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Why You’ll Go Wild For Japanese Beef: Checking Out Tokyo's Famous Ikinari Steak!

Why You’ll Go Wild For Japanese Beef: Checking Out Tokyo's Famous Ikinari Steak!

Date published: 25 January 2020
Last updated: 17 August 2020

When it comes to steaks, one thing seems to be common knowledge: even at upscale restaurants, you get what you pay for - meaning that you shouldn’t expect too much from a cheap steak. But the Japanese steakhouse “Ikinari! Steak” seeks to overturn that way of thinking by offering excellent steak at very reasonable prices! It has been featured in plenty of media and is gaining quite a following. And did you know you can even get affordable, high-quality Japanese beef there too?

In fact, “Serving super thick high-quality steak quickly at a very affordable price” is Ikinari! Steak’s concept, giving birth to a place that lets you savor exquisite, high-grade steak in a laid-back environment. You even get to choose the weight of your steak, a great system for both big eaters and people with a small appetite. This creative system is one reason why Ikinari! Steak is well-received.

Steak Pioneer: What is Ikinari! Steak?

Steak Pioneer: What is Ikinari! Steak?

Ikinari! Steak literally means “sudden steak,” following the concept of having a steak without bothering with appetizers or vegetables. The steakhouse also pioneered eating steak while standing, a very minimalistic side menu, and focusing on pretty much nothing but steak. It’s a restaurant that every carnivore simply has to visit. At the time of Ikinari! Steak’s opening, it was standing only, but today, 98% of its establishments have chairs to accommodate children and families, making it even more popular.

Ikinari! Steak is thoroughly committed to the meat that is served. Everything is high in quality, just like you’d expect at a high-end restaurant. So how do they offer this quality without breaking the bank? Well it’s simple: to offer the best, they accept a lower margin – 30% lower than the restaurant industry average. Ikinari! Steak covers their costs by keeping customers happy and offering a short menu!

You wouldn’t be able to eat a course meal at a restaurant in 30 minutes, but that is exactly the average stay time of Ikinari! Steak’s diners. The prices can only be that low because of this high turnover rate. Being able to savor exquisite meat for these incredibly low prices – it’s a dream come true!

“We currently operate 438 shops nationwide (as of 4/16/2019),” explains Mika Kobayashi who works for the PR department of Pepper Food Service, the company behind Ikinari! Steak. In recent years, a lot of steakhouses were opened in rural areas and along roads, with a total number of 15 new stores per month being rather astounding.

Timothy from New York Reviews Ikinari! Steak!

Timothy from New York Reviews Ikinari! Steak!

We wanted to see what Ikinari! Steak is all about for ourselves and found a worthy challenger: Timothy from New York – the home of fine steak cuts, if you will. Living in Japan for 16 years, he will set out to try Ikinari! Steak firsthand. “Not to sound too much like a stereotypical American, but whenever I visit the US, I do like to see if I can get in a bit of barbecue or grilled steak. In Japan, meats are easy to come by - but they typically come in smaller cuts. So I’m kind of curious what's available at Ikinari! Steak!”

We got to visit the Ikinari! Steak location just in front of Tobu Asakusa Station – Asakusa is a historic neighborhood and popular tourist spot. Well then, let’s go in!

The calm and chic atmosphere is almost surprising. It’s certainly not what you imagine when hearing “steak for cheap!” The staff wears full-fledged chef uniforms and the place does seem like a rather upscale steakhouse. Of course, the overall atmosphere is important for the taste of the food as well!

Tough Choices: What to Pick from the Menu?

Tough Choices: What to Pick from the Menu?

Timothy goes for the menu immediately. It’s his first time at Ikinari! Steak, so the choice is a rather tough one. Fortunately, Ms. Kobayashi is here to help!

“Personally, I’d recommend the rib roast (6.9 yen per gram, tax excluded). It has a nice balance between lean and fatty meat. Fillet (9 yen per gram, tax excluded) is the best choice for people who prefer a lean steak. For those that like to make flavor adjustments, I recommend the ‘wild steak,’ which comes from the firm shoulder roast. Of course, Japanese beef is a popular choice among tourists as well. The big draw of Ikinari! Steak is that you can order as much you like of whatever you like, so a lot of people try several different cuts.”

With that kind of advice, Timothy managed to make up his mind: “Gotta be the Japanese beef! I think a lot of people come to Japan just for that, and they really look forward to trying what domestic stock are all about. So I’ll give the recommendation [rib roast] a go. And I’m a fan of lean meat, so I'll also try out the fillet.”

Decide How Much You Want to Eat!

Decide How Much You Want to Eat!

