Paul's Travel Pics

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Day 2 - Matsuzaka Steak and Yakitori

Day Two (Mon):Shinjuku - Sanrio Puroland (Tama Centre) - Kichijoji - Mitaka no Mori Ghibli Museum - Kichijoji - Shinjuku
Breakfast:Salmon and Mentaiko Onigiri
Purchased at some convenience store in the subway
Lunch:A5 rank Matsuzaka steak at a butcher shop/steak house
Steak House Satou, Kichijoji
Dinner:Yakitori and Shumai at an 80-year-old izakaya
Iseya Honten, Kichijoji


Tama Centre

Our first breakfast in Tokyo followed the tradition of typical Tokyoites -- convenience store Onigiri (rice balls) eaten at a train station. Both the salmon and the mentaiko was quite good at 147 yen each.

This was a day for touring our own childhood. At 8:30AM We took the Keio train to Tama Centre to see the Sanrio Puroland (home of the Hello Kitty, at my wife's request). The tickets (or rather, vouchers for the tickets) were purchased the previous night at a ticket vendor for 2500 yen each, quite a deal compared with 4400 yen at the gate.

The morning commute in the Shinjuku underground was much better than I expected (really nothing compared with the chaotic Admiralty station in Hong Kong). We got to Tama Centre almost AN HOUR early and went for some light shopping.

I'm not going to describe Hello Kitty's home in much detail since there are tons of travel journals doing just that. It's not a huge place, but I can appreciate the attractiveness to Hello Kitty fans. The selection of the licensed merchandises is probably one of the largest in the world. My wife would certainly agree that the three hours of entertainment was more than worth the 2500 yen ticket for her. And for me, the entertainment was watching her eyes light up. Although, the full price of 4400 yen would have been too stiff.

The next stop would complete another THING TO DO BEFORE I DIE. The famed Matsuzaka Beef.


Gourmet Spot #2: A5 Rank Matsuzaka Beef Teppanyaki - Steak House Satou, Kichijoji

Ever heard of Kobe beef? Kobe, Matsuzaka and Oumi are considered to be the three most prestigious cattle-producing regions in Japan. Not that other regions can't produce top quality cattles, but traditionally these three were the more well-known and commanded the top prices.

I can go on and on about Kuroge Wagyu (black-haired Japanese cattle), but the important part is: Japanese beef are typically ranked according to their marbling content and distribution using two systems. At fine steak or shabu shabu restaurants, you would typically find the prestigious A5 ranked Kuroge Wagyu. And A5 Kuroge Wagyu produced in Matsuzaka would usually command very high prices (think 15000+ yen meals). But hey, I said this is a once in a lifetime trip remember?



With some research we ended up getting our top quality Matsuzaka steak at a fraction of the price. There is a place in Kichijoji where the ground floor is a store selling fine meats, including certified Matsuzaka beef. It's difficult to miss it since the lineup for their deep fried minced beef patty (150 yen) is half a block long. And the 2nd floor is a small, slightly cramped restaurant serving the meat sold downstairs. Welcome to Steak House Satou.

DIRECTIONS:

Multiple readers have asked for better directions to this popular restaurant. I hope this is better...

Kichijoji is in the western part of Tokyo. The easiest way is to go to Shinjuku's JR station, and take the "Chuo Line" westbound (towards Takao). It's about 8 stations (if you happen to get on a "Local" train -- less stations if you get on a "Kaisoku" (fast train)), you should get there in about 15 minutes.

Once you get to Kichijoji Station, exit the station from the North Exit. Then follow the map in the following link:
http://gourmet.yahoo.co.jp/0006713464/P001410/coupon/

The crosshair in the map is the location. It's less than 5 minutes walking distance. Not everyone knows about the steak house upstairs, but everyone in Kichijoji knows about the meat shop downstairs. Grab a younger guy and ask about "Satou Nikuya" (Satou meat shop) if you can't find it. If you see a big lineup in front of a meat shop, that's the place.

When you get there, there's a narrow, steep staircase on the right side of the store. That's the entrance to the Steak House. Chances are you'll line up for 30 minutes or more. Good luck!


We arrived way past the typical lunch hour and still ended up in the lineup slowly advancing up the steep stairwell for 30 minutes. It was well spent as we were seated at the counter right in front of the chef. The menu choices were:
Matsuzaka Beef Oil Yaki870 yen
Wagyu steak2500 yen
A bigger Wagyu steak3500 yen
Chef Omakase Set 5000 yen

Remembering the purpose of our trip, we had to order the most expensive set. 180 grams of Chef's select Matsuzaka steak, served with a choice of red, white or Japanese wine. We also ordered the Oil Yaki set, just to see how the cheaper Matsuzaka cuts compares to the steak.



