For fabulous, inexpensive fare at the friendliest izakaya in town, head over to Shirube in Roppongi.
Deep-fried chicken smothered in tartar sauce. - image © Florentyna Leow
Roppongi doesn’t usually come to mind when I want an affordable meal. As an area, it’s relatively upscale and correspondingly expensive. And yet, I’ve found that it has a number of fun, tasty restaurants that won’t break the bank - just like most neighborhoods in Tokyo. For all its perceived snootiness, Roppongi is home to some fun and friendly restaurants, and one of my current favorite places to bring groups of friends - Bistro Shirube.
The entrance to Shirube. - image © Florentyna Leow
Shirube is a little tricky to find. It's located down a side street and has no English signage. You’ll want to take Exit 7 from Roppongi Station. Cross the road and keep walking straight.
The parking lot on a rainy night. - image © Florentyna Leow
When you see a parking lot on the corner with the NPC sign (as pictured above), turn left. It'll be on your left further down the road.
It’s super popular with office workers in the area meeting for dinner. - image © Florentyna Leow
It’s best to either come early, or make a reservation - it’s a pretty popular place. Whether you’re at the counters, individual tables or canteen-like longer tables (great for larger parties), seating here is in the horigotatsu-style, where you're seated at a low table with your legs in a sunken area beneath the table. There’s jazz playing here, and the staff are incredibly friendly and warm, even by service standards in Japan. The only drawback here is that like most izakaya in Japan, smoking is permitted indoors. However, as the restaurant is spacious and has good ventilation - and there were very few smokers in the restaurant - I found that I didn’t notice it at all.
The English menu, which hews quite faithfully to the Japanese. - image © Florentyna Leow
Like most izakaya worth their salt, they have a rather extensive menu. Offerings range from classics such as mixed sashimi, potato salad, and edamame to more outré items like cheese tofu, salted squid guts (shiokara), and fish innard kimchi. They also have a good selection of booze, most averaging around JPY500~JPY600 a drink. Shirube’s English-language menu is reasonably well-translated, although understandably their daily specials menu is somewhat less comprehensive than its Japanese counterpart.
A Japanese-only menu for oden. - image © Florentyna Leow
The oden menu pictured above isn't translated. But I would suggest just ordering the chef's selection and letting them surprise you.
The otoshi for the day. - image © Florentyna Leow
As with most if not all izakaya, Shirube will serve you a compulsory appetizer known as an otoshi. Think of it as a seating charge you can't wrangle your way out of, but with a tasty snack for your monetary troubles. They're usually intensely-flavoured and on the saltier side, so they make great beer snacks.
The otoshi changes daily, and if you're here with a friend sitting at the counter, they might serve you different appetizers so you can share them. On my last visit, this was asparagus sautéed with sausages, and soy-simmered mushroom and pork - both simple, soulful bites that went down well with drinks.
Shirube’s potato salad. - image © Florentyna Leow
It is hard to go wrong with the menu, but you would do well to begin with Shirube’s special potato salad. An izakaya salad, potato salad comes in all shapes and guises - chunky, smooth, boiled, even laden with mayonnaise. Here, the mashed potato-esque mixture arrives piled up into a rustic potato tower, crowned with pickled daikon.
Another Japanese cooking classic - chicken nanban, or “chicken in the Southern Barbarian style,” pictured at the top of this post. It’s deep-fried chicken covered in tartar sauce, but it’s been supersized at Shirube. The skin-on chicken pieces are hefty, halfway to being baseball-sized; and the homemade tartar sauce is exactly as it should be - full of chopped hard-boiled eggs and bound with copious amounts of mayonnaise.
Vinegared mackerel, pre-blowtorching. - image © Florentyna Leow
The aburi shime saba, called "seasoned mackerel” on the English menu, is unmissable not just for its flavor, but also for the sheer theatre of how it’s served. One of the waitresses sets a plate of sliced vinegared mackerel in front of you. She’ll tell you to squeeze the lemon over the mackerel when it’s ready - after she chars its silver skin with a blowtorch - and then when you juice that fish up, she’ll call out to the whole restaurant in Japanese, “This customer here just did a nice lemon!” And all the staff will cheer for you. You’ll hear it periodically as the evening wears on - Shirube has such a great vibe!
Shirube’s awesome oden. - image © Florentyna Leow
You know all the fishcakes and sausages and daikon floating in steaming soup near the convenience store counters? That’s oden. But it’s a far cry from proper oden, which is what you’ll find here. It’s one of Shirube’s specialties. I recommend just ordering the chef’s selection of 6 oden, and letting them decide what you’ll eat today. It’s the perfect cold-weather dish. The hot oden broth is clear and sweet and ultra-flavorful from all the delicious things that have been simmering in it, without being overwhelming or oily. Make sure you try the daikon oden here - a massive hunk of radish served with a tangle of mekabu seaweed.
They also have a great selection of sake - just ask! - image © Florentyna Leow
I love this place, and I love having meet ups here. You can try quite hard to have a bad meal here and fail - the cooking is generally solid and there are few duds on the menu. Portions are generous and incredible value for money, especially considering its location in ritzy Roppongi. Add some extraordinarily friendly and cheerful staff, jazz music in the background, and a generally convivial atmosphere, and you have an izakaya worth coming back to again and again.
Name in Japanese:
1F Roppongi Building 4-11-4 Roppongi, Minato Ward
東京都港区六本木4-11-4 六本木ビル 1F
18:00~23:30 (Mon-Thurs, Sat-Sun)
:: Read customer reviews of Bistro Shirube on TripAdvisor
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