It’s pretty common for Japanese pubs (or izakaya, as they’re called in Japanese) to require each person in your party to order at least one drink and one food item. That’s usually not a problem for us, seeing as “gluttonous and thirsty” is pretty much our standard mood when getting off work.
Recently, though, we found an izakaya that doesn’t have just a minimum order rule, but a maximum bill policy too.
After punching out of the office a few days ago, we hopped on the train and headed to Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood. After making our way through Ikebukuro Station’s labyrinth of underground tunnels and emerging from the east exit, it was a three-minute stroll to restaurant Tosaka Momiji, which has a sign that quickly got our attention.
▼ “You don’t have to pay the portion of your bill that’s over 2,800 yen.”
We took the elevator up to the restaurant’s sixth-floor restaurant and got a table, where a placard explained the restaurant’s unique pricing system. Like any other izakaya, Tosaka Momiji’s menu has a full lineup of alcoholic drinks and plates of food for sharing, each with an individually listed price. However, your bill is capped at 2,800 yen per person. For example, if you have two people in your party and your bill comes to 6,000 yen, you’ll still be charged only 5,600, with the restaurant eating the cost of the remaining 400 yen.
▼ Why is the limit 2,800 yen? Because Tosaka Momiji is especially proud of its chicken, and the digits 2 and 8 can be read in Japanese as niwa, the first half of niwatori, the Japanese word for chicken.
Each person in your party is allowed to order two items at a time, and your seating is limited to two hours (a pretty common practice at izakaya in downtown Tokyo), with your last chance to order something coming 90 minutes after you start.
Obviously, we were determined to rack up the biggest discount we possibly could. So after getting things started with some nice cold mugs of Asahi Super Dry (480 yen)...
...we immediately ordered the most expensive food item on the menu: the “Drunken Chicken” (1,080 yen), served on the bone in the style popularized by chefs in Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku.
Given how Tosaka Momiji touts the economic upside of eating and drinking at the restaurant, you might expect food to taste cheap, but that’s not the case at all. Everything we had was tasty and went great with adult beverages, such as the karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken) with cheese sauce (680 yen) and the boiled chicken dumplings (680 yen).
There are even such fancy foods as sake-steamed clams (680 yen) and sliced tomato and tofu salad (580 yen).
Egg options saluted both Eastern and Western culinary traditions, with the sweet dashimaki tamago (580 yen) and spinach bacon omelet (580 yen).
We continued our intercultural munching with some menma, fermented bamboo shoots (380 yen) and “German potatoes,” slices of spuds with bacon (480 yen).
And to cap things off, we ordered a triple-portion of desserts.
▼ Vanilla ice cream, wiggly warabi mochi with kinako sweet soybean powder, and coffee gelatin (380 yen each).
When we looked at our bill, the lengthy list of items we’d ordered looked like an epic poem, chronicling the exploits kings of yore upon a scroll of parchment.
In total, our two-person party had gone through 11 drinks, 11 plates of food, and three desserts, with their individual prices (plus our otoshi service charge) totaling 13,774 yen. True to their word, though, Tosaka Momiji only asked us for 5,600 yen, meaning an incredible 8,174 yen of our meal was free.
▼ Our order total, discount, and actual bill.
One last bit of math tells us that we saved 4,087 yen per person, well over the 2,800 maximum at Tosaka Momiji, giving us both a desire, and the financial means, to go back again soon.
Tosaka Momiki (Ikebukuro branch) / トサカモミジ（池袋店）
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Higashi Ikebukuro 1-4-2, Sankei Building 6th floor
Open 5 p.m.-midnight (Monday-Thursday, Sunday, holidays), 5 p.m.-5 a.m. (Friday-Saturday)
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