Where in Japan can you chow down on a top-quality juicy steak without breaking the bank? At one of the 116 branches of Ikinari Steak, that’s where. The name means suddenly, or out of the blue, and the catch is that this is not a place to take the weight off your feet after a day’s shopping or sightseeing – because you stand up to eat. The restaurant is furnished with communal standing stations instead of chairs and tables.
You order by weight, at prices that vary according to cut, with a 300g portion of ribeye costing 1,950 yen, or £14 – about half what it would cost elsewhere. The chef cuts the steak to your chosen thickness in front of you, and the menu also includes, in ascending order of price, sirloin, tenderloin and, at about £28 for 300g, prized wagyu beef.
You wait at your station for the meat to arrive, flushed rare and topped with an aromatic cluster of fried garlic. As at a bar, you stand at a narrow counter between fellow diners; at busy times, there’s just enough elbow room to comfortably slice into your steak. Make sure to try the flavourful soy-based hot sauce – not chilli hot but steaming hot in temperature.
Value-conscious Tokyo boasts a number of standing eateries, from sushi and noodle joints to Italian bistros, but founder Kunio Ichinose pioneered the concept of a stand-up steak house in 2013. It has proved hugely popular in Japan – most of the branches are in Tokyo, but it has expanded into other cities, including Kyoto, Osaka and Fukuoka, and opened its first overseas location, in New York’s East Village, last month.