For slightly upscale but unpretentious, umami-packed Hakata-style grilled skewers, Jomon in Roppongi hits the spot.
ackerel-wrapped enoki mushrooms with sudachi lime - greater than the sum of its parts. - image © Florentyna Leow
Roppongi is not typically somewhere I choose to visit, unless the Mori Art Museum or the Tokyo National Art Museum are having an exhibition. It’s not my favorite area in Tokyo. But recently I have conceded that there is plenty of good eating in the area, and I think I’ve become more willing to make the trek out here just to eat. One restaurant I like visiting is Jomon, an izakaya serving up Hakata-style yakitori. Hakata-style just means that there’s more than chicken on offer, so it’s probably easier to refer to their food as grilled skewers.
You’ll need to turn right when you see the U-mobile shop on this corner. - image © Florentyna Leow
Jomon is a short walk from Exit 4b at Roppongi Station, if you’re coming on the Hibiya line. Turn right when you emerge above ground. Take the first right, which will take you on a road leading downhill. Keep following this road as it merges into another.
The entrance to Jomon, marked by red beer crates. - image © Florentyna Leow
After a few minutes of walking, you’ll see this entrance on your left.
In warmer weather, diners can sit facing the street with their legs dangling out of the window. - image © Florentyna Leow
You’ll also recognize Jomon by the open windows, though these may be closed in winter.
Counter seating - it can be a little cramped when it’s full! - image © Florentyna Leow
At Jomon, you’ll take off your shoes before being seated. Cool jazz plays in the background at a nice, discreet volume. I recommend coming early at 6pm, as by 6.30pm the restaurant was mostly full and buzzing - the atmosphere in this place is wonderfully convivial. Be warned that it can be a smoky environment, given that smoking is permitted. I was given a 2-hour time limit, which is plenty of time for a solo meal.
Prime seating at the counter, right in front of the grill. - image © Florentyna Leow
As always, when you’re dining alone, counter seating is the way to go. I love watching the grilling process - the meat slowly curling and dripping fat onto the charcoal below, the chef turning the skewers, etc. I will say, though, if you don’t want to know exactly how much salt goes into your food, don’t sit at the counter! This is true of most restaurants in Japan, of course, but Jomon is quite unstinting with the sodium when it comes to seasoning their food. I enjoyed watching the chef rain pinches of salt down on each skewer. As Anthony Bourdain says, “it’s what makes food taste good.”
Major props for having a daily-translated menu. - image © Florentyna Leow
With numerous museums, clubs, bars, and some major firms in the area, Roppongi is home to the expat crowd as well as travelers looking for a good night out. Unsurprisingly, Jomon has an English menu, and they even translate their seasonal menu! The staff are friendly and at least one or two of them speak good English. They’ll even take phone reservations in English. Food here is on the slightly more expensive side - this is Roppongi, after all. Most skewers are priced around JPY200, with other dishes averaging around JPY500 - JPY700.
Healthy appetizers to begin with. - image © Florentyna Leow
At an izakaya restaurant there is usually a mandatory cover charge of a few hundred yen, and they’ll serve you a small appetizer known as an お通し otooshi. This varies from restaurant to restaurant. At Jomon, this turned out to be a small dish of salt-pickled komatsuna mustard greens and raw cabbage, roughly torn and tossed in a light, tangy dressing of dashi, soy sauce, vinegar and lemon juice. They’ll give you unlimited cabbage refills. Just ask!
pork belly, hanasaki nankotsu, Iberico pork, and shisomaki. - image © Florentyna Leow
All of the pork skewers are grilled over charcoal, and seasoned with salt and black pepper. The pork belly was good, but nothing to write home about. I liked the rest of my skewers better. The hanasaki nankotsu, for instance. I ordered this partly because I love the crunch of cartilage, but also because it has a remarkably poetic name - “flower-blooming cartilage.” Don’t let “cartilage" put you off. This had significantly more meat attached to it than your average pieces of cartilage, and the meat close to the cartilage tends to be flavorful. This was no exception.
My favorite pork skewer was the Iberico pork. This was moist without being too fatty, tender but not entirely melting. T'was a piece of meat with integrity, an upstanding, well-adjusted piece of pork you’d bring home to meet your mama.
Their shisomaki (perilla skewers) are a classic and worth ordering. Thin slices of pork rolled with perilla leaf make a beautiful green and pink skewer that’s as tasty as it looks.
A mozzarella cheese skewer. - image © Florentyna Leow
You know how the best part of a wood-fired pizza is the cheese? That char-grilled, stretchy, milky cheese? A mozzarella cheese skewer is exactly that. Smoky, melted cheese without the distractions of crust or other toppings.
We’re hitting the tail end of mackerel season, so I ordered the sanma-wrapped enoki mushroom skewer (pictured at the top of this post). This tasted like autumn campfires on a stick. Hot, oily mackerel flesh and sweet, charred enoki mushrooms become a whole greater than the sum of its parts. A squeeze of sudachi lime gave it an acidic sweetness, cutting through the oiliness. If it’s on the seasonal menu, order it stat.
The best-tasting dishes tend not to look all that pretty. - image © Florentyna Leow
Another standout dish that’s worth ordering (translation: EAT IT NOW) is their chilled corn chawanmushi. I’m a sucker for chawanmushi (hot steamed egg custard) and usually order it whenever I see it on a menu. But this is nothing like your average chawanmushi. Texturally, it’s closer to polenta. Think of a lighter, creamier, eggy corn pudding, with extra cream on top. Shot through with corn kernels, it is cold, sweet and savory. I’m not much of a dessert person, so something like this would be my ideal end to a meal. Don’t think too hard about it and just try it! It’s not your typical izakaya dish, and reputedly sells out quite quickly.
Hundreds of prepped skewers in the chiller in front of us, ready for grilling. - image © Florentyna Leow
Though it’s a little on the pricier side, Jomon isn’t a bad place for a solo meal. I’d prefer to go with a group of 2 - 3, as sampling the extensive menu will become that much easier. There’s numerous options for dishes to be shared family-style so that you can try more food. Next time, I would also order a rice or noodle dish as a “shime” or an ending, as you typically finish a meal in Japan with a carbohydrate of some kind. In any case, a meal at Jomon is a great way to begin a night out in Roppongi. Pair this with a night visit to the Mori Art Museum - or go dancing in one the clubs nearby. Have fun!
Name in Japanese:
1F, Fujimori Building, 5-9-17 Roppongi, Minato Ward, Tokyo
Roppongi Station (Hibiya Line)
Website: Official Website
:: Read customer reviews of Jomon on TripAdvisor
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