Skewers of Yakitori at Tokyo’s Memory Lane (or Piss Alley)

By Mark Wiens 25 Comments
yakitori-ya
Closet sized yakitori-ya in Tokyo, Japan

Having wandered around, and walked probably the distance of a marathon that day in Tokyo, I needed to sit down for an evening snack.

Omoide Yokocho
Entrance to Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) in Tokyo

We were in the always bustling business and shopping district of Shinjuku, and after just stepping out of a posh department store (like you always seem to come out of and enter in Tokyo) is when I saw some flashing lights shining the way into an alley.

At the time of going there, I actually had no clue where I was or what the alley was called, but it wasn’t until returning to my hotel, and after doing some online research when I realized the lane is called Memory Lane, or Piss Alley as its often referred to (or in Japanese, Omoide Yokocho).

yakitori
The aroma of grilled meat on stick is almost unbearable!

Choosing a Restaurant…

Along the 100 meter or so stretch of Memory Lane, there are a bunch of different little closet sized restaurants – known for their unique dishes and yakitori pubs.

In the evening, nearly all the stalls are packed with, what seemed to be Japanese from every walk of life (old, young, students, businessmen), all having a drink, smoking, and eating.

I didn’t know at the time, but Izakaya Asadachi, a famous restaurant serving unique things like raw pigs penis (this one was actually in China) and grilled salamander, was just down the street from where I chose to eat… too bad I missed it.

Eating yakitori in Tokyo
Fresh and char roasted to perfection!

With so many different choices of where to eat, I hardly knew where to begin.

So after some pondering, I chose a small yakitori restaurant at the beginning of the alley, one that looked welcoming and had a couple of chairs available.

This is not the place for sumo wresters!

Like all the restaurants on Memory Lane, this one was incredibly tiny.

The entire place was only made up of bar seats and a bar table, and when someone in the back wanted to get out of the restaurant, all the other people sitting had to stand up and scoot in.

The beautiful aroma of fire roasting yakitori skewers filled the air in the tiny yakitori-ya restaurant like a smoking meat sauna.

The menu was simple, and they even had an English version (which really helped in the ordering process). You could either order each stick of yakitori a la carte, or the special mixed plate.

I ordered two special mixed plates, one with sauce and one dry version.

Piss Alley Tokyo
Yakitori at Tokyo’s Memory Lane (Piss Alley)

The mix of chicken and pork were cooked fresh and served immediately.

The mixed skewers of meat and vegetables were seared over flames, and the plate was then covered in a thick sauce which was like a sweet and tangy teriyaki sauce.

Each stick of meat looked beautiful, and I couldn’t wait to dig in.

I love that slight tinge of char, tastes so good!
I love that slight tinge of char, tastes so good!

The dry plate of yakitori was the same mixture of meat skewers, but instead of being glazed in sauce, each skewer was just salted and dry seasoned (though I think it may have been pre-marinated in the first place).

Again, each skewer of meat was nicely grilled and roasted over a high flame for a slight char on the exterior.

The selection of yakitori skewers
The selection of yakitori skewers

The Yakitori

The special yakitori plate included these wonderful skewers:

  • Tsukune (つくね), chicken meatballs
  • Tebasaki (手羽先), chicken wing
  • Toriniku, all white meat on skewer
  • Leek wrapped in slices of bacon
  • Pork belly with leek

For myself, not really knowing what kind of yakitori to order on its own, this was a great combination plate to have – I’d highly recommend it.

Yakitori in Tokyo
Bar table space about 6 inches wide

We began to get busy with our sticks of yakitori as soon as they arrived to the table.

Like at many restaurants in Tokyo, the eating counter was so small, the plates could only sit 3/4 of the way on the table – that’s part of the enriching food experience in Tokyo!

Memory Lane in Tokyo
One of my favorites: leek wrapped in bacon

I started with a stick of leeks wrapped in bacon.

The leek was cooked through, and nice and soft, while the bacon added a wonderful salty contrast. Certainly one of my favorites items off the yakitori menu.

Grilled chicken wings
Grilled chicken wings

At first I thought it was a chicken thigh on a duo of skewers, but after taking a bite, I realized it was two chicken wings (tebakasi), flattened out to help in the grilling process.

