The sizzle of steak on the grill, the clink of wine glasses and the buzz of contented conversation — slide open the door of Mori no Butchers and your ears will reassure you that you’re in the right place as fast as your nose will.
In case you haven’t guessed from the name, Mori no Butchers has just one raison d’etre: meat. Plenty of it, most of which is grilled, and at prices that put much of the city to shame.
It shares much of the same DNA as its sister restaurants: the ever-popular Butcher Brothers and the original Butchers, both close to Kanda Station.
But Mori no Butchers is not a direct clone. You can tell before you even step inside. The restaurant occupies a stately, three-story former tradesman’s building, which has stood on the outer fringes of the Jinbocho neighborhood for more than half a century. Converted but little refurbished, it feels as comfortably retro as it looks, with vintage wood-framed windows running the length of the premises.
During the day, it is the menu — inscribed in English on the glass — that catches your eye. But when night falls, you see inside to the globe-shaped lamps glowing above the long counter running the length of the open kitchen and the backs of the customers, engrossed in their meals.
Mori no Butchers has an intimate feel that encourages quiet conversation over a leisurely bottle or two, rather than the boisterous clamor that often fills its sibling restaurants. It may look like a classic izakaya tavern, but the sign by the door makes its manifesto clear: “No meat, no life.”
The menu will offer few surprises either in its format or the pricing if you know the related restaurants. For most people, the focal point is its beef, which is grilled over a charcoal fire pit. Here there are only two options, flap meat or sirloin, both of which are available in three sizes (180, 250 or 460 grams), with the smallest cut of flap meat available for as little as ¥1,200.
It’s all so good, and such good value, there’s no need to look further down the menu. But there is also excellent grilled lamb, as well as pork, chicken and beef tongue. Everything is served with fries and a healthy dollop of whole-grain mustard on basic wooden platters fashioned out of cut-down planks — there are no surplus frills here. That’s how they are able to offer these kinds of prices.
The grilled meats may be the centerpiece of the menu, but there are plenty of appetizers, especially if you are intent on lingering over a bottle from their equally bargain-basement wine list (with a single exception, everything is under ¥5,000).
The pate is always an excellent place to start and the homemade sausage served with mashed potato is even better. They offer an enterprising choice of salads, plus a couple of pastas each evening. And the macaroni au gratin makes for great comfort food. With a steak at the end, that’s your evening sorted.
Mori no Butchers is hardly a destination restaurant and it’s certainly no date spot. But nor is it the kind of place where you can drop in on a whim. That’s because, with such satisfying, affordable food there is rarely a free seat in the place.
Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com.
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