A few minutes walk from Ikebukuro Station’s East Exit, in an unassuming building on the 6th floor, is the stunning Mikuriya restaurant. The Japanese eatery (which has a few sister branches dotted around the city) prides itself on its high-quality fish and, for very reasonable prices, diners can find some very sophisticated and enticing options.
The sanchi sengyo sashimi is beautifully presented and melt-in-the-mouth. Add a touch of wasabi and the dish comes alive with a nuanced culinary punch. Something which perhaps caters more to the western palate is the saba (Pacific mackerel) sandwich. Delicate and subtly crunchy, it comes paired with a sizeable piece of cooked saba and grated radish and pickles which crunch and pop with flavor. It’s a curveball menu choice but it works perfectly. Especially for foreign guests, the sandwich is a welcome taste of home.
An intriguing twist on the menu is a curious mix of saba and daikon with mascarpone cheese. It’s a sublime piece of cooking, the daikon and cheese blending beautifully together in a creamy and hedonistic fusion. Also on the menu is a mammoth piece of saba sushi, shime saba bou sushi, which looks a little odd but the quality is so superior that it dissolves the minute you place it in your mouth. Pair this with Mikuriya’s huge spectrum of nihonshu (Japanese rice wine) and the experience is complete and leaves you gasping for a culinary comeback tour within days.
The star of the show, however, is the aji (Japanese horse mackerel) fry. This is a lunch time favorite and popular with the salarymen and office ladies who pop over for lunch on weekdays or in the evening when socializing with friends and colleagues. A whopping piece of fried aji is placed on top of a multitude of freshly cut cabbage with some sliced radish on the side. Add to this a simply outrageous home-made tartar sauce and you have a winner. It’s an incredible dish and one that lingers in the memory for some time afterwards. It avoids the trappings of typical fried dishes and it’s surprisingly neither oily nor greasy and comes with a crunch which makes you smile from ear to ear.
Mikuriya is unabashedly Japanese. There are Japanese-language only menus and non English-speaking staff, so it can be a little tricky navigating your time there, but the staff are extremely welcoming and helpful. The interior is stark and clean, almost nordic in aesthetic terms, and in the evening it can be crowded and alive with locals and nearby office workers. It’s a real gem of a place and well worth visiting any of Mikuriya’s branches in the capital city.
1-12-10 Higashi Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku
Lunch 12pm – 2pm, Dinner 5pm – 11pm (L.O. 10:30pm)