TOKYO — There’s nothing worse than a group of hungry, thirsty, cranky friends — none of whom can agree on dinner.

OK, so things could be worse, like being hungry and thirsty and cranky and finding yourself on a lonely dirt road in a dry county in the middle-of-nowhere America.

But in crowded, fast-paced Tokyo where there are so many food and drink choices — with fast-paced prices — the problem is it’s hard to know where to go.

My advice with a crowd: Go straight to Tengu near Roppongi Crossing. This local chain is an izakaya, a Japanese bar that also serves small plates of hot and cold foods.

Tengu is the perfect storm of bars. Its menu has pictures with captions in English. The food choices can please both salad-eating vegetarians and anything-tastes-better-fried-and-served-on-a-stick connoisseurs. And, best of all, nearly every plate and glass of beer each cost $5 or less.

I recently went with a friend who grew up in the Tokyo area and loves trying new food and restaurants almost as much as I do. But, as a local, she was skeptical of Tengu. After all, it is a chain.

That, of course, had never thwarted me.

We ordered fried shrimp with mayonnaise and deep-fried tofu and cabbage salad with sesame dressing. And Korean-style pancakes and french fries.

The dishes came one at a time as the kitchen prepared them. With each, my friend grew more pleased. “It’s so cheap,” she said. “And so good.”

A couple more friends joined us, and after about two hours of eating and drinking we asked for the bill. It was 6,575 yen, or $57.30. A pretty good deal in Tokyo, I’d say.

And now I can check off at least one page on the menu. With that cabbage dish — a crisp and light balance to our fried treats — I have officially eaten my way through the salad page.

See previous After Hours reviews here.


Tokyo, Japan

Hours: Open daily 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Specialties: Izakaya-style food, small portions of Japanese snacks ranging from chicken-on-a-stick (yakitori) to salads to grilled fish to fried chicken and potatoes. Nearly every plate is less than $5. Draft beers start at about $4; mixed drinks slightly higher. Shochu and pitchers of beer are available.

Clientele: Mostly Japanese salarymen having drinks and snacks after work. Staff are very helpful to English-only speakers.

Dress: Suits to jeans.

Location: 7-14-7 Roppongi. Near Roppongi crossing, on the same side of the street as the street car with the Heineken beer sitting on top. Look for the sign that says Japanese Casual Dining. Enter and go downstairs.

Phone: 03-3402-3506. Reservations are recommended, especially for Fridays and Saturdays. The staff may give you a limited time slot, say from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. This is customary.

Web site: (Not in English.)

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