cover for izakayaThe Ultimate Tokyo Food Tour kicked off with a kikizake (sake tasting) at Akaoni (Red Demon), a traditional Japanese Izakaya. Izakaya’s are where people usually go to drink and can order small plates of food. Akaoni may not look like much from the outside but it is known as one of the best Izakaya’s in Tokyo due to it’s extensive range of sake, they stock over 100 different labels!

We were lucky enough to be joined by fellow Kiwi, Rebekah Wilson-Lye who moved to Japan over 10 years ago. There was no English on the menu so it was great to go with a Japanese speaking local who took care of all the ordering. Rebekah has a huge passion for sake and is a Certified Sake Professional who provides sake recommendations for restaurants all over the world, basically she gets to drink as part of her job. Her knowledge of each sake was mind blowing, she knew exactly where each was made and which ones would go best through out dinner.  Check out her blog, Ichi for the Michi, for Tokyo restaurant and sake reviews.

Upon arrival, Rebekah informed us that whenever you see the dark brown ball of straw hanging in the front of an Izakaya it means that the sake is ready. Akaoni had one of these out the front and so we entered.


Menu showing which fish is available for the day and its origin.

The first round of tasting involved very light sakes of which the first one being poured below was named “The Red Demon”, this is Akaoni’s private label and is only made for them. The food that accompanied the first round was small and light to match the sake.

Sake 1

Rebekah giving us some background on each sake.

izakaya food

Sashimi at Izakaya

The sashimi was so fresh and covered a variety of fish. The uni was everyone’s favorite, so delicious!

The second round saw a little bit more intenseness and flavor coming through in the sakes. The ones in the pic below were Nabeshima, Sharaku, Chōchin, Dassai and Hououbiden, respectively. The first one was my favorite as it was slightly bubbly, I was told you can get this at Cocoro in Ponsonby so do try it! The food to match was moving onto more intense flavours. The highlight for everyone was the tofu misozuke that had been marinated for a month in miso and a Japanese citrus called Yuzu. This was amazing! It had the texture of and tasted like a pate, it was great just on its own.

Sake 2

fermented tofu

Tofu Misozuke – tofu fermented with miso and yuzu.

fish at izakaya 1

Fish with gingko nuts in the foreground.


Tako (Octopus)

It was at this point of the meal when we were joined by one of Japan’s dancehall mc’s of which Nick met whilst in the bathroom lol. Random good stuff always happens in this crazy city. He gave us this little sample of his mc’ing, shabba!

The last round was where the big boys came in, ぬる燗 Kikuyoi, Takemichi & Senkin. With this round you could really taste how well each sake went with the food, everything matched perfectly.

Sake 3

Our lovely hostess.

fish 2After the tasting we hopped on the train and encountered a couple of characters. At first I thought they were official army dudes but turns out they were dressed up for Halloween. Unfortunately for them the authorities didn’t find it funny and the train was stopped for awhile at our stop, they weren’t letting anyone off. Finally when we were let out we saw some security guards running towards the train – I hope those guys didn’t get into too much trouble!

on the trainAs we were heading back to the hotel, we made a detour to the Golden Gai area in Shinjuku. Golden Gai is a small block filled with 280 mini bars where each one can only sit a hand full of people at a time. There were too many to choose from so we ended up at one that we liked the sound of, it was called Buzz. We made friends with a drunk Japanese business man and the lady owner.

golden gai

bar in golden gai

stairs in golden

inside Buzz bar


Kanpai! #Faded


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