Here comes the Matsuzaka Beef Oil Yaki. Pretty good portion for a measly price. It turned out to be very thin slices of probably bits and pieces of the Matsuzaka cattle. And now the taste...

... was incredible! The slices contained such a balance of meat and fat that the softness and oiliness filled every bite. After a couple bites came the steak we were waiting for.



We actually watched the chef taking this steak (actually two steaks) out of the huge fridge and cut it into cubes as the beef sizzled on the Teppan. I ordered medium rare and waited as the smoky smell of oil and red meat filled the room. I don't know how I managed the patience to finish the salad before taking my first bite of the steak cubes.

Sugoi! So much oil and juice flowed down the tongue even before the bite. And upon the bite, the cube practically disintegrated. Like the cube was composed of many bits and slices of meat and was gently held together by the marbling fat. I can't describe it but it was certainly one of the best meals of my life.



Incredible juiciness and texture. Coupled with the dipping sauce it was heaven.

One last note that the glass of wine, the silky smooth Koshi no Kambai, was quite an excellent match for the texture of the Wagyu. Everything was top quality.

Bill for two persons:
Matsuzaka Beef Oil Yaki870 yen
Chef Omakase Matsuzaka Steak Set5000 yen
(apply tax)
Total6164 yen


Mitaka no Mori Ghibli Museum

What can I say, it's a museum of all things Miyazaki Hayao, complete with a reconstruction of his working studio and a rather complete (and fun) explanation of the animation production process. And for the real Miyazaki fans, a whole library of his complete scene-by-scene sketches from Totoro to Howl's Moving Castle and more. Too bad photos aren't allowed.

There was also a limited time display of Alps no Shojo Heidi, and the short film on display on that day was Kujiratori, a story of elementary school kids' imaginary whale hunt.

How come adults aren't allowed to enter the Neko Bus plush toy?



Gourmet Spot #3: Cheap 80-year-old Yakitori Joint - Iseya Honten, Kichijoji

I've heard about this place a lot over the web, a neighborhood drinking place serving 80 yen (yes, that's correct) yakitori skewers in Kichijoji for generations. That's as Japanese as it gets, I thought, and had to go visit.

And it was worth the trip, as long as cleanliness and seating comfort was no object. Naturally my wife enjoyed the place less than I did, but it was quite a cultural experience. We shared a small wobbly folding table with a young couple, who finished a large bottle of beer and a pile of yakitoris and other dishes and were gone within twenty minutes.



There's a paper menu, but for the large salarymen crowd the menu was right overhead. Notice the smokey fume inside this place. You could smell the yakitori from a block away.



An order of Kushi Mix and 2 draft beers to sample the place. 320 yen for 4 sticks. I think that was one yakitori, one liver, one heart, and one skin. It was worth the 80 yen but not spetacular, especially since I'm not a big fan of medium rare liver. We later ordered a Nankotsu (soft bone), a Tsukune (minced chicken ball), and Gyuutan (beef tongue), and the Tsukune and tongue made up for the lost points.



We ordered Shuumai after the young couples. This was easily the best dish. Juicy and very soft in texture, it went very well with the green onion slices. I suddenly realized that a comparison of the Cantonese and Japanese Shuumai sums up the differences between the two cuisines quite nicely.



Neighborhood drama time! At this point an older man was standing over a client sitting nearest to the entrance at the counter. A cook (the standing guy in the white coat) came to the older man and a struggle ensued. The cook basically pushed the guy right out of the store amidst a series of yells. Was the older man pestering the client for some free yakitori? All I saw was that the client commended the cook after that man left. That in itself had that made the visit worthwhile.

Bill for two persons:
Nama Biiru x 2900 yen
Kushi Mix320 yen
Nankotsu, Tsukune, Gyuutan240 yen
Shuumai330 yen
(apply tax)
Total1880 yen

39 comments:

Eduardo R said...

Hi Paul, thanks for the pics and reports of places you ate while in Tokyo. My wife and I are to visit Tokyo in December. We are looking forward to eating at Steak House Satou, but neither of us speak or read Japanese. I see where it is in Kichijoji, which I presume is in the north part of Tokyo, but can you give some details on how we might find it, given our situation? We'll likely be using public transportation - trains and subways, if that is of any help.

Paul said...

