There are a couple of distinct price tiers to seafood in Japan. Squid and octopus tend to be very budget-friendly, with a step up in price for sashimi-grade tuna and salmon. Among the most premium offerings of all is where you’ll find salmon roe, or ikura as it’s known in Japanese.
Due to its high cost, ikura is usually served in modest quantities, sometimes seeming more like a garnish than a legitimate component of the meal. However, that’s not the case at these four Tokyo restaurants, which dish up such generous portions that their ikura literally overflows the bowl.
As one of Japan’s most popular dining websites, Guru Navi (short for “Gourmet Navigation”) will let you filter restaurant search results by a wide variety of parameters. Recently, though, the site made a special point of highlighting a group of four restaurants that are known for their overflowing ikura bowls.
Referred to as ikura koboredon, the decadent dish is most commonly seen on the northern island of Hokkaido, the surroundings waters of which serve as the source for the lion’s share of Japan’s salmon roe. All four of these restaurants are located inside Tokyo, though, which means they’re within easy striking distance if you’re craving some ikura after a day of sightseeing, work, or school in Japan’s capital.
Let’s dive face-first into this collection of ikura goodness.
1. Hokkaido Shiretoko Gyojo /北海道知床漁場
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Minami Ikebukuro 1-13-21, Izumiya Building basement level 1 / 東京都豊島区南池袋1-13-21 和泉屋ビルB1
Open 5 p.m.-midnight
Just opened in late February, this Ikebukuro restaurant takes its name from Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula, considered to have some of the tastiest ikura in the country. Ordinarily, the restaurant’s full-size ikura rice bowl, called the Nore Sore!! Nannmmara Kobore Ikuradon will cost 1,980 yen (US $16.80), with half-sizes available for 1,280 yen. As part of its opening campaign, though, customers can print out or display the couponhere and get a half-size bowl absolutely free!
2. Totoshigure / ととしぐれ
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Shibuya, 3-13-7, Godo Building basement level 1 / 東京都渋谷区渋谷3-13-7 五常ビルB1
Open Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-5 a.
Totoshigure has the cheapest menu-priced overflowing salmon roe bowl of any restaurant on the list, as the otsubo ikura no kobore meshi will only set you back 890 yen. If ikura’s not your thing the restaurant’s uni (sea urchin) bowl is similarly staggering in size.
3. Iroriya / いろり家
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-11-11, Ginza Sambankan 2 basement level 2 / 東京都中央区銀座3-11-11 銀座参番館2 B1
Open Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-4 a.m.; Weekends 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Moving from youthful Shibuya to blueblood Ginza, Iroriya’s profile was raised when it was mentioned on the cover of a popular adult magazine last year. You won’t find anything scandalous inside, although the massive funajo meshi ikura bowls, in prices ranging from 2,480 to 3,980 yen depending on size, will stimulate your appetite.
4. En / 炎
Address: Tokyo-to, Edogawa-ku, Funabori 1-7-17, Crystal Funabori 1st floor /東京都江戸川区船堀1-7-17 クリスタル船堀1F
Open Monday-Thursday, Sunday, holidays 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Friday-Saturday and days preceding holidays 5 p.m.-3 a.m.
Finally, we come to En, where the recommended way to eat a mountain of ikura is with a dollop of fiery wasabi added. Like many of the other examples on this list, the 1,280-yen kobore ikuradon seems like a deal that’s too good to be true. With portions this big, can the restaurant actually be making money off the dish?
Possibly not. En’s owner, who was born in the city of Hakodate on Hokkaido, says he’s prepared to lose money on his giant salmon roe servings, and that his real goal is for the people of Tokyo to come away with a renewed appreciation of the regional cuisine of his home prefecture. As a matter of fact, so seriously does he take the task that he personally scoops the ikura into the bowls that are delivered to eagerly waiting customers.
Of course, the better time customers are having, the more likely they are to order a glass of beer or bottle of sake to go along with the loss-leading ikura bowl. But hey, ikura and sake go great together, so in the end it’s a win-win for all involved.