What’s better than the sound of sizzling meat grilled on charcoal and the fizz of bubbles in your cola? Have you ever tried Japanese grilled meat before? As you place a piece of meat onto the sizzling pan, the smell of meat hits your senses only to confirm that you’re actually starving. A Japanese party meal, yakiniku, is loved by people of all ages.
The Origin of Yakiniku
Yakiniku, literally translated as ‘grilled meat,’ is initially referred to as the barbequed food of the westerns. In Kanagaki Robun’s “Western Food Handbook,” he mentioned the term yakiniku, which was then adopted and popularized. Later, the term was associated with Korean barbeque due to the assimilation of Koreans to Japan during the Korean War. Some of the very first yakiniku restaurants are believed to have originated from Osaka and Tokyo from the Korean restaurants around that area. Today, the difference between Korean barbeque and Japanese barbeque is said to be how the meat is served. For Korean barbeque, the meat is often grilled by staff at the diners’ table.
In contrast, for Japanese barbeque (yakiniku), diners cook the meat by themselves. Furthermore, when Korean barbeque is mentioned, it is often associated with a specific type of meat, samgyeopsal, or thick pork belly. On the other hand, yakiniku is thought to mostly be thinly sliced meat for easy grilling.
What Is Exactly Yakiniku?
With more than a hundred years of history, yakiniku is a fulfilling meal when you are craving plentiful meat. The meal consists of sliced meat and vegetables grilled over charcoal for a unique aroma. You might have heard of wagyu-beef, a type of high-end meat popular in Japan.
It is commonly preferred for yakiniku because of the tender texture of the meat. Famous for how the marbles of the meat intertwine and how the fats melt in your mouth. This is a dish that tickles the palates of your tongue in an amazing way. Aside from beef, pork and chicken are also popular for yakiniku. Dishes like pork belly, bacon, and sausage are liked by all diners. One particular dish that many Japanese are fond of is called the horumon, which are internal organs of cow, pig, or chicken. It can consist of liver, kidney, small intestine, lungs, or heart. While this may sound alarming, you might actually ask for more servings once you taste it!
Before the meat served to diners, they are marinated in a special sauce which most restaurants specifically make on their own. However, for the most part, the basic ingredients rarely differ, consisting of soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic to enhance the flavors of the meat. Restaurants add their own unique elements to stand out from other restaurants and establish their signature taste. They also usually serve meat that is not marinated, allowing diners to taste the authentic flavor of the meat. The non-marinated meat is often eaten with dipping sauce.
Dipping sauce differs from restaurant to restaurant. Some offer soy sauce, yuzu, lemon juice, spicy sauce, a mixture of specially made sauce, and other sauces. Restaurants also offer condiments such as grind garlic, chopped green onions, and sesame seeds. Yakiniku is also eaten with side dishes such as kimchi and pickled vegetables to decrease the greasiness of the meal.
Now that you are more familiar with yakiniku, let us introduce you to some of our favorite buffet yakiniku restaurants that are cheap and delicious!
The first yakiniku restaurant that we would like to introduce to you is called the Stamina Taro. Stamina Taro has various branches across Japan, with one famous branch among foreigners at Ueno. At Stamina Taro, you can enjoy multiple types of meat like beef, pork, chicken, and even hamburg, sausage, and squid. Aside from the grilled meat that you can enjoy, there are sushi, curry, ramen, various fried dishes, and other 130 and more menus for you to try.
Stamina Taro is recommended for families because of its interactive food experience. Aside from grilling meat at your own table, you can make your own ramen and udon bowl or customize your own curry rice. After the meal, you can even make your own cotton candy and crepe for desserts!
Considering its unique offerings, you might think that the meal comes with a high price. However, you would be surprised to find out that the lunch buffet price starts at only 1,300¥ for a 90 minutes buffet. The cost varies with the branch you plan to go to. However, the prices are still considerably less expensive than other restaurants. Furthermore, if 90 minutes is not enough for you, you can pay an extra amount to enjoy your meal for 2 hours straight!
Baikingu Kui Kui
Another yakiniku tabehoudai that we highly recommend is called Baikingu Kui Kui, located in the city center of Ikebukuro. It is near Ikebukuro station, and is very easy to find. A 5-minute walk from the East gate of Ikebukuro station, the restaurant is located on the 6th floor of a building. Aside from its great location, Baikingu offers more than 10 varieties of meat and other menus like sushi and ramen. Popular meat at Baikingu is beef ribs and pork shoulder, which is sliced into bite-size pieces and is very tender at the right amount of heat. The highlight of this restaurant is that you can make your own kushikatsu, or deep-fried skewered meat. At the kushikatsu counter, you can choose the type of meat, dip it into a batter, toss them in panko, and deep fry them in a small pot of oil prepared by the restaurant. It is a fun way to taste another famous Japanese dish. Furthermore, the side dishes prepared by the restaurant such as kimchi and miso soup tastes just as good as it looks.
Although located in a main city within Tokyo, Baikingu Kui Kui is considerably CHEAP for a yakiniku tabehoudai. Starting from only 1,400¥ for lunch, you can enjoy 60 minutes of all-you-can-eat yakiniku and desserts such as cotton candy, ice cream, and pancakes. And with an additionional 200¥, you can enjoy 90 minutes of tabehoudai. It is a place recommended for holding parties and a get-together!
Kagayaki‘s all-you-can-eat yakiniku deal goes for around 5,000yen per head (including drinks). You can enjoy a variety of cuts and meat here, including beef, pork, and lamb. Designed to fit the customers’ tastes, you can choose to have your meat in a shacbu-shabu style or classic grill, and fresh vegetables are also available to balance out your meal.
This restaurant is located near Minowa Station in Taito, Tokyo, and is a great value!
Only a 9 minute walk from Meijijingumae Station, Fujiya is located in an extremely convenient location, as you can eat your fill here and then head over to see the famous Meiji Shrine or go shopping along Omotesando Ave!
Prices range from 2,000 ~ 3,000 JPY, and meat is cheaper every 29th of the month (for “niku no hi”). It is even slightly cheaper for female customers.
Our Favorite All-You-Can-Eat Yakiniku Restaurants!
If you’re tired of visiting the izakaya every now and then, you can try going to a tabehoudai to celebrate your special occasion. The next time you look for an all-you-can-eat yakiniku restaurant, don’t forget to consider our recommended restaurants!
Meeme // Thailand