Shinjuku, especially the area around Shinjuku Station, just might be the food hub of Tokyo and has some of the best yakiniku restaurants you’ll find anywhere in the Tokyo prefecture.
What are the best yakiniku shops in Shinjuku? The ones the locals love. The delicious taste and gourmet experience of an excellent yakiniku restaurant are almost impossible to describe.
The rich umami of a quality wagyu yakiniku experience is one of the best reasons to visit Tokyo.There’s just something about seeing the perfect cut of meat before it is cooked, and then you cook it yourself over an open flame at your table that speaks to the inner carnivore in people.
In this guide, my Japanese friends and I introduce you to a few favorites of ours in Shinjuku.
I won’t bog you down with lots of flowery writing, just the facts you want to know about when choosing a place to eat, like what’s on the menu, what the atmosphere is like, and how expensive it is or isn’t.
All you have to do is pick a place and try it!
Real quick before we dive in. I want to give you a bit of extra help here.
Yakiniku means grilled meat. Look for the kanji 肉 (meat) on shop signs. There are other types of meat-based restaurants so after you see that, look for 焼肉 which is the complete word for yakiniku (some shops may write it in hiragana like this やきにく).
Okay, on with the guide.
¥2,800 – ¥5,800/dinner
When it comes to eating yakiniku, the type of meat you get will make or break your dining experience.
Murai Takayuki, the chef at Yakiniku Motoyama, is very aware of this and offers only the highest quality of Japanese Black beef.
One of the best cuts that are definitely recommended to try is the Chuck Flap. The marbling is incredible and offers a very even distribution of lean meat to fat ratio.
This marbling is what makes the meat tender and what gives it that impeccable flavor.
His menu has 3 different choices, all of which consist of A5-ranked beef and enough to satisfy two people or a whole party. There is even a selection from the ‘secret’ menu.
When you are grilling your perfectly selected beef, you need a little elbow room and that is exactly what you get here.
The restaurant is open and spacious with western-style seating.
The atmosphere is a little more on the pub side of things since they have an all you can drink menu for only ¥2,000, which is a really good price that a lot of people take advantage of.
It’s a place to go when you are in downtown Shinjuku, want really great yakiniku at a great price and want to drink while you eat.
¥900 a la carte – ¥1,900/dinner
What makes this place one that you definitely need to try is the different variety of things that you can grill.
A lot of places focus on beef and that is all good, but not everyone wants to eat beef and only beef until death do you part!
And for that reason, those people will be happy here.
At Shinichikan, they have seafood like whole squid, oysters, crab, and shrimp. Oh, and they even have chicken!
Of course, there are sides that you can get as well, like vegetables to go with your meat or soup.
One thing you definitely have to try is the wagyu beef nigiri sushi. It is a delicately sliced piece of wagyu beef that you sear and lay on top of vinegared sushi rice.
Then, top it off with the thinly sliced piece of white leek, a little ginger, sprinkle it with toasted sesame seeds and then dip it in a little bit of soy sauce. Perfection!
The flavors are a perfect marriage and just melt in your mouth the way butter does on a warm plate.
The restaurant itself feels like you are sitting in the dining room of an upscale Japanese home with upholstered chairs and polished cherry wood tables.
It is tatami mat seating, so the chairs don’t have legs and sit on the floor, but don’t worry because the floor under the table is sunken in so there is a place for your legs.
A sizzling yakiniku meal is often considered a treat for locals who often associate it with special occasions. If you add blue crab to the meal, even better.
The blue crab is the star of this place. It’s so delicious and delicate that you don’t need any seasoning except for maybe some drawn butter.
It has a sweet and salty flavor and when you cook it over the grill, it takes on a more nutty flavor.
Try the stuffed crab shell with rice, uni, and salmon roe. It’s so luscious that you will think you are eating something that is reserved for those with a much bigger bank account!
Now, let’s talk about appearance. You might be tempted to take one look at this place and say no way. It’s small, like, really small.
From the outside, it looks like a shack and on the inside, it doesn’t even look like a restaurant.
It looks like someone grabbed a couple of buckets, turned them upside down to create a seat at a makeshift table! But don’t let that deter you!
A lot of these hole-in-the-wall places are the ones that serve the absolute best food and that is definitely the case for this place.
They don’t have grills at the table like a traditional yakiniku place. Instead, there is one grill off to the side that you grill everything on or the chef will grill it for you.
