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A Tokyo insider izakaya – well now the secret is out!

I find that I am always lucky when I am in Tokyo. There is something special about that crazy city – each time I go I am amazed at the intensity of the food culture and the drive for perfection. One might think that this pursuit of perfectionism would have little to do with the more casual izakaya culture, but you would be wrong. Just because an izakaya is a more casual dining experience doesn’t mean that the chefs aren’t as creative, or that presentation is less of a focus, or that the quality and execution aren’t important. In fact, Teyandei is one example of a classic izakaya dining experience that is a true representation of Japanese food culture, simple but thoughtful. Teyandei has been around for 30-40 years, an institution among locals and expats alike – it’s one of those places that is whispered about and passed on only by word of mouth, a true insider kind of place. Well now the secret is out.

It was in this way that I came to discover Teyandei. A friend who had lived in Tokyo for 20 years recommended it as her hands down, favourite restaurant in Tokyo. Bear in mind, this is no small remark considering all the Michelin-starred dining experiences available in Tokyo. We went with a local who also knew Teyandei well and speaks Japanese, always helpful, and asked her to take us on a tour of all her favourite dishes.

We sat at the bar so we could watch the open kitchen and agreed to start with sake. There is a tradition in Japan to serve sake in glasses that sit in wooden boxes. The traditional and proper way to serve sake is to overpour the sake so that it runs over the rim of the glasses and into the box. Our friend explained to us that this is a sign of good fortune and bountifulness – as if to say, “we will give you all we have.”

What followed next was an amazing parade of dishes – each one better than the last. We watched each dish we ordered get fired on the stove top or over the grill. The kitchen was small, so watching the kitchen was like watching a culinary ballet. The chef and kitchen staff moved in fluid moments around each other to produce perfectly executed executed dishes that came together in front of our eyes.

While we had about 8 dishes, we all uninanimously agreed that the best of the best was the:

Pork Belly with Potato Puree – silky potato puree with crisp-tender pork belly

Eel Wrapped in an Omelette – a tender filet of eel enveloped in a fluffy omelette

Spinach Salad with Mushrooms and Bacon – a classic, reinterpreted Japanese style

Japanese Yams – a preparation unique to Japan, deep fried bite-sized pieces of local yam, simultaneously sweet and savory

Shrimp Mayo – wow, just wow. We placed a second order for these. Crispy morsels of shrimp goodness, tossed in a creamy mayonnaise based sauce

Potato and Meat Croquettes – again, another classic, somehow elevated with the precision of Japanese execution

When I usually go to a city like Tokyo, I try to force myself to go to new restaurants. But now that Teyandei is on the radar, it is going to become a must do on each and every visit to Tokyo. I just hope the Teyandei secret doesn’t spread so widely that it becomes hard to get a booking!

Teyandei Izakaya
Nishi Azabu 2-20-1
Minato-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: +81 03.3462.6411

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