Saiki Ebisu Izakaya: Eat at this small izakaya that opened 66 years ago
Saiki is almost more of a time machine than it is a restaurant. The menu is still written in chalk, old jars of sake are shelved on the wall and even the microwave looks like it came from the 70s. It is truly a wonder that a small shop like Saiki has survived in a place like Ebisu, the now most highly desired ward to live in Tokyo. Ebisu is home to an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants spanning Korean BBQ to Spanish tapas. But even among all the delicious food one can find in Ebisu, the small shop Saiki stands above the others. And as proof of Saiki's wonderful reputation, the shop still has regulars that have come for over 40 years.
The shop is very small with only two tables and a counter that fits maybe 8 or 9 people. So I would not recommend coming to Saiki with a large party. They also don't serve normal rice or set meal dishes, this is a pure small plate shop.
Normally in a Japanese restaurant guests are served an appetizer called otōshi or tsukidashi. Here at Saiki guests are served three separate dishes! The appetizers will change from day-to-day, but normally some form of sashimi, soup, and salad are given. Since the otōshi are mandatory the table charge is a minimum of 1300 yen, and one could even be satisfied with the appetizers alone. But the food is so good it is doubtful one would choose to do so.
Saiki has a number of signature dishes and one of the most striking is their frozen sake. Basically a shaved ice sake shot, it's a perfect drink for a hot summer night. The aji-furai or fried fish is particularly delicious. The batter is not too thick or oily and the fish is tender and flavorful. The same goes for their crab croquettes which have real crab in them. The dashimakitamago is a fluffy scrambled egg found in most sushi restaurants and is another exquisite dish. The texture of the egg is amazing. The dishes change every day but if you see the sliced duck on the menu be sure to order it - you won't regret it.
Saiki is tucked away in a small alley just outside the West Exit of JR Ebisu Station. Once out of the West Exit, turn right parallel with the train tracks. Cross the street and enter the small alley to the left of the flower store. Saiki will be on your right.