Self-serve beer tap and shochu bottles keep the drinks flowing and the prices low.
Udon restaurant chain Marugame Seimen, with its lineup of reasonably priced noodles and tempura, is a great place to stretch your food budget in Tokyo. Surprisingly, though, it turns out it’s also a great place to stretch your drinking budget.
Like a lot of casual restaurants in Japan, Marugame Seimen has a pretty decent selection of alcoholic beverages, with Kirin draft beer, cocktails , and shochu all available for your imbibing pleasure. At select branches, though, Marugame even has an all-you-can-drink plan on weekday evenings. In Tokyo, this service has been offered at the Shinjuku Bunka Quint and Roppongi T Cube locations for some time, but it’s just recently become available at Marugame’s Nakano Central Park branch, and we decided to drop by to try it for ourselves.
Customers can choose from three different plans. The cheapest is just 1,000 yen (US$9), which gets you a bowl of udon or a chicken and egg rice bowl and all the booze you can drink for 30 minutes. Tossing down an extra hundred yen gives you a plate of garlic steamed clams instead of the noodles or rice bowl, and the top-of-the-line but still very affordable 1,200 yen plan gives you tofu with stewed pork as the main dish. In addition to the unlimited alcoholic beverages, all three plans also come with your choice of two pieces of tempura or other side dishes.
▼ High-rollers that we are, we chose the 1,200-yen meal, and asked for a tempura shrimp and more tofu with bonito flakes to go with it.
30 minutes may not be the longest all-you-can-drink deal around, but to make things as efficient as possible, the alcoholic beverages are self-serve. You can also extend the plan in increments of 30 minutes for an additional 600 yen each time.
▼ The beer, lemon sour, and highball taps
▼ The shochu corner, with both potato and barley varieties, plus both hot and water to cut them with and ice
As soon as we told the staff we’d like the all-you-can-drink plan, we made our way to the tap and poured ourselves a crisp, cold Kirin.
Since we were on the clock, we downed it pretty quickly, and with 25 minutes left, we went back and got a lemon sour.
We followed that up with a highball…
…but while everything was tasting fine and we were feeling good, we could forsee a problem with our strategy. Everything we’d drunk until this point was carbonated, which was going to fill us up and limit how many drinks we could consume, so we decided that this was the time to switch to shochu.
We poured a measure of potato shochu into our cup, mixed it with cold water, and sat down to sip it.
However, we noticed we were now down to about four minutes remaining on our all-you-can-drink plan.
While the offer is billed as 30 minutes of all-you-can-drink, there’s actually a small loophole, in that 30 minutes after you start is when you get cut off for refills. Whatever you’ve got left in the cup when those 30 minutes are done, though, you can drink at your relative leisure.
With time running out, we picked up the pace, and luckily managed to beat the buzzer, getting a final refill just before time ran out.
So in the end, we had a satisfying meal and five drinks for just 1,200 yen, which is a serious bargain. Marugame offers its all-you-can-drink plan from 5 p.m., so if you’re craving noodles and beer (or shochu) for dinner, head on over.
Marugame Seimen (Nakano Central Park branch) / 丸亀製麺 中野セントラルパーク店
Address: Tokyo-to, Nakano-ku, Nakano 4-10-2, Nakano Central Park South 2nd floor
東京都中野区中野4-10-2 中野セントラルパークサウス 2F
Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (weekdays), 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (weekends, holidays)
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