When I first entered Gaburiya ten years ago I didn’t even know what an izakaya was, but a memorable cocktail and delicious grilled skewers have kept me coming back despite its tiny smoke-filled space. It’s time you tried it, too.
Once inside (difficult on Friday and Saturday nights) it’s always the same drill. First off, no matter your drink of choice—the Gaburiya opener is the vodka nama grapefruit (¥680). The grapefruit is freshly squeezed for each drink right there at the bar (turns out the reddish cheaper fruit make for better juice). Trust me, you’ll want to order another round as soon as your first arrives.
Next, the maguro no satoyaki in olive sauce (¥300 each). Be quick on this one as they run out most nights. This is their signature dish, and what keeps me coming back. The tuna—squared and skewered on a stick—is lightly seared on the outside, delightfully raw on the inside and drizzled with a near perfect olive sauce. I’ve been trying to figure out the recipe for a decade now and I know this much: diced olives, garlic, sardine, lemon, and pepper in virgin olive oil. Order two per person. Better yet, order three because you’ll order more once you try it.
While you’re at it, order from over 60 different kinds of yakitori, (from ¥180). Get the sasami (chicken slightly grilled outside, practically raw inside, served with wasabi), and the tsukune (grilled minced chicken)—one shio kosho (salt and pepper) and one tare (sauce).
Always a good sign for quality restaurants in Japan, it’s packed with young, upwardly mobile, trendy young women. This ain’t your aging salaryman izakaya (despite being filled with smoke). The soft-lit dark wooden counter and seating area is scarred from scrapes with Louis Vuitton handbags and flashy baubles. A sunken private table near the entrance is available for groups, but you don’t want that. This is one of those places where it’s better to sit in the thick of it all.
Round out the chicken and tuna with yaki onigiri (grilled rice ball, ¥380) done yakitori style on a wooden skewer and served with soup for dipping.
Now you’re on your own. Be adventurous. Ask the long-serving tencho (the manager—who doesn’t speak much English, but loves the practice) for an osusume (recommended) menu item. You can’t go wrong with the deep-fried Camembert or your straight-shooting negima (grilled chicken and green onion). Or try the hotate (scallop): grilled open-faced and in their shell with a little white wine sauce.
Collect some points to use on your next visit at the cash desk when you head out. Just don’t wait ten years to tell anyone about it.