When it comes to classic winter dishes here in Japan, you can’t look past nabe. A quintessentially communal and comforting food, this hotpot style of dining has been a popular go-to since to beginning of time. Going out for nabe is the perfect way to stay warm catch up with friends and spend the evening eating a seemingly bottomless supply of food. Here’s a guide to some of Tokyo’s best nabe hangouts.
For a thick, hearty nabe that’s going to fill you up and keep you warm all winter long, be sure to make your way to Mizutaki Genkai in central Shinjuku. Feeling like a world away from the neon drenched streets of outside, this cozy traditional-style joint specialises in rich chicken broth and vegetables that are best cooked on the side. If you want the soup version of a big warm hug, look no further.
It’s said that nabe is the perfect sumo wrester’s food thanks to its hearty combination of meats and vegetables. In fact nabe is so ingrained in the sumo world that many retired wrestlers start their own nabe restaurants, and this is one such establishment. Kotogaume is the name of the wrestler who opened up this hidden gem. If you don’t know what to pick, it’s recommended you go for Suisho Nabe, a clear soup dish; it’s the restaurant’s most popular.
If you’re feeling like nabe but want to sample some other Japanese delicacies on the side, book a spot at Kawasaki. The restaurant specialises in chicken nabe as well as a selection of other chicken dishes, like the always popular yakitori. Comfort food with a very local vibe, this rustic style hangout also offers a variety of sake both hot and cold.
Situated in the high-end suburb of Ginza, this nabe establishment is your go-to for lighter, more vegetable-based soups. If you’re chasing a refreshingly light summer nabe, or are after something with a little more crunch, this is your go-to. It’s a popular place for local celebrities, so if you do plan to go, it’s recommended you dress up at least a little.
Komagata Dozeu’s classic eel-looking hotpot is one of the city’s most loved nabe variations. What you see isn’t actually eel however, but freshwater loaches, a local Edo-style delicacy once considered the working-class alternative to the rather expensive (although undeniably delicious) unagi (aka eel).
Seafood nabe is so unequivocally Japanese that it’d almost be a crime not to try it while you’re here. This is one of the only places in Japan that you can sample monkfish, one of the nation’s most luxurious fish dishes (after pufferfish). So if you’re the adventurous type, this is the place for you. When they say you can enjoy a full seafood meal, they mean it here, because the restaurant serves the entire fish, insides and all.
If you think you’ve seen all the nabe Tokyo has to offer, think again. Notomi is a unique nabe establishment, which regularly serves up Kansai-inspired nabe served in Korean-style square dishes. The restaurant’s specialty is chiritori, a homey dish created by Osaka’s Korean residents.
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