Warayakiya: An izakaya where tradition and modern life intertwine
Warayakiya, meaning "straw-grilled shop", is one of the most unique and famous Izakayas in Tokyo. As the name suggests, the food available includes traditional Japanese cuisine grilled in an open kitchen that uses straw instead of charcoal, giving everything a unique taste that you won't forget! Not only is the Izakaya made from a traditional Japanese house, but its environment embodies Tokyo's culture perfectly - a balance of a traditional and modern way of life.
The Izakaya is in Tokyo's Roppongi district and is pretty easy to find as its exterior is very reminiscent of old Japan. There's a lot of Japanese calligraphy scrolls on the front facade and a big paper lantern. There’s a wooden sitting area outside of the "house" which was used as common meeting spot for neighbors to visit one another and have tea without intruding into the host’s house. Now it's used for people to wait outside or smoke in the open air, I recommend you call in advance and make a reservation, especially if you plan on going in a group.
But the best part awaits you inside! The environment is very cozy because of its wood interior and several seating options which include: floor cushions with large wooden tables, bar seating, and booths. I sat at the bar, which was great because I could see how they cooked all the food. It takes a lot of skill as the flames soar high and the meats are cooked methodically for savoriness. I ordered two of their signature dishes, "Katsuo no tataki" (lightly roasted bonito) and "Tousa wa chickin jidori muneniku" (home-raised grilled chicken breast.) The bonito was sashimi style, and its cooking method allowed for the most flavor to come from the meat, which would be lost if it was fully cooked. The dish came with dipping salt and other sliced veggies to put on top of it, but the bonito itself was full of flavor and very tender! The chicken was also delicious, the straw taste in my opinion is a must try if you like grilled foods.
The drink menu is similar to other izakaya but better if you'd like to explore some new Japanese liquor! They have a big sake selection, which you won't find easily outside of Japan. It's also important to note that the place attracts a diverse group of people so you never know what new friends may await you! I was very comfortable, as the place itself wasn't loud and there were no people screaming or rushing in and out, as can be common in izakaya late at night. In my opinion, Warayakiya's atmosphere is perfect for the adventurous traveler wanting to gain the izakaya experience and try new food and drinks comfortably.