At Ikinari! Steak, once you decide what you want to eat, you’re taken to the cut counter. With your specifications, the shop’s own “Cut Meister” gets to work and slices off almost the exact amount of steak that you ordered from a big chunk of meat. It’s not often you get to see this kind of spectacle. Incidentally, payments are made at the cash register when you’re done eating, so all you need to do here is make your order.

“The meat’s thick and glossy! The marbling of red meat and fat is beautiful.” Timothy knows his beef! It’s fun to see how the cuts of meat differ.

“So this is kind of a new experience for me. When I'd ordered steak at a restaurant in the US, usually it's a round number - quite different from ordering a precise amount like this,” says Timothy.

Naturally, you also get to decide how your steak is grilled. “Of course, we recommend ordering it rare! The meat is fresh, so we can offer it nice and rare so you can really savor the flavor,” says Ms. Kobayashi. Watch your steak being made right next to the cut counter.

Don’t miss this delicious spectacle! Timothy can’t resist taking his phone out to snap a few shots for Instagram.

Seasons, Condiments, Sauces: Enhance Your Steak in Your Own Way!

Seasons, Condiments, Sauces: Enhance Your Steak in Your Own Way!

Several original seasonings line up on the table, which is another great thing about Ikinari! Steak. From their basic light steak sauce to sweet sauce popular with tourists, soy sauce, garlic, wasabi, hot sauce, and more. The combinations are almost endless and customization suddenly becomes the best part of your steak experience!

Let’s Start with the Tourists’ Favorite: “Genuine Aged Japanese beef Sirloin Steak (12 yen per gram before tax)”!

Let’s Start with the Tourists’ Favorite: “Genuine Aged Japanese beef Sirloin Steak (12 yen per gram before tax)”!

The Asakusa restaurant sees a lot of tourist customers, many of whom come to try Japanese beef. Ikinari! Steak ages its beef, 20 days for its domestic Japanese beef and 40 days for other meats, never once freezing them. From the eight kinds of steaks available, Japanese beef is used to prepare their “Genuine Aged Domestic Sirloin Steak” and “Genuine Aged Japanese Beef Rib Roast Steak”. The menu changes from location to location, and indeed, the Asakusa restaurant has the sirloin steak of the aforementioned two. In this visit, we tried 300 grams of the “Genuine Aged Japanese beef Sirloin Steak”.

Here it is, the Sirloin Steak, King of Beef! To get an impression of the meat’s true flavor, first one should try it plain.

One clean cut into the steak, and we find finely-textured, beautiful red meat. That’s domestic Japanese beef for you!

“No sense in waiting!” The meat is soft, and the juice from the red meat runs across the palate. “You could eat the whole steak plain like this and be satisfied! It has the natural flavor of beef, no awkward fattiness. Great texture. At this rate, 300 grams might not be enough!” Timothy seemed more than pleased by the how one could enjoy pure Japanese beef flavor with this steak.

Next Up, the Recommended Rib Roast!

Next Up, the Recommended Rib Roast!

Next, we sampled Ms. Kobayashi’s recommendation, the rib roast steak. On top of the meat is garlic paste and fried garlic – a real double punch!

The staple sides of corn and onion are also on the plate. You can change and add toppings such as broccoli, green beans, potatoes, kabocha pumpkin, and carrot (each for 100 yen extra, tax excluded; corn can be exchanged with another side for free) to customize your plate further.

It already feels rare while cutting – and look at that gorgeous pink color!

A satisfied smile just before the first bite says a lot about the diner’s feelings!

An expression of pure bliss. “It is SO delicious! Very tender and juicy.”

Savoring your cut with various seasonings is the “Ikinari style.” Timothy also tries the steakhouse’s original sweet sauce, said to be particularly popular with tourists. He pours a bit in the corner of the plate to be able to carefully distinguish the tastes.

“Yup, the sauce is sweet and very delicious. I like the light, fruity taste.” Made with apples, this sweet taste is also a favorite of Ikinari! Steak’s guests.

Ms. Kobayashi recommends a combination of wasabi and soy sauce, so let’s try that next. Apparently, this “Japanese style” seasoning is also popular with tourists, but Timothy added quite a lot of wasabi... Will he be okay?

Careful chewing.

“Nope, all good! you don't really get the sting of wasabi in your nose and the meat's flavor becomes rather mild. This soft taste strikes me as being very Japanese." There’s a reason why everyone likes soy sauce and wasabi so much – Ikinari! Steak has gone out of its way to find a wasabi variety that fits steak perfectly.

Meat Lovers, Behold the Thick Fillet Steak!

Meat Lovers, Behold the Thick Fillet Steak!

Look at how thick this steak is!
The meat is cut so thickly to make the most out of “rare” orders, really letting you savor the rich taste. For that, a certain thickness is important. If the cut is too thin, the heat will penetrate the inside of the meat and it won’t be rare.

