Korean-Japanese BBQ Rhapsody in Tokyo

Yakiniku, the ultimate Japanese grilled meat extravaganza, is popular in Japan, boasting around 20,000 sizzling hot spots. You’ll find everything from fancy joints serving up high quality Wagyu beef to one-of-a-kind places dishing out offal and game meats. In modern yakiniku spots, the numerous varieties of sauces rule. From classic soy sauce to creative mixes with miso, garlic, and Korean red chili paste called Gochujang. There’s always a special sauce for every meaty delight.

Grilled meats come with a sides of Korean-inspired delights like kimchi; beef bone soup; and cold noodles. The Korean influence on Japanese yakiniku is clear, as the cooking style was brought to Japan from Korea. Our favorite BBQ restaurants in Tokyo are so popular, we recommend making a reservation!

How BBQ restaurants came about in Japan

There are many different theories on how BBQ restaurants came about in Japan. In some Japanese BBQ books, Korean immigrants may have brought in the original form of yakiniku to Osaka back in the 1930s, introducing Korean style marinated short ribs and bulgogi grilled beef that were popular at the time in Seoul, the capital of Korea. The newspaper of the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun of March 25, 1933, introduced a recipe for Yakiniku and Offal under the title, The Joy of Korean Food, Eccentric Beef Dish. 

Another perspective is from the Korea Center, which has offices in Tokyo and Osaka, states that the current Korean-style BBQ was established in Korea after the Korean War that ended in 1953. People who lost their homes in the war had to build huts to protect themselves from the cold, wind, and rain. They ended up cooking on grills outdoors and then started to eat around those grills.

grilled meat

1. Specializes in Chicken Yakiniku: Onitei Shibuya

This yakitori restaurant stands out for its specialty in chicken yakiniku, a departure from the usual beef or pork options associated with yakiniku. Here, each cut of chicken offers a juicy burst of flavor and a unique texture to savor. A must-try is the spicy thigh meat, infused with ample chili peppers for a rich, spicy taste that pairs perfectly with steamed rice! Additionally, don’t miss out on their herb-grilled tsukune (chicken meatballs) and comforting chicken porridge, both beloved menu selections.

Address: 1-9-4 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

2. Korean grilled pork belly delights: Teji

Teji specializes in samgyeopsal, a Korean dish featuring thinly sliced grilled pork belly. Teji has been a favorite for years, blending Korean tradition with Western and Japanese influences. What sets them apart is their use of premium pork sourced from around the world, including Japan’s Matsusaka pork, China’s Meishantun pork, and Spain’s Iberico pork. They also offer pork marinated in white wine and rosemary, all complemented by their homemade sauce, making it the perfect pairing for beer or wine. If you are keen on sampling pork from different countries, the sampler platter is highly recommended.

Address: 2-21-3 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

3. The Quintessential Tokyo Offal BBQ: Hormone Zaichi

This establishment offers premium Japanese beef selected daily, prioritizing safety and quality in their yakiniku and horumon dishes. Their standout dish, “Gochamaze-yaki,” features a blend of secret sauce, flavorful meat juices, and horumon grilled to perfection. You can either pick your preferred types of horumon, or the recommended mix chosen by the staff which includes kalbi (grilled ribs), hoso (skirt steak), kamimino (upper tripe), and tecchan (rectum). The secret sauce and locally sourced Kujo green onions from contracted farms blend harmoniously with the meat’s umami, creating an exquisite richness and depth of flavor.

Other recommended appetizers include the salt horumon set, spicy sinew stew, and assorted kimchi, ensuring a satisfying dining adventure.

Address: 7F, 2-1-6 Hamamatsucho, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Our Choice for the Best Korean-Japanese BBQ

4. Solo Friendly Yakiniku with Kyoto style: Tendan

Tendan is renowned for its yakiniku accompanied by a homemade beef bone-based sauce that is rich in flavor. Tendan’s flagship store is located in Kyoto, where the tradition of enjoying meat with a dipping sauce akin to soup stock has been established for over 50 years.

