Imahan, Yurakucho 今半有楽町
Sukiyaki was one of the first dishes I ever ate on my initial visit to Japan, so (scarily) many years ago now. For that reason the idea of sukiyaki has a slightly romantic feeling for me (or is it because of that song?)... In any case, it is an accessible cuisine that I would feel comfortable introducing any foreigner to. So, with this in mind, I brought a party of "gaijin" to Imahan at Yurakucho, which had been recommended to me as being one of the better places for sukiyaki in town.
The establishment is located in the restaurant basement of a sixties office building called the "Shin Yurakucho Building", over the road from Bic Camera. I love how the office buildings in Japan seal the feeling of the era they were built - perfectly maintained in original condition with often not even the slightest superficial architectural update. The Shin Yurakicho is a great example of this.
I'm sure Imahan has had some sort of update to its interior in its life, but it was probably a long time ago. The decor is traditional Japanese with separated rooms, and quite pleasant. I wouldn't say that the feeling of the space is quite as premium as the prices suggest but, when you're the branch of what seems to be a culinary institution, who needs to worry about such things.
The service is impeccable and delivered by sweet, efficient ladies "of a certain age" dressed in kimono. Although cooking food in a group with a hot-pot is often part of the fun, Imahan offers a higher-class of service where you don't need to do any of the cooking yourself. You can order a variety of sets which cover sukiyaki and shabu shabu, including the option of a range of kaiseki-style starters. I opted for what seemed a reasonably generous, but not over-the-top set - and nobody in my party except me ended up being able to eat everything!
On the positive side the food is delicious and the service excellent. On the downside the surroundings are a little bit dated and the prices are rather expensive. Nevertheless, I'd recommend Imahan as somewhere to take out-of-towners who are sure to find the experience a special one.
Assorted kaiseki-style appetisers
The beef sushi was TO DIE FOR. Absolutely one of the nicest things I've eaten in recent memory.
Tempura with ankake
Delicious wagyu - more than enough for four people.
For the uninitiated, Sukiyaki is beef cooked in a sweet soy sauce then dipped in egg. For foreigners the idea of the raw egg can be a bit off-putting, but it's delicious!
After the meat, vegetables are cooked in the hot-pot.