{Japan: Eat} Battle of the Gyudon Restaurant Chains

Matsuya’s Gyudon and Miso Soup

Here in the States, I eat Yoshinoya at least once a week.  It is definitely my go-to fast food place and I prefer it over any hamburger, hot dog, fried chicken establishment.  This is despite the fact that all of my family and friends think it’s absolute crap food and M makes gagging noises when he sees me eating it.  But really, what’s not to like?  It’s cheap, filling, and where else can you get fluorescent veggies?

And in Japan, Yoshinoya only gets better!  Besides gyudons, they also serve curry, full set breakfasts w/ salmon, and unagi bowls.  Not to mention such delectable sides as raw eggs and kimchee!  Moreover, in the land of bountiful Oishii, I’m not just restricted to Yoshinoya to satisfy my gyudon fix.  There’s also Matsuya, Sukiya, and Nakau, all serving up their versions of beef bowl deliciousness.  Located practically everywhere in the larger cities, many of the aforementioned chains’ outlets stay open 24 hrs.  And in Japan, M is actually willing to eat at these establishments because he says that unlike the U.S. Yoshinoya, the food is tasty and well worth eating.  I think he also likes the idea of ordering from a vending machine:

So is it Yoshinoya or Matsuya or Sukiya or Nakau that makes Japan’s best fast food beef bowl?  Here’s my personal ranking:

4. Sukiya

Whenever I go to Japan I try and eat at all 4 gyudon chains but if I had to skip one it would be Sukiya.  Quality-wise their beef seems to be the worst (i.e. toughest) and taste-wise, it’s a tad on the sweet side.

Their onsen tamago (soft boiled egg) also leaves much to be desired as it is presented to the customer ice cold.  However, their miso soup is very good, maybe even the best of the 4 chains.

3. Nakau

With fewer stores than the other 3 chains, Nakau is perhaps, the least well-known of the 4 gyudon kings.  However, their food is very tasty and they have quite a varied menu with items such as katsudon, various curries, udon, chicken karaage, and okra miso soup.  For their gyudon, the beef is always tender and well-cooked, and the sauce is super flavorful.

2. Matsuya

A lot of people who visited Japan tell me that Matsuya is their favorite gyudon restaurant chain.  And I can definitely see why.  The beef used in their gyudon is very quality with no greasy aftertaste.  Tastewise the sauce is not too sweet or salty, just the perfect blend of sugar, sake, soy sauce, and ginger.

1. Yoshinoya

If you like Yoshinoya in America, you will love it in Japan!  I can’t tell you how good it is to have a steaming hot Yoshinoya beef bowl placed in front of you after a long day of sightseeing!  It may look just like the competitors’ but somehow it tastes so much better.  I love to doctor mine up with some pickled ginger, red pepper, and, yes, a raw egg.  I guess whether it be East or West, Yoshinoya is always the best!