Hi Eduardo R.:

Kichijoji is in the western part of Tokyo. The easiest way is to go to Shinjuku's JR station, and take the "Chuo Line" westbound (towards Takao). It's about 8 stations (if you happen to get on a "Local" train -- less stations if you get on a "Kaisoku" (fast train)), you should get there in about 15 minutes.

Once you get to Kichijoji Station, exit the station from the North Exit. Then follow the map in the following link:
http://gourmet.yahoo.co.jp/0006713464/P001410/coupon/

The crosshair in the map is the location. It's less than 5 minutes walking distance. Not everyone knows about the steak house upstairs, but everyone in Kichijoji knows about the meat shop downstairs. Grab a younger guy and ask about "Satou Nikuya" (Satou meat shop) if you can't find it. If you see a big lineup in front of a meat shop, that's the place.

When you get there, there's a narrow, steep staircase on the right side of the store. That's the entrance to the Steak House. Chances are you'll line up for 30 minutes or more. Good luck!

Paul

Eduardo R said...

Awesome. Thanks Paul!

Amy said...

Hi Paul, I'm going to visit Tokyo in end of Nov and would like to try the Matsuzaka steak. The link you have provided is not showing the map of the location. Can you resend again or give a clearer direction that we can walk from the station.
Thanks, Amy.

Paul said...

Hi Amy, thanks for your suggestion. I've added directions to the restaurant which, I hope, is a little clearer.

Simon said...

Hi Paul,

I am going to tokyo in May and would like to try the Yakitori but not sure if I will know I am ordering because it looks like the menu are in japanese. Any Tips or suggestions ?

Paul said...

Simon,

I think one easy way is to simply write down a list of the food you should be able to find in any Yakitori place, and show it to the server. For example:

- yakitori
- tebasaki (wings)
- tsukune (chicken meatball ... my favorite)
- torikawa (chicken skin)
- reba (liver)
- sunagimo (gizzard)
- gyutan (ox tongue)
- Nama Biiru (draft beer)

These are stuff you should be able to find in any yakitori place. Many also serve:

- shumai (thin-skinned dumplings)
- Yaki-Gyoza (pan fried) or Age-Gyoza (deep fried)

Sharon said...

Hi Paul, thanks for the wonderful catalogue of information! My husband and I are hoping to visit Satou in May 2008. As we have a tight schedule in Tokyo, do you know the days/times that Satou will be open for lunch/dinner and any suggestions on times to go? It's hard for us to find much information on that, even though we should be able to at least locate it now! Thanks!

Paul said...

Hi Sharon,

Satou Steakhouse doesn't have an official website, but according to Yahoo Japan, they're open 7 days a week from 11:00-21:00. Though I wouldn't recommend going between 14:00-18:00, when a lot of restaurants close for the afternoon.

Good luck!

alan/bystander said...

Based on your recommendation, I went to Satou for lunch today and it was terrific! Had the omakase for Y5200 and it was worth every yen. I savored every juicy bite and got in as much rice (free refills) as possible. Also had the fried beef balls they were selling outside the restaurant - they have to be tasted to be believed!

I had no difficulty finding the restaurant. Once you leave the main exit of the train station head for the covered shopping arcade/s ahead to the left. There are two entrances to the arcade which fork oout - take the one on the left. It's the one which doesn't have the McDonald's at the front. Satou is on the first junction on the left side. ENJOY!

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

do u know whether Satou Steakhouse sells others types of meat besides beef? :)

Paul said...

Alan: Glad you enjoyed it ... I just came back from having one great steak in Kobe (out of the two we ordered). But I think Satou has the best price-to-quality ratio IMHO.

Anonymous: I don't recall there being any non-beef set-dinners at Satou Steakhouse -- Matsuzaka beef is what they're famous for.

TheMoment said...

Hi Paul,

Can you give some basic directions on how to get to Iseya Honten?
Thanks =)

Paul said...

Iseya Honten has been torn down, reconstructed into a multi-storey building, and re-opened. But I'm afraid it's been cleaned up and you may not find the same old-time atmosphere anymore.
They've got a new website: http://www.iseya-kichijoji.jp/
And you can see its map there. Take a JR Chuo Line train to Kichijoji, exit the station on the South side and walk west for one large block, then turn left. Use the photos on the official website as a reference, or ask a younger person "Yakitori no Iseya wa Doko Ni?"

TheMoment said...

How unlucky!
It seems like shops in Tokyo change really fast.

