type of grilled tuna and it was incredible. There is a large bone running through this chunk of fish and the meat falls off and has a similar texture to slow cooked ribs. It’s eaten with a bit of lemon and soy sauce. It’s fantastic. Surprising too, like a turkey or a chicken it had a section of darker meat and a section of lighter meat. This was on the daily special’s menu and if I ever see it again it is definitely getting ordered.
Dinner by the Train Tracks
There you have it, some of the best food in Omoide Yokocho for some pretty reasonable prices. Omoide Yokochi is a massive tourist draw. That’s fine, it’s amazing to visit so crowds are a given. What’s not a given is that you’ll get an authentic meal that a Tokyo local would be eating on a random night. Torobako provides that while still being in Omoide Yokocho.
Keen for some more Omoide Yokocho? Check out my guide here.
Where to eat in Omoide Yokocho – Torobako Izakaya
And check this out! I Started hosting tours to this area and nearby Golden Gai through Airbnb. If you’re visiting Tokyo I’d be happy to show you around.