Raw horse meat, sashimi and other dishes

The place: Zawatami
The food: standard izakaya fare, such as grilled chicken on sticks, tofu, salads, chips, various fried foods

Whilst studying at Nihon University in 2010, Calle and I made a very good friend called Tom, who is studying for a PhD in Buddhist philosophy. Happily for us, his research brought him to Kyoto, and, in honour of his visit, I decided to rally the crew for an izakaya outing. Being uninspired, Zawatami was suggested as a chain izakaya, which would suit everyone’s budget and be able to sit a large party size.


Zawatami is the kind of place which justifies chain-snobbery. Big, impersonal and serving cheap food that tastes cheap. When I eat out, I want an eating experience that is indelible on my brain, burning a hole until I visit it again. I might have forgotten all about Zawatami should I not pass it on a fairly frequent basis.

I’m writing about it, however, because it gives another a good insight into the kind of dishes served at izakaya, drinking places which serve food tapas-style. I really appreciate this kind of eating because I relish variety. Also, the dishes often have stronger flavours than the “delicate” flavours of traditional Japanese cuisine, because they’re designed to be consumed with alcohol. I like the stronger flavours. I don’t want tofu to taste of tofu, because tofu tastes of nothing. And I’ll take my bowl of chips over my bowl of rice any day!

I should also mention to all horse-lovers out there that raw horse meat (bashimi) is very common on the menu. Sorry.

Zawatami wasn’t terrible. The tuna and avocado salad nudges at the back of my brain. It’s a winning combination of flavours.

Avocado and tuna

The giant plates of sashimi were devoured appreciatively by our party (but I always think, how far wrong can you go with raw fish in Japan? Of course, I’m excluding sushi conveyor belt places where the sushi sits sweltering, unrefrigerated for hours!)


And the chocolate sponge, filled with warm chocolate sauce, was good. Undoubtedly it was just brought out of the freezer, but it was very chocolately indeed.

Chocolate sponge

Then I scrolled through my photo selection to discover…

…a bland and unexciting salad…

Avocado salad

…bland and unexciting tofu…


…exceptionally cheap-tasting yakitori (grilled chicken)…


…cheap, oily gyoza  – Chinese pork dumplings (which are even more uninspiring on reflection, because I’ve just eaten delicious homemade gyoza in the past few days. And they were…VEGAN. Yes, I know – I’m still traumatised myself. Blog post coming soon!)


…and raw horse meat for Tom. Tom likes raw horse meat very much. To me, it tastes a little like steak, but I’ve never eaten raw steak so the comparison probably fails. I’m not big fan of raw meat – I prefer my food not to bleed onto my plate. I like my steak to be pink in the middle, but never bloody.

Raw horse meat

As for Zawatami, I wouldn’t have resented the food so much if it weren’t for the fact that I know I can get much, much better food for less money. I believe we paid over 3000円.

Overall 2.5/5

Unremarkable. Better, cheaper food can be found elsewhere, but Zawatami is good for accommodating large parties and everyone’s budgets and tastes.

Food quality 2/5 – Quite poor quality and poorly flavoured/seasoned.

Value for money 2/5 – Too expensive for the quality of the food we got.

Atmosphere  3/5 – Busy, but full of rowdy crowds that made conversations difficult. A very drink-centred atmosphere – this is a party place for the young. Plus the carpet was really gross.

Service 3/5 – Impersonal but prompt and efficient.

Next post: MY FAVOURITE IZAKAYA (so far)

Author: Phoebe Amoroso

Phoebe Amoroso is a Tokyo-based reporter, multimedia journalist and storyteller. Hailing from the UK, she moved to Japan in 2014 and has since been shouting about the country to all who will listen. She divides her time between covering breaking news and producing feature stories for TV; writing about everything from business and tech to food and travel; and guiding hungry visitors who want to sample the best of Japanese cuisine. When not working and/or eating, she can often be found running up a mountain or cycling by the sea.

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