Tochigiya (とちぎ家, not to be confused with とちぎ屋 or とちぎや or 栃木家 eateries) sits on the second floor of a building right down from Odori, and is not to be mistaken with Yakiniku Grate (焼肉グレート), another meat-centric restaurant that is much more modern-looking and flashy, with its music and sound effects and smells, than where I went.
In fact, if you’re not actively looking for it, you may well miss Tochigiya, as only one narrow strip of vertical advertising is available from the street view to beckon you up the stairs into a uniquely Japanese space. (There is a proper billboard-like sign for it directly above and partially covered by Yakiniku Grate, but without looking properly, it can easily be mistaken for Yakiniku Grate advertising.)
Tochigiya focuses on meat, offering primarily three types of meals: shabu-shabu (clear broth hot pot), sukiyaki (sweet and savory hot pot eaten dipped in a raw egg), and seiro-mushi (steamed in bamboo boxes); however, their motto is more along the lines of “local meats, local eats” in that they use various Tochigi-produced ingredients in their dishes. While some of their courses can go up to be a bit pricey as expected (￥5000+), there are still some very affordable menu plans for those not wanting to break the bank.
I went for the 色どり三種コース (“colorful 3-type course”), of which customers can choose shabu-shabu or sukiyaki. I was honestly in the mood for a lighter meal and was wanting shabu-shabu, but one detail of the sukiyaki course caught my eye–that it was made with cotton candy. So naturally, I had no choice but to choose it and see what this was about.
The course was not all-you-can-eat, which is featured on some of their other courses (the cheapest going to about ￥2700 for women and ￥3300 for men), but the perk of this set was that it came with 3 different types of meat: Nasu chicken, pork, and kalbi. The sukiyaki further featured udon, Kanuma konnyaku, grilled tofu, and a variety of local vegetables (such as carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts, etc.).
We were prepped with a salad with 2 dressing options (sesame-mayo and shiso vinaigrette) before our 3 boxes of meat came out, shortly followed by our giant pot of broth and sides, topped with, you guessed it, a whopping mass of cotton candy. I tore off a chunk, and it was legitimate cotton candy (although of course not with the standard pink or blue flavoring). Sukiyaki is typically made with mirin (a type of sweet cooking sake–similar to cooking sherry in the West), and the cotton candy took its place here as it dissolved into the pot.
It took a while to get boiling, which we later discovered, after waiting about 15-20 minutes, that our gas can was faulty and got it switched out. The meat was good although not fabulous (we got the cheapest option of meat–there were 2 others that had steadily higher price tags, but went up to high-quality Tochigi wagyu. #MillenialsKillingFineDining), and the udon stayed nice and firm despite being in the liquid for a long time. The vegetables and the other side items were all excellent. At the beginning, the broth was perfectly flavorful, however, as it boiled down, the lack of the mirin to even out the flavor meant that the broth got incredibly salty, and I was unable to eat the vegetables and noodles towards the end, so now I know to turn off the heat halfway through to prevent that from happening again, since I’m a fairly slow eater.
When the food initially came, my first instinct was that it was a bit sparse (to be shared between 2 people), but in the end between the two of us, we finished most of it but not quite all, and had two major food babies. For ￥2600 a head, I definitely can’t complain.
〒320-0033 栃木県宇都宮市本町13-13 本町ビル2F
Open Tues.-Sun. from 5:30-11 pm