Yakiniku (barbecue grilled meat) chain restaurants are a dime a dozen in Tokyo, though only a few manage to set themselves apart by bringing the full “good-vibes, delicious-taste” package together. But a recent opening in downtown Shibuya, straight from Asia’s number one yakiniku mecca, Seoul, is here to add something new to the capital’s grill scene. It’s called Samgeori Butcher’s.
Curious to see what it’s like, we got on the first train to Shibuya and headed for some quality meat grilling and a fun yakiniku experience.
Celebrity-approved “forever young” Korean barbecue
Operated since 2015 by YG Entertainment, one of South Korea’s most prominent entertainment and talent agencies (the folks behind successful bands like Bigbang and Black Pink), Samgeori Butcher’s now four stores in Seoul are established gathering spots for young hipster groups and celebrities alike. The restaurants’ walls carry autographs by some of South Korea’s most famous celebrities, making it a popular K-pop “wall of fame” destination for domestic and, of course, Japanese fans.
The Tokyo branch, which just opened on March 16 as the first Japan store, continues the legacy by having its own signature wall, which despite existing in just less than three weeks, already carries signs and drawings by a number of young, famous and cool kids from South Korea and Japan, including members from Bigbang, singer Lee Hi and actress/model Ai Takahashi.
With the store’s signature neon lights, colorful graffiti and cool wall decorations (skateboards and all), upbeat BGM and cheerful staff from both Japan and South Korea, the place is indeed inviting to a younger audience who want to have fun while grilling their meat and sharing colorful cocktails and mocktails.
Exclusive meat and signature Korean dishes
Samgeori Butcher’s specializes in dry-aged high-quality pork belly, known in Korea as Samgyeopsal (literally: “three layer flesh”) grilled by staff at customers’ own tables on sizzling hot plates. Butcher’s Favorite trio selection includes a choice of 150 grams pork belly (¥1,500), 150 grams pork shoulder (¥1,600) and 120 grams pork neck (¥1,400) or better yet, one can opt for the Butcher’s Combo — 420g of all three kinds (¥3,980) or the very filling large size (570g) for ¥5,980. The meat comes with five kinds of Korea-inspired appetizers, including of course kimchi, and four dips: garlic mustard, spicy soy sauce with onion, the Japan-original wasabi cream, and anchovy, each adding an entirely different taste to the well-grilled meat.
The signature Korean dish, bulgogi (¥1,500), is also cooked on a special elevated hot plate, perfecting the “fire meat” in a purely authentic way.
While you’d certainly go to Samgeori Butcher’s for the meat rather than anything else, to us, it came as a surprise that the rest of the dishes on the menu — Cold Spicy Radish Noodle Soup (¥1,000), the extra chili Samgeori Kimchi Jjigae (¥1,200) and the Butcher’s Spicy Pork Fried Rice (¥1,200), perfectly add to the gourmet experience even if you’re halfway full on pork belly.
As to vegetables, despite the kimchi naturally accompanying every dish, a good choice (for those who appreciate spicy food) of salad would be the Spicy Green Leaf Salad (¥500), which will literally make you cry from all that spice, or the milder Bouquet Salad (¥1,000), which is just super pretty to look at. There are also three family full-course options from ¥3,800 per person and an all-you-can-drink plan for just an extra ¥1,500.
Drinks and sweets, too
Sweets fit another belly, as they say in Japan, so make sure to save yourself some space. The restaurant offers a special Samgeori Parfait (¥600) available only at the Tokyo store, which is a large bowl of red beans, kinako powder, soy pudding and fruit. For something lighter, you can also try one of the three ice cream (¥300) flavors, vanilla, black sesame and strawberry, each served with the restaurant’s signature mascot, a large pig staring right at you.
The drink menu offers a good mix of South Korea and Japan, with five kinds of Maggolli, Korean soju drinks, shochu, umeshu, and of course, a good selection of red and white wine, and even champagne.
But the coolest drink, by all means, is the restaurant’s signature and oh-so-Instagrammable sweet lemonade (¥650) which comes in two colors and flavors and deserves a post or two on any social media account.
But most of all, fun times
For casual dates with a small group of friends or significant others, book a table at the spacious main dining hall and feel part of a large and bubbly team of chatty meat eaters. For a more private experience, book the restaurant’s private room and enjoy being as lively as you wish. As the waiters help you grill your meat, making sure that it’s just about the right temperature, chat with them — they’ll love it.
Last but not least, on your way out, join the fan club by borrowing a pig baloon and taking a photo in front of the wall of fame or the pork chops lined behind glass windows and neon lights at the entrance — you’ll most probably end up on the restaurant’s official (and rapidly growing) Instagram account, too!
It’s that kind of a cool place — the perfect satisfaction for your appetite and seoul!
Address: 2F, 1-20-15, Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open: Weekdays: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (Lunch), 6 p.m.-11 p.m. (Dinner), Weekends: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
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