“I think that there are plenty of steak places that would like to serve thick cuts, but then it becomes a cost issue. That’s why Ikinari! Steak can do it that way, so we absolutely encourage you to taste steak in its most delicious form!” Of course, this “most delicious form” is a fillet steak that’s more than 5cm thick. This time, Timothy topped it with broccoli.

And indeed, the careful grilling brings out an incredible deliciousness.

“The fillet is amazing, too. I enjoy the rich flavor of the meat.”

Must-Tries: The Secret Menu of Ikinari! Steak

Must-Tries: The Secret Menu of Ikinari! Steak

Here’s a special tip: Ikinari! Steak has a rather rich secret menu. We were told some of those special orders, many of which are based on suggestions from guests!

1) Garlic Rice, Made by You!
Ask the staff for a serving of rice on the reheated iron plate once you finished your steak – that way, all the delicious meat juice will be soaked up by the rice. Then top it with some garlic that’s available right at your table. Add whichever other seasonings you like to further customize your garlic rice. Crisply baked rice right on the iron plate is also rumored to be extraordinarily delicious.

2) “Vegetable stir-fry style” salad with plenty of meat umami!
This secret order also lets you make the most out of your steak order even after almost everything is gone. It’s up to you whether you finish your steak or not, but we recommend leaving just a bit of the meat and cutting it into small bits. Then ask for the iron plate to be reheated while also ordering a salad. Then, put the salad on the hot plate, mix everything, and enjoy a stir-fry-like dish with plenty of meat flavor!

3) Original Spicy Soup
If you order a soup, don’t just eat it as it is but put in some hot sauce and garlic. This spicy way is apparently how the company president enjoys his soup orders!

Timothy decided to go for the salad stir-fry! Here’s how to make it: first, put the veggies from the salad bowl on the iron plate and ask for it to be reheated. It took about a minute until it came back.

Timothy decided to season it with the sweet sauce, which seems to be his favorite out of the condiment lineup.

“Alright, let's have a try. Yes, the veggies taste great as well. The sauce has a really nice zing to it - a great match!”

This is our taste tester at the very end. His expression speaks for itself!

Timothy’s Verdict: What Do You Think of Ikinari! Steak?

Timothy’s Verdict: What Do You Think of Ikinari! Steak?

“The Japanese beef had perfect flavor by itself, delicious without anything added. And if you went to a normal steak restaurant, you’d probably spend quite a bit and still have a belly waiting for more. It’s incredible! Similarly, the rib roast and fillet were tender and incredibly satisfying. And in the US, you don’t get to change the flavor with all these kinds of sauces. That was both tasty and fun!” Tasty and fun – is that the secret to Ikinari! Steak’s popularity?

There’s also a big reason from a tourist’s perspective. “Usually, going out to have steak takes some time, right? But as a tourist, you don’t want to wait forever for food - you want to get out and see the sights. Ikinari! Steak offers a delicious steak experience that fits in between sightseeing activities.”

Because the steakhouse only serves meat, eating here also leaves plenty of room to savor other local delicacies. It’s a great spot for travelers who really want to dive into as many gourmet experiences as possible.

There’s also an English menu available at all stores, making it an attractive restaurant for tourists. Especially at Ikinari! Steak Asakusa Station-mae, nestled in an area brimming with people from all over the world, and everything from ordering to questions can be handled in English without issues.

Ikinari! Steak: Luxurious Steak for Little Money, Approved by Our Taste Tester from the States!

Ikinari! Steak: Luxurious Steak for Little Money, Approved by Our Taste Tester from the States!

“There’s this image that fast food isn’t good for our health, but it’s great that we get the chance to enjoy something that's both tasty and high-quality - without having to shell out a lot,” says Timothy.

Another fun thing at Ikinari! Steak is that you can accumulate grams of steak like you’d accumulate mileage on a plane – it even uses that expression! The more steak mileage you collect, the higher your rank, used for various extra services. This mileage card can be charged with cash, so as long as you have your card, you could go out for steak any time.

When we visited Ikinari! Steak to write about it (mid-April), the shop also had plenty of other programs, such as a tie-up with the movie Avengers: Endgame. Eating at Ikinari! Steak means “meat entertainment!” We highly encourage you to go and experience that fun for yourself.

  • Ikinari Steak Asakusa Ekimae
    • Address Ono Bldg. 1F, 1-33-10 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0032
    • Phone Number 03-5246-4929
    • Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. (last order at 10:45 p.m.)
      Lunchtime: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (weekdays only)
      Available seats: 38
      Parking: not available

      *Opening hours and menu vary by store. Please check the official homepage for details:

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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