Solo sukiyaki: the countertop cooking pot is the new way to indulge in good food in Tokyo

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Almost everyone in Japan loves sukiyaki. The problem, however, is that sukiyaki is usually eaten in groups and not everyone wants to eat it at the same time.

Most sukiyaki restaurants in Japan are geared towards hosting groups, not solo diners, so you usually need to gather a quorum of companions whose specific cravings strike at the same time as your own. However, a restaurant chain is looking to change that by giving us a way to enjoy sukiyaki even if we don’t have anyone else to enjoy.

The concept is the latest idea from Yakiniku Like, which opened its first branch in 2018. Like sukiyaki, yakiniku is something that is mostly eaten in groups in Japan, but Yakiniku Like wants to make it something accessible to diners. solo too, so their restaurants have counter seats with individually sized grills for each customer, as shown in the photo below.

Yakiniku Like recently started applying this system to sukiyaki. On the second day they started offering solo sukiyaki, we showed up before the restaurant even opened at 11am, and there was already a queue. When the restaurant opened, we were shown to a seat, where we noticed something a little different from the Yakiniku Like decor we’re used to.

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The grill is gone! This creates a place for the staff to place the pot for your sukiyaki broth, which is actually rectangular.

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Another similarity between sukiyaki and yakiniku is that they both tend to be expensive, making them a kind of special occasion food. This can make it doubly difficult to get a group together, because not only does everyone have to be in the mood for the same food, but they also all have to be ready to splurge on an edible luxury. On this front too, Yakiniku Like tries to make things easier for customers.

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Their one-person sukiyaki set, which gives you Japanese beef, rice, vegetables, mushrooms, an egg for dipping, and kimchi, is priced at 1,280 yen. Although not the cheapest meal in town, it is a bargain for sukiyaki. Throw in free refills of rice and eggs, and it’s really good value (you can also order extra meat or veggies for an extra charge).

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We started by putting the vegetables in the pot, then after they had had a bit of cooking time, we threw in the beef. With the delicious scent of sukiyaki wafting through it as it cooked, our anticipation grew second by second, and when it was ready to eat and the moment of truth arrived…

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…It was great! The broth has a great blend of sweet and meaty flavors, and bites of beef or veg with rice acted as a fantastic palate cleanser, preparing our taste buds for the full flavor of the broth again and again (and since you get free rice refills, we didn’t have to worry about our pace at all).

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While eating, we realized something particularly awesome about eating sukiyaki on our own. At each seat are containers of extra broth and other condiments, as well as water that you can add to make the flavor of the broth stronger or more subtle. Usually, if you eat sukiyaki in a group, everyone shares the same broth, so you have to find a mutually acceptable compromise on how that broth tastes. When you eat sukiyaki by yourself, though? You can adjust the flavor of the broth to be exactly what you, and only you, want it to be.

There’s only one thing we’re really disappointed about here, and that is that Yakiniku Like’s one-person sukiyaki is currently only available at his restaurant in Tokyo’s Ueno district, and not is offered only until May 9. However, this all seems like a way to a lot of trouble for the channel to have gone for a few weeks to one location, so we have a feeling this is a trial that Yakiniku Like is using to fine-tune the system with a view to bringing solo sukiyaki to more branches, or even a whole new sister channel, in the near future.

Restaurant information

Sukiyaki Like (located at Yakiniku Like Ueno branch)

Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Ueno 4-8-3 (1st floor only, second floor serves yakiniku only)

東京都台東区上野4-8-3

Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Website

Photos ©SoraNews24

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