The specialty is “Mille-feuille loin”, which is made by layering three slices of thin raw slices and grilling them. It is a popular dish that combines well with the dipping sauce and doubles the flavor of the raw meat. After enjoying Yakiniku, ordering Cold noodles is the way to finish Japanese BBQ.  Tendan’s noodles are white, because they are hand made using carefully selected buckwheat flour. The chewy texture noodles and deep flavor soup stock are simply a perfect combination.

Address: Duplex Ginza Tower 5/13 10F, 5-13-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

5. Grilled Meat In Just 10 Seconds: Tokyo-en Hiroo

Their specialties at Tokyoen Hiroo include the 3-second roast, 5-second roast, and 10-second roast.  Keep these grilling times accurate to ensure your meat comes out perfectly on the grill every time. Rare menu has the “Raw Liver Yaki” which uses a rare part of beef liver, thickly cut, only available in small quantities.

To round off your yakiniku experience, indulge in the stone-grilled seafood kuppa, stone-grilled garlic rice, and bibimbap with stone-grilled beef. If you like noodles, order the coriander cold noodles, which are noodles topped with salted coriander!

Address: 4-11-1 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

6. Hidden gem selected beef and pork offal: Sanbyakuya

Located in the vibrant heart of Shibuya, this renowned establishment specializes in offal cuisine, boasting an impressive selection of over 25 varieties of beef and pork offal. From beef cuts like harami, shibire, and hatsumoto, to pork delicacies including tsunagi, chichikabu, and kobukuro. Their menu features many rare choices not found elsewhere. Each dish is delicious, bursting with flavorful juices, providing a satisfying dining experience.

In addition to their offal offerings, they also offer an extensive selection of raw meat dishes. From tan-shioyuke (salted tongue) and raw intestines to raw beef, their menu caters to the more adventurous palates eager to explore the delights of raw meat. If you’re open to the experience, it’s certainly worth a try!

Address: 12-4 Shinsencho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Perfect Guide: Korean-Japanese BBQ

7. Pursuing a new way to enjoy BBQ: Kintan

Kintan is not like your yakiniku restaurant. Many unique dishes that you can’t find anywhere like raw sirloin sashimi; Sirloin Yukke; stone-grilled bibimbap with foie gras and truffles. Their unique menu items offer new takes on yakiniku from appetizers to mains.

“Yaki sukiyaki,” that thinly sliced sirloin is quickly seared on a hot plate and dipped in egg, is an exquisite dish best enjoyed atop rice. Additionally, a wide variety of premium meat options are available, including wagyu (Japanese beef), beef tongue, fillet, chateaubriand (a large tenderloin steak), and various types of offal.

Address: 1-10-3 Ebisu Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

8. Famous BBQ Omakase menu: Oyaji no ototo

When it comes to horumon, this shop is a must-visit. It offers meticulously selected offal selected by the discerning owner. Operating on a “one-order-only” rule for meat except drinks, they prioritize serving the meat in the most delicious order. You can order as you like on the menu, or say “please bring us omakase,” which means they will serve you the recommended items of the day. Like Korean barbecue spots, the staff grill the meat for you, catering even to those unsure of their grilling skills.

Highly recommended is miso sauce marinated “maruchou (beef small intestine)” which is a cut with plenty of fat marbling that glistens like a diamond when cooked. Each bite bursts with sweet, succulent flavor that offers a distinctive twist.

Address: B1, 3-13-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

9. Meat Lover’s Paradise: Yakiniku Ushigoro Nishiazabu

At Yakiniku Ushigoro, known as the “department store of meat”, this yakiniku restaurant offers a variety of meat cooking styles.  They include such styles like sukiyaki which is a Japanese hot pot dish, cooking thinly sliced meat into a beaten raw egg before eating.   Shabu-shabu is also very popular which is a Japanese hot pot dish, cooking thinly sliced meat in a pot of boiling broth and dipped into ponzu sauce (citrus-based soy-sauce) before eating.  The thin-sliced superior beef tongue root marinated in a homemade green onion salt sauce is also a connoisseur’s favorite.

