CK and I were excited about eating yakitori at a gritty bar in Piss Alley aka Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho in Japanese). But when we got there...we wimped out.
As we walked through the narrow street and peered into each salaryman-filled bar/restaurant, we trembled at the prospect of struggling through Japanese menus, bumbling through ordering in Japanese, and inconveniencing both the staff and other patrons. The only place that looked like it had an English menu (and actually had a non-Japanese person dining inside), looked on the touristy side and was more restaurant than bar, which wasn't what we were looking for.
In the end, we slipped out of Omoide Yokocho with our tails between our legs and came up with Plan B, Nihon Saisei Sakaba:
Nihon Saisei Sakaba is a tachinomi or standing room only bar. By the time we finally found the place, it was packed full with people. We somehow managed to snag a spot for two at a counter on the side of the bar where we could see the grill where all the action was at without being overwhelmed with smoke in our faces:
CK and I don't really drink (like at all), so we ordered a coke and a yuzu drink (300 yen or $3 each):
We weren't there for the alcohol. Nope. Instead, we were there for the offal, which Nihon Saisei Sakaba is known for. You can get anything from diaphragm to tracheal valve, from birth canal to testicle. The Japanese menu was beyond intimidating, but luckily there was an English version.
When we tried to order, we found out that quite a few things we were curious to try, such as spinal cord and womb, had run out. DEVASTATION.
We quickly rallied and picked substitutes. We ended up getting "higher quality" tongue or jo tan and neck meat or P toro (both 300 yen or $3 per skewer):
We also got dekitate (loin) bacon, also 300 yen per skewer:
And marucho or beef small intestine (300 yen per skewer):
And finally, rectum or teppo (150 or $1.50 per skewer):
Of all the skewers, my favorite was the neck meat, which was basically fat. Yum. The tongue and intestine were also freakin' amazing. Rectum just tasted crackly, while the bacon was my least favorite. Just too...meaty? As you can probably tell by now, I will choose fat over muscle any day, every day. The mustard dipping sauce that came with the skewers helped cut through the oiliness. Kind of.
Nihon Saisei Sakaba seems like a fun place to hang out. At least everyone else standing directly by the grill seemed like they were having a grand, raucous time. CK and I, on the other hand, found ourselves awkwardly cornered by an tipsy older Japanese gentleman with sparkly nail polish who insisted on talking to us in stilted English about American politics and the downfall of Japanese society. It wasn't pleasant to say the least.
The food was good though.
If I ever have the chance to go back to Nihon Saisei Sakaba, I would ask for the osusume or restaurant recommendations instead of trying to figure it out on my own. It's much less stress, deliciousness is just about guaranteed, and you can try things that you might not otherwise have ordered because you didn't understand the (lack of ) menu descriptions. For those of you concerned about the final bill, trust me, ordering on your own isn't much cheaper. All those skewers add up.
My ultimate goal is to work my way up to standing right at the grill. And maybe one day, I'll actually be able to walk confidently into a bar filled with salarymen in Piss Alley.
One can dream, right?