One thing everyone should experience in Japan is dinner at an izakaya. Izakayas are bars that serve food, and it’s where most Japanese people meet their friends or business associates to catch up or talk shop.
There are countless izakayas in Tokyo, but Hanbey stands out with good food, friendly service and amazing value for money. Oh and the entire place is retro themed. Stepping into Hanbey is like stepping into a time machine and going back to the Showa period.
A couple of weeks ago we visited their newly relocated main branch at Shinjuku with our good friends Chris, Ayaka and Charles. Charles liked it so much he went back a second time and made this awesome 2-minute video about it:
What the locals love about Hanbey is the natsukashi (nostalgic) feeling it evokes, from the food, to the music and environment. They serve a huge menu that covers all the usual izakaya fare along with some classic kids’ favorites like melon cream soda and oppai ice (boob ice cream).
The food is good, and we especially enjoyed the yakitori (meat skewers), kushikatsu (deep fried stuff like meat, mushrooms or cheese on a stick) and cream croquets. If you’d like to put yourself into the shoes of a Japanese person and get a taste of their childhood, try the kinako agepan, a deep fried bun sprinkled with roasted soybean flour and served piping hot. Simple but oh so delicious.
Go ahead and order to your heart’s content, because everything’s really cheap – a stick of yakitori is only 50 Yen! And as if this place couldn’t get any more awesome, it does – every table gets unlimited servings of fresh cabbage (which you dip into a sweet miso sauce) and a cup of yummy soup each, for FREE. Charles and Chris ate a lot of cabbage that night.
Hanbey has branches all over Japan, so chances are there’s one near you. But in Tokyo, some of them are quite small, so to get the full experience, we recommend going to the main branch in Shinjuku (details below) instead. For big groups it’s a good idea to call ahead to make a reservation. Also, if it’s your birthday month, just let one of the staff know and you’ll get a dessert on the house. Yeah, how sweet is that.
“When you’re done, check out the retro snacks corner on your way out. They have some really cool and cheap stuff that make fantastic souvenirs and conversation starters.”
5F, 1-23-14 Metro Building 1, Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Shinjuku Station (JR and Tokyo Metro lines)
03 6861 3555
5.00pm – 12.00am daily
1,000 – 3,000 Yen