Tokyo Food Review: Ikinari Steak - Standing-Only Japanese Steakhouse
[Editor’s Note: You might have heard about Tokyo’s recent ‘Best City in the World’ cuisine rating. Well, it’s not just the Michelin folks who’re paying attention. AkihabaraNews Contributor Phoebe Amoroso also weighs in on Tokyo’s food scene, and today: MEAT!]
ONE OF THE BEST STEAKS EVER
You should know that I am very fussy about my steak. I often order it despite the fact that I am invariably disappointed. So when I’m raving about a steak, this is your cue to stop slumping and perk up and listen (provided you’re not vegetarian, of course). I should warn you that there are a lot of meaty pictures to follow…
Earlier in the Fall, I trekked around the vast and cavernous Makuhari Messe convention center for CEATEC, one of Japan’s largest tech expos and conferences. It was overwhelming and confusing, geeky and fun, and it seemed to be having a bit of an identity crisis, aptly encapsulated by the presence of a giant robotic dinosaur.
CEATEC 2014 Retrospective – On Trend, on Task?
After taking in the jurassic tech, my leg muscles and my brain were exercised, and hunger levels were turned up to 11. On the way back, we ducked into Plena Makuhari Shopping Center by Kaihinmakuhari Station. My companion pointed at the nearest restaurant and moved towards it. I ignored him.
Even in desperate times, I need to make sure that I’ve investigated all possible eateries and made the absolute best food choice in the circumstances. Even in desperate times, I may be prepared to queue. So when I saw Ikinari Steak with juicy meat porn spattered across its windows, exceptionally reasonable prices, and a line of people outside, I knew that this was the one. Plus, how could I overlook a sign like this…
The Very Steak - See Full Gallery Here
“But,” wailed my companion, mortified by the fact that we were going to wait even longer for food. “But it’s standing only! We’ve been on our feet all day.”
I rolled my eyes. “Once I’ve eaten that steak, I’ll be fine.”
Ikinari Steak is the kind of place that will make you more than fine. Steak lovers, unite. Here’s the beef on how to get your beef and not empty your wallet.
Customers enjoying their steaks - Full Gallery
On the menu are three cuts of steak: ribeye is the cheapest at 5 yen/gram (excl. tax), followed by sirloin (7 yen/gram), tenderloin (8 yen/gram) and wagyu (Japanese beef) sirloin (10 yen/gram). What if you’re not sure? Want to examine the meat first? Not a problem. You get to personally order your steak from a man who will slice it in front of your eyes. This means you can eye up all the meaty offerings and have some idea of which looks the most appealing to you.
Each cut has a minimum recommended amount, which probably acts more like a requirement. For example, they recommend that you order at least 300g of ribeye. Given that Japan has a reputation for serving a tiny 100g steak with a million unwanted side dishes for around 10,000 yen (~$100.00), this was my idea of heaven.
Get it sliced how you like it - Full Gallery
Of course, the proof is in the taste. I ordered myself a ~300g sirloin (2,382 yen / $22), medium-rare, and my companion took a ~400g ribeye (2,424 yen / $23), also medium-rare. With that we ordered an ordinary but serviceable side salad (270 yen) and some peppery but pleasant fried rice (216 yen / $2). And we stood, shifting our weight from foot to foot, and waited.
Watch it cook! - Full Gallery
The steak is excellent, truly excellent. My knife sunk into the tender flesh and the inside glowed a soft pink, demonstrating that the chefs at Ikinari Steak have a firm concept of medium-rare, which is frustratingly hard to find in the UK. The taste was just as it should be – pure beefy heaven, marbled with soft fat that melted and rolled over the tongue. The ribeye was also very flavoursome but wasn’t quite as tender.
They understand medium-rare! - Full Gallery
Eating whilst standing does not make for the most comfortable experience – Ikinari Steak would have done better to operate a timed seating rota to keep their costs down. But the steak is so good that your focus will be on your tongue and your stomach, not on your feet (or any awkward arm manoeuvres to scoop food from plate to mouth).
Ikinari Steak has a whopping 15 branches across Tokyo, and their first Osaka branch opened at the end of October. Basically, there is absolutely no excuse why you should not be eating great quality steak very cheaply. And for those who want to have their steak even cheaper, pay a visit at lunch time for fixed cuts of steak or the ‘Wild Steak’ at 1,050 ($10) yen for 300g (excl. tax), which includes soup, rice, and salad.
Ikinari Steak 5/5 – Pure beef heaven. Head there if you want cheap steak with no frills and you’re prepared to stand. Beef lovers will not be disappointed.
- Food 4.5/5 – The steak is beautiful. The sides are good but not worth raving about. But you didn’t come for the salad, did you?
- Service 5/5 – We were shown to our standing places and helped through our order by a very friendly lady. The guy at the meat carving counter was very obliging. Top marks.
- Value 5/5 – 400g of great steak for under 2,500 yen? Pick your jaw off the ground!
- Atmosphere 3/5 – Very busy in a welcoming way. But it is a place to shovel food to face and then leave.
Ikinari Steak is open various hours at various locations - check the website: Ikinari Steak
Photos: Phoebe Amoroso
Contributor Phoebe Amoroso is a serial Japanophile, fascinated by the intersection between society and technology. A Brit with a quintessential academic background in geography, media and communications, she divides her time between Japanese studies, journalism, and eating. Her interests include the social psychology of the Internet, technology and everyday life, urban design and planning, sustainability, cities, the Internet of things, cross-cultural studies, and food – lots of glorious food. She likes karate but secretly dreams of being a ninja or a Pokémon master. Or even a ninja Pokémon master.