What is the Jingisukan?
Many people are intrigued by the name. Its origin is not entirely clear but according to a theory, it was named after Genghis Khan because of the skillet used for cooking it, with its convex shape, resembles a Mongolian warrior's helmet. Furthermore, the main meat ingredient of the dish is lamb, the food of choice of Mongolian soldiers during the prewar period. Lamb was rarely eaten in Japan, except in Hokkaido where the Japanese government established and maintained sheep farms at the turn of the 20th century.
The actual dish is made up of slices of lamb, placed at the center of the skillet and various types of vegetables placed around the meat. The grease of the meat melts down to the vegetables while cooking.
Jingisukan Restaurants in Tokyo
There has been a jingisukan boom all over the Japan in the past couple of years, so luckily, you don't have to travel all the way to Hokkaido to have it! Tokyo has more than its fare share of great jingisukan. Here's the lowdown.
Darumaya is the best-rated jingisukan restaurant according to many online sources. The restaurant is located on a second floor (above the Le Coupe Chou restaurant), at a 5-minute walk from Shinjuku Station's West Exit. The place is pretty small with only 14 counter seats. You're better to make a reservation to be safe! They use Australian lamb meat which isn't frozen but chilled so the meat keeps a fresher taste. The succulent meat and its affordability are what makes this place so popular! Also, you can have the house's original lamb patty grilled with a torch on the skillet (shown below)!
Jingisukan Rakutaro (Ikebukuro)
Exit from the North Exit of the JR Ikebukuro Station and it should take you about 2 minutes to get to Rakutaro. There you can choose a 2-hour all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink course for 4,200 yen! You can have sausages and various kinds of cuts, however, the very best cuts are not available in the all-you-can-eat course. For an extra, you might want to try the red shoulder cut, which is exceptionally tender and juicy. The drink menu has a wide selection. You can have sour drinks, highballs (made from shochu), beers, etc.
Kin no Hitsuji (Shimbashi)
Kin no Hitsuji is a well-known restaurant located a 5-minute walk from the Shimbashi Station. The interior has a scruffy authenticity that will make you feel relaxed. It's quite a small restaurant and people are seated in close proximity to each other which makes it easy to talk to the other customers. The lamb is excellent here as well. It doesn't have a strong smell that some people are not too fond of. What's more, you can also order some rare types of meat such as deer. Go there and you'll feel as if you've traveled through time to a neighborhood Izakaya in Hokkaido!
Yuki Daruma (Nakano)
Yuki Daruma is located a 2-minute walk from the Nakano Station's South Exit, on a second floor. At this restaurant, you can order lamb chops that are said to be excellent, and an original addition to the menu is pakuchi (cilantro). The pakuchi goes wonderfully well with the lamb meat! Another thing to try here is the tsukemen (noodles that you dip in a rich tare sauce). Expect to pay between 3,000 and 4,000 yen for dinner.
Matsuo Jingisukan (Ginza)
Matsuo Jingisukan is located a 2-minute walk from the Ginza Station. One thing that's nice about this place is that it serves Jingisukan don (lamb meat on a bed of rice) during lunch time for just 1,100 yen. If you go for dinner, you can try some of the high-grade cuts of lamb. The price may be a little bit more expensive (1,000 - 1,500 yen for 280g orders) than other Jingisukan restaurants but you will get succulent meat of excellent quality. Have a nice cold Sapporo beer with your dinner and you'll be in heaven!