Tetsu is a cheap and cheerful yakitori restaurant right by Shibuya Station. Just stick to drinks and grilled skewers - avoid everything else on the menu.
Meat-stuffed shiitake mushrooms on a skewer. Tasty! - image © Florentyna Leow
Yakitori is one of those foods that can be as posh or as down-to-earth as you please. There’s no shortage of yakitori joints in Tokyo, and it never hurts to have several standbys on your mental map for different occasions. Sometimes you might be in the mood for an old-school local joint. Another day might see you hankering after something more rarefied. Yakitori Tetsu falls into the cheap and cheerful category. It is distinctly unpretentious, raucous, and most importantly, cheap as chips. And it’s right by Shibuya Station, which makes it rather perfect for a night out in the area.
The staircase leading up to Yakitori Tetsu. - image © Florentyna Leow
Yakitori Tetsu is a short walk from the Keio Line exit at Shibuya Station. You’ll want to head out of the ticket barriers and down the escalators to street level. At this point, you should see the Hachiko statue across the road (or more accurately, the crowds of people surrounding it) and the JR Station cross. Make a U-turn into the street on your left and head uphill. Look out for the entrance pictured above on your right, just before the end of the road. The restaurant is up the staircase on the second floor.
It’s mostly counter seating, but there are tiny tables as well, some with beer crates for chairs. It’s all part of the atmosphere. - image © Florentyna Leow
Tetsu on a Friday night is loud and lively. Welcome to the post-work crowd at the end of the week. Beers, highballs, sours, oolong tea - everything here comes in large glasses, served by a spry, elderly waiter who claims to be a creative of some kind (if he decides to talk to you). Faces around you start glowing red after about half an hour. If you’re here close to 8pm and try to squeeze in without a reservation, you’ll be out of luck. Come in closer to opening time, or call ahead.
Faces grow redder as the night wears on. - image © Florentyna Leow
All the chicken and vegetable skewers are salt-grilled here. It’s a very no-frills affair. Sometimes the grillmeister is a little heavy-handed with the salt, especially as the pace picks up, and it won’t be the best yakitori you’ve ever had in your life. But at JPY110 (plus tax) per skewer, it hardly matters. It’s fairly tasty and it’s the kind of food that helps the beer go down. They’ll plonk skewers on a plastic plate in front of you rather unceremoniously. Sometimes the waiter will carry them over in a metal tray and motion for you to pick out your skewers.
Chicken neck and gizzard skewers. - image © Florentyna Leow
Yakitori is great for experimenting with all the different cuts of chicken that exist. Sure, you could stick with thigh meat or negima (chicken and leek) - both safe choices. But you should try the seseri, or chicken neck. It’s an off-putting translation that obfuscates just how great this cut of meat is - a tender, juicy, fat-laced muscle that I’d take over thigh in a heartbeat any day. The sunagimo or gizzard is also another favourite of mine - lean, resilient, and a little crunchy. Both cuts are perfectly adequate at Tetsu. They’re not the best versions of themselves, but entirely acceptable in context.
Chicken cartilage on a stick. - image © Florentyna Leow
Nankotsu, or cartilage, is another one for relatively adventurous eaters. It’s all about that mix of crunchy texture and tender meat. Once you’ve acquired a taste for cartilage, you won’t go back. Tetsu’s skewer is pretty decent.
Grilled cherry tomatoes on a stick. - image © Florentyna Leow
Grilled vegetable skewers are alright here, and worth ordering as part of your meal. There are salted sweet cherry tomatoes, grilled until molten and juicy. Green peppers, halved and blistered black. They taste exactly how you would expect grilled green peppers to taste. There’s meat-stuffed peppers and shiitake mushrooms, which are also fun to eat.
Gingko nuts on a stick. - image © Florentyna Leow
Then there’s gingko nuts, or ginnan as they’re known in Japanese. These are light green and creamy when grilled, and have an almost medicinal bitterness that’s quite addictive once you’ve developed a taste for it. At Tetsu they are perhaps too bitter for me. But you can be the judge of that.
Chicken fallopian tube on a stick, overdone. - image © Florentyna Leow
Tetsu also had its fair share of duds on the menu, though. Chicken fallopian tubes with an egg yolk was one of them. This is known as chochin, or lantern, in Japanese - so named because the yolk dangling off the tubes looks like a lantern. Ordinarily, I like chochin, but this is definitely one of those cuts where it pays to eat it at a restaurant that invests a little more time and craft into its grilling. It’s listed on the menu as “chicken egg yolk” in English, so you’ve been warned.
An overdone simmered egg. Avoid. - image © Florentyna Leow
Avoid also anything nikomi or simmered. Case in point: the nitamago (simmered egg) and kyabetsu nikomi (simmered cabbage). Both arrive in an insipid brown broth tasting of very little. Why waste stomach space on this?
Garlic that managed to be overdone on the outside and too raw on the inside. Alas. - image © Florentyna Leow
Tetsu also dedicates a page of its menu to bistro-style food, which includes pate, ajillo (things in hot bubbling oil), and the bafflingly-named ‘German potato.' This felt like a pointless diversification of its offerings. The garlic ajillo came out slightly undercooked and still retaining a raw crunch, which is okay if you’re planning on some vampire battles after dinner. You should probably also avoid the ‘German potato,’ unless you’re fine with your potato slices coming straight from the freezer bag into the fryer. (Also, that oil looked like it hadn’t been changed in a while. I suggest sticking to the grilled stuff.)
Tetsu is a pretty fun place, full of youngish folks drinking away their stresses from the work week. It’s a great place to head to when you need an inexpensive and tasty meal with drinks. Just stick to the grilled skewers and you’ll have a good time.
For more Tokyo yakitori choices, see our Best Yakitori in Tokyo page.
Name in Japanese:
2F Sanki Building, 2-7-3 Dogenzaka, Shibuya
5:00pm - 12:00am
:: Read customer reviews of Yakitori Tetsu on TripAdvisor
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