Their course menu is a hit, featuring beef tartar, thick-cut outside skirt, selected lean beef with shabushabu style, chuck roll with Sukiyaki Style, along with Omoni’s (mean mother in Korean) Seaweed Soup, which is finally finished off with a bowl of Korean style cold noodle.

Address: Nishiazabu main store 2-24-14 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo

10. Too Good to Stay Secret: Cossott’e SP

Their source is A-grade “male” Black Wagyu(Japanese) beef, meticulously cut to ensure the most delicious dining experience. Controversial as it may be, female cattle are generally traded at higher prices due to their tender texture and higher subcutaneous fat content.

Highlighted items worth noting on the menu include the aromatic Wasabi-Marinated Lean Beef; the Korean-style grilled meat dish Tsubozuke Kalbi with Lean Beef marinated in sweet miso sauce; and their signature dish premium female wagyu shabu-shabu.

Address: Spacia Azabu Juban 12F, 5-13-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo

11. Modern yakiniku restaurant: Yoroniku

When it comes to stylish yakiniku restaurants, Yoroniku stands out. Over the years, this BBQ establishment has become renowned for its innovative approach to Tokyo’s fine dining yakiniku experience. It has expanded its presence and now boasts several locations across Tokyo.

Unlike traditional yakiniku restaurants, it adds flair to the cooking method, bringing out the flavors of grilled meat and discovering its unique charm. Their specialty is “Silk-loin,” which involves lightly searing marbled meat and dipping it in a special sauce. Then you wrap the silk-loin in a small portion of rice. True to its name, it offers a delicate silk-like texture with a gentle sweetness and umami that melts away. Another popular choice is the “Sukiyaki-style Zabuton,” featuring thinly sliced Zabuton beef paired with a quail egg yolk.

Address: B1, 6-6-22 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

12. Old-school yakiniku in a hidden alley: Akasaka Ozeki

The highlight of Akasaka Ozeki is indulging in thick-cut meat for yakiniku BBQ. While thin slices are common in Japanese yakiniku, Akasaka Ozeki recommends thick cuts akin to steak. Their main menu showcases carefully selected domestic A5-grade wagyu beef, cut into thick slices and sourced daily from the meat market. Depending on the season, they vary the meat’s origin, opting for Tohoku in summer and Kyushu in winter.

They also prioritize the charcoal used for grilling, opting for the highest-grade “white charcoal.” This ensures slow, even cooking without compromising the meat’s texture, resulting in exquisite flavors. A hidden gem on the menu is the rich and flavorful Komutan soup, crafted from bones and meat, releasing deep umami flavors.

Address: 3-18-12 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

13. Meat Jewelry Box: Yakiniku Kunomoto

Yakiniku Kunomoto is renowned for its top-quality lean beef. Using Awaji beef, a type of wagyu beef from Awaji Island, every bite is filled with the unique sweetness of lean meat. Awaji beef is known for its high-quality meat, often compared to other famous varieties of wagyu (Japanese meat) such as Kobe beef and Matsusaka beef.

First, customers have a choice of three meat assortments, with additional side dishes available if desired. The meat assortment is presented in a wooden box, tightly packed with seven types of meat. The cuts vary daily, but it is usually prepared from lean meats.  This ranges from the standout taste from harami (skirt steak) to juicy marbled sirloin, and Ichibo which is a rare cut of meat taken from the tip of the rump. You can truly enjoy a treasure trove of meats there—it’s definitely worth a visit for dining.

Address: 2-8-9 Hamamatsucho, Minato-ku, Tokyo