I enjoy a fair bit of research before writing and apart from messy foodie listing sites like Tabelog, Yelp and Tripadvisor, there’s not much writing on the glorious kebab in Tokyo. There’s a shocker of a piece in another publication in Japan where the writer (who should forever bow their head in shame) recommends Star Kebab in Akihabara (it’s rubbish) and Curry & Naan which doesn’t make any sense at all. I sometimes wake up late at night thinking about this article and the triteness of it all. 

So, in the spirit of and keeping some sort of journalistic integrity, I spent the opening weeks of January traipsing about the capital munching on kebabs. I’ll give a well-deserved shout out to the person who runs the Doner Kebab Japan blog which pointed me in the direction of a few spots which have, until now, flown under my sweaty kebab radar. 


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Kebab Ye

Let me begin with a real gem. Proper food served up by a nice chap in the backstreets of Shinjuku-Sanchome. The very-good-indeed Kebab Ye. I found it one night years ago when I was galavanting through Shinjuku with my best pal, Tall Paul, and it took several years afterwards to make a return visit. Was it just my imagination or was this kebab one of the best in Tokyo? I wasn’t wrong. The doner kebab sandwich is glorious. It’s the bread that does it, to be honest. Thick and chewy and the opposite of the sad, limp pita which most kebab places serve in Tokyo. The meat is also top-notch and this kebab can be eaten at any time of the day. Not just to be consumed on late-at-night drunk-out-of your-mind benders. It’s the proud kebab. 

Asian Kebab

Tokyo Weekender Towers is located in Roppongi (don’t judge me) and when in need, there can be found a very decent kebab in the form of Asian Kebab, a simple and very small (a few counter seats) spot a few minutes from Roppongi Crossing. The blaring music in the form of 1990s Eurotechno shouldn’t put you off as the kebab is solid. Not spectacular but miles better than the nonsense found in Akihabara and most of Ueno. It’s what I’d like to call ‘the reliable kebab.’


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Kebab Box J

Next on the list is an old-school spot, which most of you dear readers will either know or have unwittingly wandered past when traversing the packed and messy streets of Harajuku. Kebab Box J is a wee spot which I’ve been intermittently visiting for about 15 years or so. Again, it’s got nothing on Kebab Ye or the late night British kebab shops of my youth which cook up juicy doner meat dripping in sauce and plonked on a flatbread with the spicy and unidentifiable sauce dripping onto your white converse and serving as a pleasant reminder or frightening flashback the following morning. Kebab Box J is one of the original kebab shops in the center of the city and the cheerful chaps that run it are well known to the youngsters who flock to the nearby Takeshita Dori. It’s the old-school kebab.

Kebab Cafe Ertugrul

On the south side of Nakano Station is the famed Kebab Cafe Ertugrul, which came highly recommended by a few pals and the doner kebab blog. One of the highlights of this café, in addition to the standard chicken kebabs and other basics, is the shop’s signature “Ertugrul Kebab,” which consists of chicken, salad, tomato pesto, hummus and rice wrapped up in a flatbread. It’s a behemoth of a kebab and seriously weighty. The hummus gives it a slight creaminess and the chicken and tomato complement each other very well indeed. Due to the heavy carbs involved, I genuinely needed to lie down after eating this monster. Delicious and well worth the ¥1,000 price tag, let’s call this kebab The Beast. 


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Sabalan Kebab

Last but not least, we have the number one chicken kebab in Tokyo according to the doner kebab blog. The fantastic Sabalan Kebab can be found about one minute from the north exit of Jiyugaoka Station. I woke up on a chilly Sunday morning in early January and made my way to Jiyugaoka from my house near Ikebukuro. It’s a bit of a trek but I hope you enjoy the determination on my part, dear readers. 

First off, the welcome from the staff was immense. Beaming smile, some good chat and I immediately felt at home. It’s a real hole-in-the-wall establishment with a few seats outside which face onto the train tracks. It’s the perfect spot to sit quietly and watch the world go by while you munch on, and I can attest to this, Tokyo’s best chicken kebab. Delicately layered with salad and the freshest and juiciest chicken I’ve ever had, it is glorious. It looks good, smells good and the taste alone was worth the journey from the opposite side of the city. I sat with a content smile on my face as the mixed sauce ran amok down my new winter coat and my nice selvedge jeans. With flakes of cabbage and tomato stuck to the corner of my mouth, it’s the happiest I’ve been for a very long time indeed. So, the brilliant and super-friendly Sabalan Kebab is the gold medal kebab. Perfect in every way.

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