Has any other places that you included in your 8-day-tour changed/closed down?
I was thinking of covering most of the places you recommended.

Paul said...

Yes Iseya's renovation is unfortunate, but at least it didn't close down completely. Also, the Ramen Stadium is in its last campaign, and will close at the end of August. But I'll give you my opinion of the best 3, which are all in business and are actually doing exceptionally well:
- Sushi Dai in Tsukiji Market
- Satou Steakhouse in Kichijoji
- Izuei in Ueno

Ed said...

I went to Steak House Satou today for dinner. Fantastic steak! I ordered the bigger portion of the wagyu set which was about $120 but well worth it. The tender meat with veins of fat running through it was tender enough to chew pretty much by just moving it around with my tongue.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pual,
This is Cliff Soh. Just want to leave a note here to thank you for the tip. I visited the Steak House and ordered 1 set of steak for myself, wife and 7 years old son(his is the cheap and ordinary steak). I gave him a few cubes of mine and immedaitely he noticed the different; soft, tender, juicy.His set cost 1260yen, my set of 180g of steak cost 3675 yen (the portion look similar but the quality is a great different). My Family Q-up along the narrow stairway for 30minutes (it was 11;30am then), but it is worth it. When we returned from Japan, my son could only remembered 3 things;Universal Studio and The Aquariums in Osaka. And the staek that we ate at Satou Steak House.

Paul said...

Hi Cliff, thanks for your report of the latest info. I'm so glad all of you liked the steak too ... I hope the memory will last for a long time for you as it surely will for me.

Paul

Coco said...

Hey Paul,

May I know where you got such cheap Sanrio tickets? I'm going to Japan in Dec.

Paul said...

Hi Coco,

I bought our Sanrio Puroland tickets at one of the many "Ticket Shops" outside of the West Exit of JR Shinjuku station. You'll also find these little shops practically everywhere in Tokyo, mostly around major train stations.

If you want to find the same shops we visited, print out the front page of the website below, then go outside Shinjuku Station's West Exit and ask a younger person.

http://www.e-daikoku.com/

Good luck,

Paul

Lynton said...

Hi Paul, I just went to Satou steak house in Kichijoji. I am sorry to say that the steak you had could not have been Matsuzuka, I asked the chef and the cheapest Matsuzuka steak is 8400yen. It was like you said of the ordianry steak, AMAZING! the best ever. Thank for the tip. Next time your in Tokyo you should try the real deal. Thanks again... Lynton.

Paul said...

Hi Lynton, thanks for dropping by!

I'm very sure it was genuine Matsuzaka beef we had -- it was a limited quantity lunch special called "Chef Omakase Matsuzaka Steak Teishoku".

Don't trust the Chef who tells you his cheapest Matsuzaka is 8400 yen -- that's true only for dinner. The truth is, during lunchtime, they often serve the 5000 yen set, as well as a EVEN CHEAPER 2100 yen "Matsuzaka Saikuro Steak Teishoku". It was 2005 when I last visited, so I don't know what they charge now, but definitely not something like 8400 yen. I repeat ... you can have a Matsuzaka steak for as cheap as 2100 YEN, but only for lunch.

Give it a try!

Paul

tamago said...

Dear Paul, I use your reports on Steak House Satou at Kichijoji. Last December we visited Japan, and I managed to take my family to try Steak House Satou. And, .. it was GREAT!!! You mentioned the direction very detail, I found it right away. Thanks a lot.
And for my next visit to Japan, I consider to visit Kobe. As usual, your travel report help me to arrange my holiday.
Again, thanks a lot.

Paul said...

Hi Tamago,

I'm glad that you enjoyed Steak House Satou as much as we did. Definitely try to visit Kobe next time, if only for the steaks. Wasn't as cheap as Satou, but well worth the trip.

Paul

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the info on your blog. We just came back from Tokyo. We tried a few places that you've mentioned. One of it is the Steak House Satou. It's really amazing. It's the best steak that we've ever had. We ordered the 5250yen set and 8400yen set (which was recommended by the manager/ owner? there). Both were yummy but we could taste the difference in the meat. What i don't understand is - is Kuroge wagyu beef only from Matsuzaka? This is because we had Kuroge wagyu beef in Hakone Kowakien hotel but it wasn't mentioned where it's from and one of the sets we ordered from Satou was Kuroge beef too. It was great but Satou's 8400yen set was the best and cheaper.

Meatballs were good too and found it funny that the queue was really really long after we had lunch compared to before.

W

Paul said...

