Yoshihashi Sukiyaki

By June 05, 2015 , , , ,

When I think of Michelin Star restaurants, the words that come to mind are expensive, pretentious, and portions too small to ever fill me up. As a person who loves food, and sees it as a form of relaxation and enjoyment, these are three things I definitely don't like. Surprisingly, Yoshihashi (よしはし) was none of these. 

Tucked away in a small street in the outskirts of downtown Tokyo, it's more a local destination and one you need google maps to find. Touted by food bloggers as a must go spot, this humble little place is frequented by high-ranking government officials, diplomats, and savvy businessmen who chose it for the service, the attention to detail, and because they know they are guaranteed privacy and discretion.

We arrived for lunch around 30 minutes before the restaurant opened. Very quickly, other Yoshihashi-goers joined us in line, mostly tourists who, like us, had also heard about this place online. The locals, as we found out, didn't bother waiting in line and simply showed up when it opened. #travelkeeners. Despite the hype in the food scene, this place remains largely under the radar, preserving some authenticity. During our wait in line, the 'tourists' chatted about adventures we had had in Japan so far, and traded travel tips. 

Once the restaurant opened, a woman greeted us in a delicate pink kimono and invited us in to the bamboo lined walls, sprinkled with dots of flowers. The decor and place follows the traditional Japanese style of housing, with a garden in the middle of the restaurant. 

We were handed a sheet of paper which asked us whether we were comfortable with their no English policy, before being asked to remove our shoes and enter their tatami room, where we shared a large table with the other tourists we had met in line. The waitress gave us a menu, which was fully in Japanese, so we ordered the only thing we knew they served - and what we came for -, sukiyaki. 

A small plate of pickled vegetables and a piping hot cup of barley tea quickly arrived, and a steaming copper pot of sukiyaki followed - filled to the brim with chunks of grilled tofu, shiitake mushrooms, crysanthemum flower leaves, shiratake noodles, and the most decadent beef you will have ever tasted. They provide a raw egg for dipping, which heightens the richness of the already indulgent melt-in your mouth beef. I took my first bite and was completely hooked.

Their lunch set (2160 yen), which is what we went for, runs much lower than their dinner set (20000 yen). Dress code is casual formal and the meal is conducted relatively silently, with the waiter leaving you to own devices once your food is served. They have many options other than sukiyaki, although it seems to be the one everyone comes for. One which is grilled beef, which is what our table neighbor ordered, and all the dishes come in two sizes, regular and large.

The restaurant is located a 20 minute walk away from Akasaka Mitsuke station, and it's in the building with the sign L'oasis, which is the name of the bar attached to the restaurant. If you are brave enough to wander to streets of local Tokyo, this place is worth getting lost for.


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