Review of Ikinari Steak Shibuya
After the best part of two weeks eating thin slices of high end Japanese beef I wanted to get my teeth into a proper piece of meat. My friends in Tokyo recommended that I check out Ikinari.
Ikinari is a Japanese steakhouse chain with over 200 restaurants spread throughout Japan (with one restaurant in New York). They’re so confident in their concept of thick cut Wagyu steak, cheap prices and a casual setting that they’ve nicknamed this concept “J-Steak”.
I visited their restaurant in the Shibuya district, a cosmopolitan area of Tokyo famous for the Shibuya crossing, a pedestrian crossing where thousands of people cross at once. Getting a table, late on a Wednesday night was tough, I had to queue for about 30 minutes before being let loose inside.
Even after two weeks in Japan, I was still surprised at the different ways of ordering food. At Ikinari you are given some large, flashy and vague menus. I was after Japanese beef and chose the generically named ‘Domestic Sirloin’ (as opposed to the USDA beef the menu is full of). You order sides and drinks at your table but go up to the butcher counter to order your steak.
The pricing is simple. If you want 200g of meat you pay ¥2200 ( £15/$20) if you want 300g you pay ¥3300 (£22.50/$30) up to whatever you like.
I went to the butcher counter only to watch the butcher squabble with a waitress about something for a good few minutes (this is highly unusual in Japan). I was eventually served and I pointed to a picture in my menu and asked for 400gm of domestic sirloin cooked rare and priced at ¥4400 (£30/$40). The butcher grabbed a slab of sirloin from the fridge and showed it to me. I nodded approval and he sent me back to my table where I ordered sides and drinks.
Like the ordering, the seating arrangement is pretty odd. You have the communal table and a set of four seater tables that are split in half. This meant we ended up sitting in the middle of a family of six and directly opposite two teenage girls, who whispered and giggled.
I found a paper apron on my table and put it on. It advertised the avengers. The giggles continued. I looked away with a thousand mile stare, my nostrils caught the smell of the steak and I breathed deep, getting high on the scent. I was transfixed as a sizzling steak, on a white plate, hovered above the noisy din of the restaurant and to my table.
The steak was large, covered in garlic mustard and onions. It was a simple pleasure just to carve into a fat piece of meat (the other steak I had in Japan was cut into thin slices or cubes). I bite into it. It had more of a chew than the Kobe, Hida or Matsusaka beef. However, it was juicy and really tender for Sirloin. Like all the other steak I had in Japan there was a rich, fatty succulence rather than a beefiness, however this steak was still as good as most of the steak you’ll find in Europe.
My sides of salad and rice were, like the service and setting, odd. The salad was dry, tasteless and dire while the garlic rice was mostly minced beef and delicious (a must try if you hit Ikinari).
The verdict on Ikinari J-Steak
While I have reservations about the overall concept and service (the concept is a little confusing and the service is pretty much non-existent), the steak at Ikinari is both delicious and competitively priced. It’s a fantastic option for a casual steak or the steak tourist who has blown a hole in his budget eating far too much high end Kobe, Hida and Matsusaka beef.