One thing you learn living in Tokyo as a foodie is that if there is a queue snaking outside a restaurant regardless of what time and which day you pass by it, you can almost be sure you should join the queue and taste what is so worth queuing for. Another thing you learn is that if the said restaurant exclusively sells a certain dish, you can be pretty sure the dish is really amazing for it to be attracting such long queues with just varieties of that one dish.
1) Gyukatsu Motomura
Gyukatsu Motomura is one such place famous for its beef cutlet (“gyukatsu”). While you might have eaten tonkatsu (pork cutlet) before, I learned from my experience at Gyukatsu Motomura that gyukatsu is a surprisingly excellent way to have your beef. The beef at Gyukatsu Motomura is breaded and deep fried for 60 seconds, giving a beef cutlet that is lightly fried and crisp on the outside but rare on the inside. No worries about the beef being far too rare, as each customer is given a small stove on which you can cook or lightly sear your beef on to your preference. The taste of the beef cutlet was amazing – despite being deep fried, it wasn’t too oily, and instead the crispy exterior complemented the tenderness of the beef inside.
Each 1,200 yen set comes with cabbage, potato salad, rice, and miso soup, much like a standard tonkatsu set. Grated yam (totoro), ordered for an extra 100 yen, is for you to pour over your rice. I personally thought the rice itself was fragrant enough to be eaten by itself, and the texture of the yam did not appeal to me. Larger portions of meat are available at higher prices.
Before starting your meal, you will be asked if you know how to eat the beef cutlet at Gyukatsu Motomura and an explanation will be given if it’s your maiden experience. There are basically 3 condiments available for you to eat your gyukatsu with – sprinkling rock salt on top of it, dipping it in horseradish sauce, or adding a bit of wasabi and dipping it in soysauce. While the thought of eating beef with wasabi and soysauce felt strange to me at first – it was like eating sushi! – it turned out to be my favourite combination. The horseradish sauce was great as well and added to the savoury taste of the beef. No worries if you forget what sauces to add to what – a small sign with translations are placed on the counter for you to constantly refer to.
Popular amongst locals and tourists, the waiting time at Gyukatsu Motomura ranges from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the seating capacity of the outlet you go to and the time at which you go. My visit to the Shibuya outlet at 4:30pm had me waiting for 45 minutes before I had my meal. Orders are taken before you enter, so that you will have your meal served quickly after you finally get your seat!
2) Red Rock
Red Rock, with its gyudon (beef bowl), is another restaurant that revolutionises your idea of how beef can be served. Famous for its Roast Beef Bowl and Sliced Steak Bowl, both of the regular portions cost less than 1000 yen, making it extremely affordable for what you’re getting. The Roast Beef Bowl comes with a mountain of beef slices piled on top of rice, looking like a literal “red rock”. Yoghurt, a raw egg yolk, and a special sauce are drizzled on top of the beef and eating it together with the rice and vegetables was absolutely heavenly.
Larger portions and additional steak can be ordered. Red Rock also sees snaking queues at any time of the day, but I was lucky to only have waited around 20 minutes at 5pm on a weekday.
- Shibuya (Ono Bldg. 2-gokan B1F, 3-18-10 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0002)
- Shinjuku (Floor B1, 3-32-2 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 160-0022)
- Tokyo Station (1-6-14 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo)
- Shimbashi (Elegance Shimbashi Bldg. B1F, 2-15-13 Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-0004)
- Harajuku (Fuji Bldg. B1F, 3-25-12 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0001)
- Takadnobaba (3-11-14 Takada, Toshima-ku, Tokyo, 171-0033)