See all that mouth-watering Japanese-style karaage fried chicken? It only cost us 100 yen, and we could have eaten twice as much without getting charged any more.
Generally speaking, Japanese cuisine makes use of more fish and vegetables than the standard fare in other countries, but that doesn’t mean Japan doesn’t love fried chicken just as much as anyone else. Western-style fried chicken is the traditional Christmas Eve dinner here, and Japan also has its own version of the dish, called karaage, which are bite-sized morsels of bird enhanced with seasonings such as garlic and ginger.
In any meal out, the arrival of a plate of karaage is a joyous occasion, and when the last piece is finished, fried chicken fans can feel a palpable sadness in their hearts. But there’s a restaurant in Tokyo where the palate-pleasing poultry parade never ends.
You’ll find Uchoten Sakaba in the Asakusabashi neighborhood. The restaurant belongs to the izakaya class of eateries, casual dining halls with a wide menu of small plates and alcoholic beverages to choose from. Uchoten Sakaba is much-loved for its whiskey highballs, but what enticed us to go is their all-you-can-eat fried chicken deal.
Really, all-you-can-eat fried chicken is worth it at any price, but Uchoten Sakaba’s unlimited karaage offer is an insanely attractive bargain, because it costs just 100 yen (US$0.89).
▼ Translation: All the fried chicken you want, for less than a buck.
At first, we thought this might be some sort of limited-time offer, maybe to commemorate the anniversary of the restaurant’s opening or something. But nope, it’s all-you-can-eat fried chicken day at Uchoten Sakaba every single day, although the super-cheap offer is only available after 5 p.m.
However, since Uchoten Sakaba is a business, and not a fried chicken-dispensing philanthropic organization, each customer is also asked to order one drink and one non-karaage food item during their visit. Thankfully, the restaurant’s prices are quite reasonable. For the food, we decided on a salad (520 yen) to give our meal a healthy component and also act as a palate cleanser between orders of karaage.
We also ordered a mega-size highball, which was definitely big enough to justify its 690-yen price. The restaurant also has beer and cocktails from as little as 380 yen.
With our order obligations cleared, it was time to see just how much karaage we could eat. The first plate you’re given comes with three pieces for each person in your party.
▼ Uchoten Sakaba isn’t a British-style pub. The staff just has a thing for toothpicks decorated with national flags.
Now you might be expecting, given its almost non-existent price, that Uchoten Sakaba’s karaage isn’t anything special in the flavor department. Nothing could be farther from the truth, though. Our batch was fresh out of the fryer, with pleasingly crispy breading and meat that was deliciously juicy without being oily. The seasonings work well, and are present in just the right amount so as to keep your taste buds entertained without overpowering them.
As you might have guessed, our first plate of fried chicken was eaten in a flash, so we asked for a refill. Subsequent batches are served two pieces at a time for each person at the table.
And when that was done, we asked for another…
…and ano-, well, you get the idea.
As we polished off plate after plate, Uchoten Sakaba came to feel more and more like paradise to us. In talking with the staff, we found out there’s also an all-you-can-eat karaage lunch set, which is a steal too at just 980 yen. Still, for our money there’s nothing like finishing off the day with a cold, stiff drink, and the green light to eat as much fried chicken as our stomach can hold.
Uchoten Sakaba (Asakusabashi branch) /有鳥天酒場 浅草橋店
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Yanagibashi 1-23-4, Suga Building 2nd floor
Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (Monday-Saturday), Dinner 5 p.m.-11:30 p.m. (Monday to Friday), 5 p.m.-11 p.m. (Saturday-Sunday)
[ Read in Japanese ]