When you want to get together with bunch of friends in Japan, over some beer or other kinds of drinks, then I say you should find a nice Izakaya. It is a type of Japanese pub, with lots of drink choices and yummy dishes to share.
We got together with some awesome friends in Shimbashi, Tokyo, and head over to Tukada Nojo. Even though this is a huge Izakaya chain with hundreds of locations throughout Japan, I have never had the pleasure of visiting one. The word “nojo” means farm, and their concept is, of course, getting their ingredients from their farm. I think it is kind of farm-to-table idea, which is really great. Who doesn’t like to have food and drink prepared with fresh, high quality ingredients, right?
The exterior of this Izakaya is really bright, with lots of lights inside and out, but yet somehow simple with all wood design. It is warm, cozy, and inviting. As soon as you enter, we were greeted by everyone with smile, and were escorted to a table immediately.
The bright lights continues throughout the floor, but without being too bright. It just makes the place look more cheerful and happy. The entrance seemed small, but the inside is long and have enough seating on the long space, and more seating on the back. They have hangers everywhere, for those people who just got off work, and want to take their suit jacket off while relaxing with food, drink, and nice company or two.
I gotta say, the staff here were all very nice, super friendly and helpful. Big smile, making the customers feel welcomed and appreciated for coming in. It is a great way to start a fun gathering! So, we started with some drinks. We got Mango Sour (450 yen, roughly $4), Freshly squeezed Hyuga natsu (new Summer orange) Sour (550 yen, roughly $5), Mango Mojito (550 yen), and Japanese beer. The drink “Sour” in Japan is a popular drink style in Izakaya, consisting of shochu, carbonated water, and juice or syrup. The key to drinking any kind of sour is, to mix it well. Very well. They serve it before mixing them, so it looks pretty, but it does not taste pretty… Once you give it a good stir, and the color is one consistent color in your glass, then go for it. Our waitress made the beer foam into a smiley face, she loves smiley face, as you will see in other photos… We tried few other sours they have, they are all very refreshing, not too sweet, but great on hot Summer day, with that hint of sweetness from fruit juice. Oh, and they also have many selection of non-alcoholic sours for those who doesn’t or can’t drink alcohol, so everyone can still enjoy together with or without alcohol.
Then, we ordered several plates to share. This is where it gets even more fun than the drinks. But, first, I gotta say, their complimentary appetizer was amazing! It is not your ordinary complimentary bread, but they bring you a super fresh cut lettuce and cucumbers, along with their original miso dip. It was refreshing, super crisp and fresh, and the miso was really amazing too! While we were going crazy over the complimentary greens, we got our first order, Ceasar Salad with Sasami (680 yen). Sasami is a chicken tenderloin, and their chicken of course come from their farm. It was tasty, not too much dressing (I don’t like it when the lettuce is swimming in the dressing…), right amount of flavor, very nicely done.
Then the Charcoal Grilled Chicken (medium size for 1,220 yen). It didn’t seem like much, but it was certainly flavorful, juicy, really great. Oh, and the waitress also brought a spicy sauce that she made it into a heart. Yes she was such a cute, lovely girl. The chicken was so good that it didn’t need anything else, but the hint of spiciness was nice also, if you like spicy food.
Next, we moved onto Mentai Sasami Spring Rolls (600 yen), Chicken Nanban (680 yen), and Japanese Yam Mentai Oyaki (580 yen). Someone might have guessed that I like mentaiko. I do, really, do. If you don’t know what mentaiko is, it is a marinated roe of cod fish. Spicy and tasty. Ok, so, the mentai sasami roll, it was interesting, I don’t know if I ever had the combination of mentaiko and chicken together, but it was good. The outside of the spring roll was crunchy, and inside was moist, providing interesting texture. The chiken namban is basically Japanese fried chicken with tar-tar sauce. It was incredibly flavorful, we could’ve had 3 more of those… Super tasty! Their original sauce was really amazing, and the chicken was fried to perfection. And the Japanese Yam, with that distinctive texture, the spicy mentaiko, crispy edges from being baked, it was all coming to a wonderful harmony and created this really good dish. It all disappeared quickly…
We also had Eggplant Maximus (480 yen), Maximum Potato (460 yen), and Seaweed Avocado (520 yen). Don’t know where that “maximum” term came from, but they were both really great. The eggplant was seasoned and lightly fried, still keeping it juicy in the inside. The seasoning was just right, not too salty or spicy. The potatoes were really good too. Crispy outside, very potato-y in the inside. When you have fresh ingredients, you really don’t need much of anything else. Just let the flavor of its original freshness and deliciousness shine! The avocado, I have to be honest, I am NOT a fan of avocado. HOWEVER, this was really good! I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the very high quality and freshness, it made it so tasty! And the seaweed (paste and the dried seaweed together) was really delicious too, and it went perfect with the avocado. When you can turn a avocado-hater to a avocado-lover, I say that is a huge win!
At the end, the waitress brought us fried rice, cooked in the charcoal grilled chicken grease. The rice soaked up the grilled chicken flavor, and it was really nice way to end the meal. And of course, the rice was in the shape of a heart, and a cute thank you note with a smiley face. We were definitely feeling special, or we really were her favorite customers of the day! She also brought us some sweets (kind of like Japanese jell), and a small jar of their original miso. Yes, all for free of charge. Did I say we were (feeling) special?
Next time you are meeting with with friends or family in Japan, look for Tsukada Nojo near you, and get some yummy drinks and food, along with warm service with great smile. You will be sure to have a fun time, feeling very special from the beginning to the end!
Tukada Nojo (Shimbashi) – Urban Shimbashi building 1F, 4-5-1, Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo