When it comes to the birthplace of Japanese grilled beef tongue (gyutan), many people would think of Sendai City in Miyagi Prefecture. However, did you know that you can enjoy delicious beef tongue in Tokyo without having to go all the way to Sendai?
This time, we will delve into the deliciousness of beef tongue and introduce three specialty stores in Tokyo. These are tourist-friendly shops with English and Chinese menus available!
*The menus and their prices (tax included) featured in this article are all as of September 2023. The content may have changed, so please check the official website of each store for details.
What is Beef Tongue? Explaining its Nutritional Value and Commonly Seen Parts
Grilled beef tongue or locally known as gyutan (牛タン), using the tongue of a cow, was born around 1948 in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. Subsequently, the number of beef tongue specialty stores increased in the city, and it is said that it spread nationwide as a Sendai specialty due to "Aji no Gyutan Kisuke", which was founded in 1975.
Beef tongue is a rare part that can only be obtained about 1 to 1.5 kg from one cow. Compared to ribs and loins, it has less fat, and its charm is the juicy meat juice and crunchy texture. It is rich in nutritional value such as protein, fat, vitamin B12, and vitamin B2. Compared to raw meat such as ribs and loins, the calories per 100g are about 1/2 and the fat is about 1/3, so it can be said to be a relatively healthy part.
Beef tongue is divided into four parts, with the characteristic that the closer to the root of the tongue, the softer it is. Depending on the part and the quality of the meat, the appropriate cooking methods vary.
- Tongue Tip (tip): Hard meat quality with deep umami flavor
- Tongue Middle (middle): Moderate chewiness with a lot of fat
- Tongue Root (base): The softest part with a lot of fat
- Tongue Bottom (below the base): Quite hard meat quality with deep umami flavor
The relatively soft Tongue Middle and Tongue Root are often grilled and eaten as yakiniku, while the hard Tongue Tip and Tongue Bottom are often used in simmered dishes like curry, stew, tail soup, and the Tongue Bottom is also often minced and used in dishes like hamburgers.
When eating, it is common to sprinkle salt, salt + lemon, yuzu pepper, etc., or eat it with green onions. Also, if it meets the standards for raw food, you can also enjoy it as sashimi.
Features of barley rice, grated yam, and tail soup that come with beef tongue set meal
In most cases, a Japanese beef tongue set meal (牛タン定食 / gyutan teishoku) comes with ① barley rice, ② grated yam, ③ tail soup, and ④ pickles.
- Barley Rice: Rice cooked with barley, which is high in nutritional value such as dietary fiber and B vitamins. Barley also has the benefit of slowing down sugar absorption.
- Grated Yam: Grated raw yam or nagaimo. It is rich in vitamins and contains plenty of enzymes that aid digestion.
- Tail Soup: A collagen-rich soup made by simmering beef tail for a long time.
- Pickles: Lightly pickled vegetables. They serve as a refreshing accent between meat dishes.
Until the 1980s, beef tongue was eaten as a dish to be enjoyed with alcohol. According to one theory, the set of "barley rice + grated yam" became a standard because "NEGISHI", a beef tongue restaurant, devised it in an attempt to get health-conscious people to eat beef tongue set meals. Since then, "barley and grated yam rice" has become very popular, and it is now a popular menu item for both men and women.
Top 3 Recommended Specialty Shops in Tokyo Where You Can Enjoy Delicious Beef Tongue
There are many specialty beef tongue restaurants, a Sendai delicacy, in Tokyo. Among these beef tongue specialty restaurants, we will introduce three that are easily accessible from major terminal stations and offer English and Chinese menus.
【Shibuya, Ueno, Ikebukuro and others】Gyutan Tororo Mugi-meshi NEGISHI: The originator of the beef tongue set meal with grated yam and barley rice
Founded in 1981 in Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo, "Gyutan Tororo Mugimeshi NEGISHI" (hereinafter referred to as "NEGISHI").
It is a meat restaurant centered on beef tongue, which has created a healthy set combining beef tongue and barley rice, tail soup, and tororo, which have become a staple of beef tongue set meals.
At NEGISHI, three types of beef tongue are mainly served. These beef tongues are seasoned with salt and pepper, aged, and then quickly seared on the surface with far-infrared rays, resulting in a crispy surface and juicy inside.
- Shirotan (white tongue): A soft beef tongue served in thick slices, using the part around the root of the tongue
*Named by Negishi, it is a part of the tongue that only accounts for about 34% (about 9 slices) of a single tongue
- Negishi: The "Shirotan" is thinly sliced to make it easier for women to eat
- Ganko-chan: Beef tongue with a light taste unique to lean meat.
💡The in-store menu is only available in Japanese. If you scan the QR code on the back with your smartphone, English and Chinese (simplified) will be displayed.
Must-try menu at NEGISHI ①: Beef tongue three kinds set
Beef Tongue 3 Types Set (牛たん3種盛りセット) / 2,800 yen (Prices may vary at some stores)
With this set, you can compare the tastes of three types of beef tongue: Shiro-tan (thick-cut white tongue), Negishi (thin-cut white tongue), and Ganko-chan (red tongue), enjoying a variety of textures and flavors.
Must-try menu at NEGISHI ②: Marune Set
Marune Set (まるねセット) / 1,800 yen (prices may vary at some stores)
You can enjoy comparing the soft and flavorful Negishi (thinly sliced white tongue) and the chewy and light-tasting Ganko-chan (red tongue).
- 【Shibuya Center-gai Store】
28-1, Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku
About 2 minutes walk from "Shibuya Station" on JR, Tokyo Metro, etc.
- 【Ueno Station Front Store】
2F, Delicious Plaza, 6-14-7, Ueno, Taito-ku
About 1 minute walk from "Ueno Station" on JR, Tokyo Metro
*There is also a 【Ueno Station Front B1 Store】 on the basement floor of the same building.
- 【Ikebukuro East Exit Store】
B1, Oak Higashi-Ikebukuro Building, 1-11-1, Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku
About 3 minutes walk from "Ikebukuro Station" on JR, Tokyo Metro, etc.
*32 stores in Tokyo, 4 stores in Yokohama, 1 store in Chiba, 1 store in Saitama (as of June 2023)
- Official Website: https://www.negishi.co.jp/
- YouTube: https://youtube.com/@negishi_official
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/negishi_official/
【Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinjuku and others】Gyutan Sumiyaki RIKYU: A Sendai-based specialty store where you can enjoy artisan-prepared beef tongue
Established in 1988, "Gyutan Sumibiyaki RIKYU" (hereinafter referred to as "RIKYU") is a specialty beef tongue restaurant where you can enjoy traditional flavors through charcoal grilling and the skills of artisans.
The first of these traditional skills is manual work with a knife. All the meat preparation, such as the process of cutting only the soft parts, slicing, and making incisions on the surface of the sliced beef tongue to make it easy to bite into even if it's thick, is done by hand.
The second is the seasoning with hand-salted salt, where skilled craftsmen adjust each piece by looking at its size and thickness. By grilling the beef tongue, which has been aged in the refrigerator and made softer and more flavorful, over charcoal, a traditional taste of commitment is completed.
💡The menu in the store can be provided in English, Chinese (Traditional, Simplified)
Must-try menu at RIKYU ①: Beef Tongue Set Meal (3 pieces, 6 cuts)
Beef Tongue Set Meal (牛たん定食: 3 pieces, 6 slices) / 2,409 yen
A healthy set meal featuring juicy beef tongue grilled over charcoal, tail soup slowly simmered with beef tail, barley rice rich in dietary fiber, daily side dish, and Japanese sweets. A generous serving of spicy pickles is also included.
Must-try menu at RIKYU ②: Deluxe Beef Tongue Set Meal (3 pieces, 6 slices)
Beef Tongue Supreme Set Meal (牛たん極定食: 3 pieces, 6 slices) / 3,333 yen
This menu uses thicker slices than regular beef tongue, and every time you chew, the umami flavor spreads in your mouth along with a soft elasticity.
- 【Ikebukuro Store】
7F ESOLA Ikebukuro, 1-12-1, Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku
About a 5-minute walk from "Ikebukuro Station" on JR, Tokyo Metro, and other lines
- 【Shibuya Hikarie Store】
6F Shibuya Hikarie, 2-21-1, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku
About a 1-minute walk from "Shibuya Station" on JR, Tokyo Metro, and other lines
- 【Lumine Est Shinjuku Store】
7F Lumine Est, 3-38-1, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
About a 1-minute walk from "Shinjuku Station" on JR, Tokyo Metro, and other lines
*As of August 2023, there are 10 stores in Tokyo, 2 in Kanagawa Prefecture, 3 in Saitama Prefecture, and 2 in Chiba Prefecture.
- Official Website: https://www.rikyu-gyutan.co.jp/
【Tokyo Station, Ikebukuro】Aji no Gyutan Kisuke: A specialty beef tongue store that has spread the "Sendai specialty beef tongue" throughout Japan
"Aji no Gyutan Kisuke" (hereinafter referred to as "Kisuke"), established in 1975, has spread the Sendai-born "charcoal-grilled beef tongue" all over Japan.
Each carefully selected beef tongue is seasoned by skilled craftsmen with flavorful Akaho grilled salt and pepper, and then aged slowly over several days. The original flavor and juices of the beef tongue are further sealed in by the high heat of the charcoal grill, bursting in your mouth the moment you bite into it.
Along with the delicious beef tongue, the barley rice that you can enjoy is a blend of the famous delicious rice from Miyagi Prefecture, "Hitomebore". This is a specialty store where you can enjoy flavorful beef tongue made with traditional methods.
💡The menu in the store can be provided in English, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified)
Must-try menu at Kisuke ①: Artisan Prepared Special Thick Cut Grilled Set Meal
Artisan Prepared Special Thick Cut Grilled Set Meal (職人仕込 特切り厚焼定食) / 2,512 yen (2 pieces, 4 cuts) ~ (The photo shows 3 pieces, 6 cuts for 3,520 yen)
This is a delicious beef tongue unique to Kisuke, with the volume of a steak, made by making cuts in a beef tongue about 1cm thick and aging it.
Must-try menu at Kisuke ②: Thick Cut Boiled Tongue
Thick Cut Boiled Tongue (厚切りゆでたん) / 594 yen
Enjoy our tender tongue, boiled in a special soup until it's soft enough to cut with chopsticks. The refreshing taste of the soup, infused with black pepper, serves as an accent to the tongue, and the accompanying wasabi allows you to enjoy a change in flavor.
- 【Tokyo Station Yaesu North Exit Store】
1F Gransta Yaesu North, Tokyo Station Yaesu North Exit, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
Directly connected to JR & Tokyo Metro "Tokyo Station"
- 【Lumine Ikebukuro Store】
8F Lumine Ikebukuro, 1-11-1 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku
Directly connected to JR & Tokyo Metro and other lines "Ikebukuro Station"
- 【Marunouchi Park Building Store】
B1F Brick Square, 2-6-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
About 5 minutes walk from JR & Tokyo Metro "Tokyo Station"
- ※3 stores in Tokyo and 2 stores in Kanagawa Prefecture (as of July 2023)
- Official Website: https://www.kisuke.co.jp/
Experience the taste of beef tongue grilled in Sendai, right here in Tokyo!
Beef tongue, which has different flavors and textures depending on the part, is a delicacy to savor. The taste varies from restaurant to restaurant, so the next time you visit Tokyo, try comparing different parts or visit multiple restaurants to enjoy the skillfully prepared beef tongue.
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- What is Beef Tongue? Explaining its Nutritional Value and Commonly Seen Parts
- Features of barley rice, grated yam, and tail soup that come with beef tongue set meal
- Top 3 Recommended Specialty Shops in Tokyo Where You Can Enjoy Delicious Beef Tongue
- 【Shibuya, Ueno, Ikebukuro and others】Gyutan Tororo Mugi-meshi NEGISHI: The originator of the beef tongue set meal with grated yam and barley rice
- 【Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinjuku and others】Gyutan Sumiyaki RIKYU: A Sendai-based specialty store where you can enjoy artisan-prepared beef tongue
- 【Tokyo Station, Ikebukuro】Aji no Gyutan Kisuke: A specialty beef tongue store that has spread the "Sendai specialty beef tongue" throughout Japan
- Experience the taste of beef tongue grilled in Sendai, right here in Tokyo!