Think yakitori has to be cheap and cheerful? Think again. With its refined cooking and stylish surroundings, Yakitori Imai in Harajuku proves that chicken skewers can be gourmet fare.
Yakitori Imai - image © Florentyna Leow
Picture a yakitori restaurant and words that come to mind include: smoky, lively, cheap, down-to-earth. Chicken skewers aren’t usually at the forefront of fine dining. Nor is it something you might consider for date night. But spend an evening at Yakitori Imai near Harajuku and you’ll change your mind about that.
With down lighting, jazz in the background, and a high counter, Imai looks and feels more like an upmarket jazz bar than a yakitori joint. Soft-spoken, black-clad waitstaff attend to your every need, discreetly removing the skewers you’ve just eaten. Every other diner is drinking wine and everyone is nicely dressed. This is great date territory.
Despite all the refinement, Yakitori Imai isn’t all that expensive, especially if you keep it light on the alcohol. There’s a basic menu that clocks in at JPY4500, beginning with French-style chicken pate and baguette, and moving on to salad, six expertly-grilled skewers, and grilled vegetables. They compromise on nothing, least of all the quality of their ingredients. Considering the attention to detail and execution of the food, it’s a very affordable meal.
But if you do like your drink, you’re in luck. Yakitori Imai has an excellent selection of craft beers and natural wines on hand. These are not typically paired with yakitori, but this is another way in which Imai defies conventions. Who said chicken skewers couldn’t be gourmet food?
3-42-11 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0001
Closed Sunday and Monday
Subway: 5-minute walk from exit 3 of Gaiemmae Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza line.
Official website (Japanese)
Read customer reviews of Yakitori Imai on TripAdvisor.
Tokyo Restaurants Reservation Service:
You can reserve tables hassle-free at over 300 Tokyo restaurants with GoVoyagin's Tokyo Restaurant Reservation service.
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Truly Tokyo Google map:
- Open the Tokyo map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
- Check Tokyo accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Tokyo
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online with Klook for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare airline flight prices and timings for the best Japan flight deals.
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass - here's why it's worth it
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how.
- It's essential you have travel insurance for Tokyo - we recommend World Nomads