Do you want a unique experience? You will most definitely get it here, that’s for sure!
You will have to make a reservation because there is never availability to just walk in.
And of course, make sure you have yen because they don’t do credit cards.
When it comes to eating, Japanese people feel that you don’t just eat with your taste buds, you eat with your senses – sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.
Everything plays a part in how well your meal will turn out.
Now don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy your meal if it isn’t presented to you like a king at his coronation.
But here at Yuugentei, they take everything into account and want you to have a sense of luxury about your food as well as the place you are dining in.
This place sets you up for a great experience the minute you walk in the door. It is a very ‘old school Japanese’ that meets modern Japan.
There is ample room in the main dining area, but there are several private rooms for two people or rooms for large groups.
A typical course will begin with 3 types of appetizers, a cold platter, an assortment of kimchi, and a Jorikuan salad (a type of cucumber salad).
Then, of course, your choice of high-quality meat.
To finish your meal off, the chef suggests ordering the cold buckwheat noodles as a refreshing complement to cleanse the palate.
What sets this yakiniku place apart from the rest is the pork. A lot of other places will serve pork, but it’s not the star of the show.
Here a Teji, they serve pork from three different types of pig – Hoju, Magalica, and Iberian. Each one has a very distinct flavor and is really delicate in saltiness.
Want to try something you might not have tried before? If you are feeling adventurous, try their horse sashimi. They say that it is really tender and has a slightly sweet taste.
The atmosphere is really casual, and the deco has a slightly modern feel to it.
There is plenty of seating and plenty of elbow room, which is important when cooking over an open flame!
¥2,000 -¥8,000 /dinner
Established in 1952, this yakiniku restaurant has a Showa retro feel to it (Japan’s golden age).
Most yakiniku places serve beef tongue. This place gives you an option on the type of thickness you would like.
I would recommend going for the much thinner slices because you can get a really good char on them with a perfect crispness, as opposed to the thicker one which can be a little tougher and chewy.
I would also recommend the wagyu beef ribs. They are a little more expensive but worth it.
Also, try the thick-sliced tan salt wagyu fillet that the chef recommends. It is really tender and juicy.
Then sit back and take in all the glorious smells surrounding you while enjoying your company in this really comfortable atmosphere.
This place seems a little more like an Izakaya steakhouse.
Yes, they have yakiniku that your grill yourself, but they also have side dishes like a caprese salad, olive salad, fried chicken, and french fries.
Kind of a mixture of everything.
It’s a dimly lit restaurant that is perfect for date night. Very casual and cozy. They serve a variety of alcohol too, from Belgium beer, a variety of wines, and even sparkling sake.
But what’s unique about this place is that they serve carpaccio, which is thinly sliced raw beef that is meant to be eaten raw and dipped in sauce.
This can be a little unfamiliar territory for foreigners, but if you daring enough to try it, you won’t be disappointed.
Ok, three things about this place that makes it a place that you must try.
- You can grill your own yakitori
- They have fried cheese rolls
- They have a whole meat sashimi set that includes chicken and pork!
Ok, that last one might make you say “no thanks,” but trust me, this place has such a variety of things to choose from, you won’t walk away disappointed.
The whole place, outside and in, has a kind of sports bar feel to it. It’s a very casual, non-judgemental kind of place where you can just go, enjoy your food and laugh and talk and have a great time.
Explore More Yakiniku in Shinjuku
Nikuya no Daidokoro: One of the things that I like about this place is that each table has its own exhaust fan so you are not surrounded by the smoke from the grill. They have different courses to choose from, or you can order a-la-carte. There is a full-service bar as well.
Kyouwaen: If you want a no-frills restaurant that serves quality meat and is budget-friendly, then this is the place to go to. The restaurant itself is very plain, not much to look at, but the tables are big and there is plenty of room. You get a lot of meat for the price and you will leave feeling satisfied.
Yakiniku Masuo: Sometimes having too much variety can overwhelm the senses and make you feel like maybe there was something better that you didn’t get to try. At Masuo, their menu is simple, just quality cuts of beef, with a few side dishes. A simple menu, but big flavor. Perfect for when you just want to get in, eat, and then go about your day.
Yakiniku Itami: Beef, chicken, pork, and horse! This place is all about quality. Each cut of meat is tender and full of flavor. The beef is perfectly marbled and the harami (horse) is lean and delicate. Get a side of kimchi, cucumber salad, and/or rice. Order a beer and your dinner is complete!