After our brief stint at Tsukiji Fish Market, we headed to Ebisu Yokocho for dinner and drinks. Once a drab 70’s apartment block, now converted into a bright, colourful indoor arcade brimming with affordable micro-restaurants, Ebisu Yokocho differs from the many other drinking alleys in Tokyo under the “yokocho” moniker in that it is more respectable, clean, and welcoming.
After wandering up and down the lively alley multiple times, we finally settled on Koisakaba, an informally intimate 10 table joint selling a very odd (but very welcome) mixture of Western and Japanese bar food, Korean snacks and Spanish tapas. Never before have I seen japchae (Korean stir-fried sweet potato noodles) and jamón serrano (dry-cured Spanish ham) on the same menu, but I sure hope it happens again.
First out of our orders to arrive was a plate of cheese-coated Chijimi (¥720) – Korean pancakes with Chinese chives. Light and fluffy, crispy edges, served with a slightly sweet and salty dipping sauce that paired perfectly with the Yebisu beer that accompanied it.
Next came the much-anticipated Koisakaba specialty, Fantastico Potato (¥590). The Chijimi was quickly and pitilessly forgotten, for these were quite possibly the best chips we’ve ever eaten. Perhaps even the best chips in Japan, if not the entire world. The chips were thin, delightfully crunchy on the outside and tender inside, smothered in the world’s best sweet chilli sauce, mixed through with fried sausage pieces, dusted with spices and topped with a generous dollop of sour cream. Perfection. We easily polished off the entire bowl of chips that was probably meant for four people, while the waitress looked on in horror and amusement.
We also had their Steamed Mussels cooked in White Wine and Garlic Oil (¥600). To go with our chips and Korean pancake? Why not! Though not the best mussels I’ve had, they were certainly tasty (especially for only ¥600!). Despite being steamed, they had a subtle charcoal flavour, almost like they’d been very lightly grilled.
Finally, the Chicken Karaage with Mentaiko Mayo (¥460) and Gyoza (¥490, 5 pieces) arrived. The winner here was definitely the chicken, with its light yet super-crunchy batter, tender flesh and that creamy, ever-so-slightly spicy cod roe mayo.
Tasty, surprisingly cheap, and definitely a great place to hang out and watch friends and office workers unwind after a long day, Koisakaba is a place we’d definitely return to next time we’re in Tokyo. To get to Ebisu Yokocho, take the West Exit from Ebisu Station and walk to Komazawa-dori, then toward Meiji-dori. Turn right at the first lights, then walk about 15 metres – you will eventually see the lanterns that mark the entrance to Ebisu Yokocho.
KOISAKABA @ EBISU YOKOCHO
Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
Opening hours: 5:00PM – 5:00AM (daily)