Enjoy yakiniku without the grease in Akasaka


Originally published on on September 2009

Photos by Keigo Moriyama

Photos by Keigo Moriyama

Ushinokura peddles some of the finest flesh in the city. This restaurant is justly proud of its perfectly marbled yakiniku beef, exclusively Black Wagyu from the Satsuma region of Kagoshima. So proud, in fact, that photos and bio sketches of the purveyors—seven folks, young and old, with bright eyes and friendly smiles—are prominently displayed in the foyer, on the PR materials, and even on the placemats of each table.

The meat for my recent visit was provided by Messrs. Hitoshi Yaeo and Yusaku Miyaji. Knowing the provenance of what one is about to ingest is a good thing, and it was pleasant to learn that when Yaeo is not looking after his cattle, he’s busy taking care of his twin sons. And that Miyaji thinks about his cows so much that he’ll go check up on them in the barn even on holidays.

Yakiniku restaurants can be untidy places with walls and tables greasy from years of grill smoke, but Ushinokura is a stylish spic-and-span establishment with contemporary sumi-e paintings on the wall, George Benson guitar jazz on the speakers, and high-tech suction tubes over the grills so that nary a wisp of oily smoke escapes. Almost every table is secluded behind a sliding door to make a cozy, quiet dining space.

The menu features cow from tip to tail, including five tongue dishes; five types of karubi, marinated strips of marbled beef; lean rosu cuts, including some shabu shabu; tender harumi; beef tripe, liver, heart; and, finally, pieces of tail. The portions for ichinin, one person, are generous and the prices are reasonable for the quality.

Ushinokura puts extra care into every dish. The mixed vegetable namuru (¥500) was a delicious mélange of summer okra, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, yellow bell pepper and eggplant. The imo bata yaki (¥500) was very good: thick strips of sweet potato and bits of butter wrapped in aluminum foil and grilled for six or seven minutes. The kimuchi moriawase (¥850) was fiery and refreshing.

The main attraction, of course, is the beef, and if you’re looking for a thoroughly transporting yakiniku experience, splurge for the gokujo karubi (¥2,300), the tastiest beef I’ve ever had. Less pricey is the very fine jo karubi (¥1,600) or the regular karubi (¥980). Prices for rosu are similar.

Also recommended are the wakame and tamago soups (both ¥400), and the platter of mixed vegetables for grilling, which included freshly cut cabbage leaves, shiitake, eringi mushrooms, carrot slices and spicy green peppers (¥500).

The most popular beverage to wash down these tidbits is a frosty mug of Ebisu draft (¥550). But wine by the glass is available, too (¥500), as is the house shochu, Ushinokura imo jochu (¥500).
Don’t forget to use the paper bib they supply to keep yourself spatter free.