Shikabari

If you want to be dazzled, I recommend you go here.

For those of you who are new to Japan, this will impress the hell out of you.

For those of you more like me who have become a bit jaded, this is the kind of restaurant that will make you remember why exactly you like Japan in the first place.

IMG_6063Where to begin? This restaurant is part of the “Barisuta” franchise (the same brand owns several very different restaurants around downtown, including Hibari, the tori soba place I reviewed previously), and honestly, all of these restaurants are excellent, but this one takes the cake. (Unfortunately for actual cake you will need to go to one of the sister restaurants.) You walk in and are greeted by some pretty attractive staff members of both sexes (I don’t know if this is done on purpose and if so totally discriminatory, but they’re all in their 20’s and 30’s and not bad looking, if I do say so myself).

The best thing (or maybe equally best thing, it’s hard to be decisive here) about the atmosphere is the music they play. They have a playlist of the Yoshida Brothers (which if you haven’t heard them, YouTube them now) that plays upbeat, modern instrumental music with a focus on traditional Japanese instruments. Then once you’ve been in the restaurant for long enough and their playlist needs reset, they’ll play a random filler Gypsy King smash hit until the next Yoshida Brothers song. Go figure. It’s quirky and absolutely random, but it kind of makes me like them more.

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Both times I have been seated at the bar, where you have an excellent view of the special fire grill they have to cook their signature bonito fish steak (I’ll get to that in a moment) bonfire-style with the cook commanding the flame and the grill slider right before your eyes.

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First off they bring you two grilled clams each, which you need to hold with the accompanying clothespin because they are literally fresh off the grill. I ordered two drinks this time, Shikizakura sake and their yuzushu (yuzu liqueur). The former was the most fruity of the sakes they offered, and was fine but not my favorite; the yuzushu tasted like very good alcoholic lemonade. If you order a tokkuri (small bottle) of sake, they also let you pick out your sake cup from their basket, which is super fun.

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Now for the food. Most of their menu is dedicated to a variety of kebabs, all of which I tried were just fantastic. This time I tried their ume shiso pork, avocado bacon,  smoked salmon and mozzarella, and green onion miso shrimp skewers–I’ll have to go with the last two if I were to pick a favorite (or in this case two).

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I was with a friend who decided we absolutely needed to try their katsuo fillet. There are two options, small and regular, and we decided to go with the small so we could use up the rest of our cash on other foods. To our surprise, however, the small was actually fairly large (this being Japan and all), and afforded us each three hefty slices of the fish, which was served rare. If you’re a fan of this type of darker meated fish (like salmon), definitely try this for sure.

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At this point, we were craving some desserts, which I had had here previously. They have an interesting menu with more traditional foods such as sesame flan and taiyaki with ice cream, and more creative items such as cilantro ice cream (DEFINITELY try this at home at least if you’re evolved enough to love cilantro [sorry haters], as it’s a delicious combination–just mix a hefty amount of cilantro into vanilla ice cream). I’ve now had all three, and they’re all pretty amazing. I’m not even a big fan of sesame, and I fell in love with their tiny little cup of flan (while they don’t skimp on the bonito, they do a bit on the dessert sizes).

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To end, they give you a bowl of miso soup before you are expected to pay up.

And to sum up:

Food: excellent

Atmosphere: excellent

Just everything: excellent

You won’t regret going.

鹿芭莉 (Shikabari)
栃木県宇都宮市江野町3-6
028-678-8881
Open every day from 5 pm – 12 am

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