W:

Kuroge Wagyu is just the general term for any cattle of the Japanese Black Hair breed, which probably includes the majority of all domestically grown beef in Japan. Matsuzaka is one of the highly-prized beef producing regions, but there are many others that produce excellent quality beef but are simply not as well-known. And if it's less well-known, restaurants just call them "Kuroge Wagyu" instead of ... let's say "Chiba Beef".

Paul

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Mark said...

Dear Paul,

I am intrigued by your planning and amazed that you managed to find so many good spots. anyways, wad i wanted to ask u is abt Sapuroland tickets, when u mentioned you had to go to Shinjuku the vendors. do u mean they are an external party, thing is im going with my family, and i will need to purchase 4 tix. and at 4000yen per pax, it aint healthy on me pockets. if you could kindly provide me a little bit more information on that, it would be greatly appreciated. also if you know any great deals such as this for Disneyland or DisneySea for that matter. Thanks Heaps.

Paul said...

Mark,

The vendors are external parties that purchase large amounts of tickets at a lower cost, then resell to individual buyers. You can buy tickets for Sanrio Puroland (huge discount), Disneyland / DisneySea (minor discount), train tickets, department store gift certs, etc etc. I sometimes get my long distance train tickets from them.

It's difficult to describe where they are in Shinjuku -- there are a large number of them scattered around the area. If you take the West Exit of the JR Shinjuku station, and turn right (towards north) when you get to the street, you'll see the Odakyu Department Store, and then Uniqlo in front. There should be a few of these ticket shops just beyond Uniqlo.

Hope that helps!

Paul

pmp said...

Based on your advice, I went to check out the Satou Nikuya. I did like you said, I just asked some young blokes the way. For those who don't know how to speak Japanese, just say, "Sumimasen, Satou Nikuya wa dochira desu ka?" The young blokes were so impressed that a foreigner even knew about the place, they walked me all the way to it. I should update folks that the matsuzaka set is about 8000+ yen these days. By the way, Kichijoji is a good place for shopping for girly things (clothes, handbags, etc) after your meal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Have you been to Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe? Any nice restaurants that you can recommend in those places like the Steak House Satou or sushi places?

W

Paul said...

W:

I do have some recommendations for Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. My trip to Western and Central Japan is documented in the link below:

http://paulstravelpics.blogspot.com/2008/03/japan-15-day-slow-trip-thru-west.html

We have very fond memories of the little unagi-ya we visited in Osaka, and a couple of really great places in Kyoto. See if they are what you're looking for.

Paul

tanya said...

I'm late to the party, but does the shumai contain shrimp? Actually, does anything on the menu contain any shellfish? I am deathly allergic and cannot eat where they serve any shellfish because of cross=contamination risk. but if the menu is shellfish-free then I am so there!

Paul said...

Tanya,

The Shumai tasted of pork only to me, but you can never be sure if you're very sensitive to shellfish. I think shellfish allergies is quite a novel concept in most Asian countries, so if you need to stay absolutely clear, you may want to stay away from things like noodles and broth (you never know what's in the soup base), tempura (everything cross-contaminated in the frying oil) etc. Grilled meat, steaks, etc are probably safer bets.

Paul

Eileen said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your wonderful suggestions! I am going to Ghibli Museum with my family in Dec. But we already bought the 10am tickets! Now, after reading your blog, I am wondering if I can still go for lunch at Satou? How long do you need to take at Ghibli given that I have 2 young children?

Also, I want to know how to get to Iseya Honten for dinner and if it is suitable for young children?

Paul said...

Eileen,

From what I remember, Steak House Satou seems to keep their doors open all day until closing shop at 20:00 or so. So if you can make it there after perhaps three hours at Ghibli it probably works great as a late lunch.

Iseya has torn down their old shop and has been rebuilt (with residential apartments above to maximize profits), so it has been cleaned up quite a bit and is probably even manageable for taking kids. Prices remain just as cheap though -- see link below:

http://www.iseya-kichijoji.jp/

Paul

Michii said...

Hi Paul,

Thank you so much for such an enjoyable read! I just recently found your travel blog and I just have to say that I TOTALLY AGREE that adults should be allowed in the Neko Bus plush :P We compensated when we went two years ago by buying the smaller ones.

Thanks!
Michii

Anonymous said...

We tried this place in May.2013. The Chief special has increased price to 10k yen - despite the favorable FX theses days, it´s a super high price. The beef was very tasty, but a bit too fat for ppl who usually eat meat only once per week. So I recommend not go to the restaurant but buy from downstairs with the locals.