Restaurants

Japan’s popular 'standing room only' steak restaurant opens first US location

Ikinari Steak is the place to eat meat on your feet.

Ikinari Steak is the place to eat meat on your feet.  (iStock)

Steakhouses may be everywhere in the Big Apple but a new dining concept from Japan brings a major twist to traditional meat eating. 

That’s because Ikinari Steak, which just opened in Manhattan's trendy East Village neighborhood, is famous for not having chairs.

The new restaurant maximizes its space with 40 standing-room only spots for diners. If you can't stomach the idea of standing while you eat, the restaurant does have seating, but only for 10 patrons. The brand has become popular in Japan for serving quality food at a reasonable price-- as quickly as possible.

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So, how does it work? As Eater explains, Ikinari founder Kunio Ichinose has pioneered the shared chef-patron cooking method to maximize efficiency. 

Upon entering the restaurant, guests stop by a counter and place their order (options range from rib eye to filet). A butcher then proceeds to cut the meat and promptly serves it to the patron rare.

That 40-day wet-age beef (at the New York City location, it's sourced from an Illinois-based company) is served on a hot, cast-iron platter so that diners who want their meat more well-done can cook it to the temperature they desire. But according to Takashi Tsuchiyama, who is now running the restaurant in the U.S., most people eat the meat rare.

Guests then take their meal to a standing station, where they can finally start eating. Ikinari offers a wide variety of sauces and seasonings including the classics like salt, pepper, plus spicy wasabi, a special “J-sauce,” garlic paste and more. They also get sides of onions, corn and rice.

And it’s reasonably priced-- a 14-ounce chuck eye steak with a salad, soup, rice (and built-in tip) is just $20.

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Still, the idea is to get guests in and out in under half an hour. Accordingly, there are no appetizer or dessert options.

“In Japan, like in America, steak is kind of a special meal,” Tsuchiyama said. “It was a revolution, because they offered the same quality of meat as high-end restaurants for half the price. But what you have to give up is the seating.”

Tsuchiyama says that there are plans to open 20 locations in Manhattan during the next five years.  

That plan may sound ambitious but Ikinari has opened more than 100 restaurants in Japan in just three years.