Kadokura in Ueno is a standing izakaya for the people - it has a lively atmosphere, cheap drinks, flavorful small dishes. Set your expectations accordingly and come here for a fun night out.
The entrance to Kadokura. - image © Florentyna Leow
Kadokura is classically Ueno - a standing izakaya for the Tokyo everyperson. Remember, this is the old plebian centre of Tokyo, where the working class has traditionally centered itself. It’s a place for the people. It is quite clearly a Well-Loved Establishment. It’s reasonably clean, but has seen plenty of action over the years. Everyone’s squeezed in side-by-side at the counters here, dishes and glasses stacked in front of diners, the air a little hot and muggy near the entrance, and the conversation decidedly loud. And the drinks are cheap. Oh, are they ever cheap - a whisky highball will set you back a mere JPY150. Food ranges from JPY150 to jPY300, occasionally creeping upwards to JPY600. But almost never.
Charming misspellings in English abound here. - image © Florentyna Leow
Everything is salty and umami-ful enough to warrant many, many drinks, and you will likely never pay more than JPY3000 or so per person - likely far less - even in around 3 hours of non-stop eating and drinking. This place is cheap as chips. Nothing is remarkable, nor does it ever look very pretty, but everything here tastes reasonably good through a tipsy fug of goodwill and camaraderie. What else do you need from dinner at a standing izakaya in this side of town?
It’s lively in here. Everyone looks like they just finished work - even on Sunday. - image © Florentyna Leow
At Kadokura, you’ll need to pay as every drink or dish arrives. This can be annoying, since you might have ordered 5 dishes which arrive in twos and threes, requiring separate payments each time. But that’s just how they roll at Kadokura - with the sheer number of dishes and customers they’re serving without fixed seating, this presumably makes their job easier. Make sure you have your wallet at hand throughout the meal.
Moyashi namul. - image © Florentyna Leow
A few dishes you should considering ordering:
Moyashi namul, or bean sprout side dish. A well-loved Korean banchan staple, bean sprouts are tossed through with a garlicky, sesame oil-laced salt dressing.
Gyusuji nikomi. - image © Florentyna Leow
Gyusuji nikomi, known as ‘stewed beef’ on the English-language menu. What they don’t tell you is that they mean stewed beef parts - cartilage and tendons along with a few chunks of konnyaku (devil tongue jelly), to be precise. Don’t let that deter you: Kadokura’s version is entirely acceptable by most standards. The meat is so soft as to almost disintegrate, and you’ll find yourself sipping the remainder of the broth throughout the night. Well - at least I did.
Deep-fried eihire. - image © Florentyna Leow
Eihire. Every izakaya worth its salt serves eihire, which is stingray fin (or skate; it’s never clear which) deep-fried and served with a glob of Kewpie mayonnaise for dipping. At best, it is hot and chewy - the more you chew, the better it tastes - sweet and salty. Kadokura’s is distinctly not the best version it could be, but it is passable.
A small bowl of kimchi. - image © Florentyna Leow
Kimchi. Who doesn’t like salty, fermented Napa cabbage? It’s lightly spicy and sour, and salty enough to get you through several drinks. Its non-spicy counterpart is キャベツの浅漬け lightly-pickled cabbage.
Ham katsu with cheese. - image © Florentyna Leow
The ham katsu. Several slices of ham - I envision them peeling slices off from slabs of supermarket packages - are dunked in batter and breadcrumbs, deep-fried till hot and crunchy. Order this with cheese oozing out between the pink layers. Hot, salty, and vaguely plasticky, this is cheap drinking food at its best.
Beef stew with baguette. Beef stew is an extremely un-photogenic dish. - image © Florentyna Leow
Beef stew with a “baket.” What they really mean here is a “baguette,” and what they actually mean by that is three slices of over-toasted bread. No matter, because the beef stew has been simmered into complete submission, and is a soothing, substantial dish that you’ll probably pay more attention to than the conversation at hand.
Dishes you should probably skip include most of the skewers, including the chicken gizzards (tiny, overcooked pieces) and the beef tsukune (way too salty). The sesame-salt cucumber side dish is not bad if you really need some vegetables, but it’s nothing to write home about either. Personally, I would not bother with the potato salad. And I would almost certainly avoid the sashimi here; save the raw fish craving for somewhere with a more concerted focus on quality.
It’s all about drinking with your friends. - image © Florentyna Leow
Like quite a few other standing izakaya in Ueno, Kadokura is not about gourmet eating. It’s about cheap, flavorful dishes to help the booze go down. Hot July nights in particular make the highballs slip down easily - refreshing whisky highballs that taste like summer breezes on the river. This isn’t the place for revelatory eating. Come here with friends for a fun night out.
Turn into this road for Kadokura. - image © Florentyna Leow
Directions: Take the 5b exit to Ameyokocho from Ueno Station. Once above ground, turn into the road leading to Ameyokocho. (Don’t cross the road to JR Ueno Station.) At the crossroads, turn right. You’ll see Kadokura on your right a few seconds after.
Name in Japanese:
1F Forum Aji Building, 1-13-6, Taitō-ku, Tokyo 〒110-0005
10:00am - 11:00pm
Subway: 2-minute walk from exit 5b of Ueno Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza or Hibiya line.
:: Read customer reviews of Kadokura on TripAdvisor
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