Just simple, fresh, and tasty.

Yakitori in Tokyo
What’s better, sauce or dry?

Sauce vs. Dry

Both the salt the sauce versions of the yakitori were delicious, but the sauce version was far superior to the salt version – maybe I’m just sauce obsessed – but the yakitori sauce added another glorious flavor to the already delicious meat.

Price – 750 JPY ($7.37) per plate

best food in Tokyo
Didn’t take longer than a few minutes to clean all the meat off these skewers!

What I really loved about the yakitori that I ate on Tokyo’s Memory Lane was that it was scorched over a hot flame so it had some wonderful crunch and charred flavor to it, yet at the same time it was only cooked until just done, and not a second longer, keeping the meat juicy.

I have to say, Japanese really excel at cooking things perfection, and never overcooking their meat!

If you visit Tokyo, heading down Memory Lane, though just steps away from Shinjuku station, is a whole different world.

Watch the video here…

(You can also watch it on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/m5RBtgpC9ZI)

Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) – Tokyo

How to get there: The lane is located right next to Shinjuku station, which is the largest in Tokyo, so it can be a bit confusing. I think you have to get out at the Shinjuku West Exit. But do take note of the map below or look at a map once you arrive to Shinjuku – it’s a bit confusing!

Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) actually has an official website with a map of the restaurants – official street food! On this map, I ate at #60.



25 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Daniel

    11 months ago

    Mark, thanks for the lead. We are following your track this summer during our vacation with my wive and son.

  • Geoff Keogh

    1 year ago

    I left Tokyo in 2012 after living there for four years. I have been back twice but not for about two years now. I was researching food places for a friend who is travelling to Tokyo soon and your article about Memory Lane almost bought a tear to my eye. We had some great nights there both on our own and with friends who came to visit. I’m now looking up airfares to see when I can go back there again.

  • Chia Lee

    2 years ago

    Do you know if this place is open on Sundays? Cheers!

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hi Chia, I honestly don’t know, but I think so, and if not you can find another place that’s open in that same alley.

  • Ron

    2 years ago

    I plan to go here or a place like it in piss alley. Looks like most food places have no English and no pictures to help foreigners. Is there any way you can help me in ordering a combo plate at this place? Was it easy or difficult for you? Thanks.

  • ANDY

    2 years ago

    would appreciate if you could advise the name of the shop which you mentioned has English Menu.

    Thanks.

  • Paul Mathews

    2 years ago

    Hi Mark, my wife and I are planning a return trip to Tokyo so I’ve been looking at sites today for Yakitori (my favourite) I read yours and then realised this was from the same YouTube guy who my wife calls smilie man. We both live your videos and this was a great read. We also love to travel and try all sorts of different local food. I’m pretty sure we ate around here on our last visit to Tokyo. I could have stayed there for hours.

  • tom

    3 years ago

    just a curiosity, in the first picture, next to the nice restaurant owner, it’s written “2nd Floor ok tables ok” so that’s what that small stair is for.. maybe the smallest 2nd floor in the world, although I’m sure you prefer watching your food being made in front of your eyes 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Tom, oh cool, thanks for sharing. I did see some people coming down from there, but I didn’t get a chance to peek upstairs, so not sure how small it was!

  • Alexander

    3 years ago

    Mark I will definitely go here while I am in Tokyo in June. Thanks for showing us this place I can’t wait!

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Great Alexander, hope you have a wonderful upcoming trip! Let me know how you like it!

  • Anil Mahato

    3 years ago

    Stop watering my mouth in early morning :P. I am going to visit Japanese restaurant today in Delhi .
    P.S. – Pictures are incredible Mark brother 🙂 I wanted to smell leek wrapped in bacon when I saw that picture :p hehe
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Anil, thanks for reading, hope you got some good Japanese food in Delhi!

  • CC

    3 years ago

    I’ve ready recently that this area might be torn down and redeveloped for the upcoming Olympics. How sad would that be?

  • Tom Bradshaw

    3 years ago

    the sauce version of yakitori just looks yum. Even before you actually went to say that you liked it better than its dry version, I knew you would say something like that! 🙂