(Saizeriya | Entrance)
It's an Italian cuisine family restaurant. And it's extremely cheap, even compared to other family restaurants. You can find Saizeriya restaurants all over Japan.
I heard that Saizeriya started as a way to make delicious Italian dishes affordable for everyone. I certainly appreciate it!
Saizeriya is one of the most popular family restaurants in Japan.
There are total of 1,553 branches as of August, 2021 according to their company profile. They have branches in 36 prefectures out of 47 in Japan.
All of their menu is pretty reasonable.
[Cultural Note] "Family Restaurant"
Family restaurants are a type of restaurant in Japan. There are many chains of family restaurants, such as Royal Host, Cafe Gusto, Joyfull, Jonathan’s, Denny’s, Coco’s, and Saizeriya. While you may recognize some of these restaurants, their menus are quite different from their Western counterparts.
People wanting to experience Japan may be tempted to pass going to a family restaurant because of it’s non-Japanese appearance. However, you should try dining at one at least once because it is an interesting Japanese experience
Some unique things about family restaurants include:
- A mix of Western and Japanese dishes: Family restaurants usually serve Japanese-style Western food as well as some common Japanese dishes. Because the menu is made for children to enjoy, there are many easy to eat and enjoy dishes. If you haven’t eaten Japanese cuisine before, this might be a good start.
- A call button: Don’t wait for a server to come and introduce themselves or else you’ll never eat! Most family restaurants (and even some non-family restaurants) have a button you push to call a server over. When they bring your food, they’ll probably place the receipt in a small box on the table. But don’t worry, you can still order more food.
- A drink bar: Instead of ordering one soda, you can instead pay a couple hundred yen and get access to the drink bar (a fountain drink machine). You can get as many refills as you want. Common options are cola, Sprite/7-up, ginger ale, fruit juice, ice coffee, cold teas, fruit flavour soda (usually grape, orange, and melon) and sometimes even hot drinks like coffee and tea! You can still get water for free or buy other drinks if you want.
- Toys for sale: Since the restaurants are for the whole family, there are often toys for sale and gatcha machines at the entrance. Sometimes, there are even food items and kits for you to make at home!
[For more cultural notes, check this page.]
What we ordered
Let's start with the appetizer we ordered - the mussels. To be honest, I'm not huge on shellfish. I don't think I've even eaten mussels before, so I'm not the best judge here. It's fine, but I wouldn't personally order it. It is slightly chewy. I had trouble getting one off of the shell. I liked the veggie salsa it came with!
I love this one. The price is reasonable and the amount is just perfect for an appetizer. It matches with wines as well!
I ordered one of the pastas for the first time. It's a bit hard to see from here, but it's a decent amount - bigger than I expected. It's al dente. The cheese is good. As you can see, it isn't a mountain of cheese like the menu suggests, but still enough. While I liked the pasta, it's very simple. The sauce is very plain and there's nothing besides the cheese. If you really want to eat some pasta, you'd probably enjoy it. Personally, since you can buy okay to-go pasta from the convenience store, this one isn't worth it. There are better things to order off the menu. I haven't tried the other pasta dishes though.
I'm a big fan of Italian pasta.
But personally, I don't like Saizeriya's pasta...
I love most of their food, except the pasta...
When I think of Saizeriya, I think of doria. I think it's one of their more popular items. The rice is just soft enough. The sauce on top is creamy and hearty. Like the pasta, there's not much going on with it though. You can buy additional toppings, but there aren't more ingredients for the rice. You can buy doria sauce at the grocery store and make it at home. However, unlike the pasta, that takes more effort. It's pretty cheap anyways, so it's worth getting. For a small amount of yen, you can get bread to eat it with.
I think this is the most famous dish that Saizeriya serves. It's very popular and reasonable. The taste is not that special but good enough.
You should try this at least once if you visit Saizeriya.
Hamburg is Saizeriya's other big dish. If you don't know, "hamburg" refers to a dish like this, not a hamburger. It's somewhere between a burger patty and a Salisbury steak. There are different sides you can get with it. We didn't get it this time, but the sausage is pretty good, although a tad bit spicy.
The hamburg steak is good! It's juicy and tasty. I think it might be the food with the most flavour. I find it better than your average fast food burger! I'm not a big fan of the egg. It's too plain and thin, and cooked slightly too much for my taste. I like my yolks more runny. The potatoes are crispy. While I liked them, they are on the plain side. They go good with the sauce though. The shrimp is really good. The breading is crispy but the inside is soft. I don't usually like shrimp, but I liked these. You can get them as an appetizer, but the serving size is small. Overall a good option.
This one is the most typical "hamburg plate" which is served at many family restaurants in Japan. Since it's not a traditional Italian dish, I wouldn't recommend it for people who are visiting Saizeriya for Italian food. But this one is still tasty.
Now THIS is where it's at. The pizza is delicious. While not super gourmet, I think it has a lot more going on than the other dishes. The crust is thin and tasty, the cheese is great, and the sauce isn't too much or too little. It's great. But the best part is the anchovy sauce. Yes, that's right, the anchovies. It surprised me too! Anchovy on pizza was something that weirded me out as a kid. I don't think I had even eaten anchovies before I ate this pizza! I was hesitant to eat it the first time Yue ordered it. Now it's something I get every time. It's hearty but not "fishy." It is pretty oily though. I highly recommend it.
I think I ate anchovies for the first time in my life at Saizeriya.
The anchovy sauce is very oily and salty, so I recommend you use it little by little (we used all of it in the second image above).
I usually don't like oily food, but this one is exceptionally good.
It's pretty good! Better than I expected. I ordered this instead of the pudding because, like the pasta, you can get a decent pudding for cheap at the store. The tiramisu is cool and refreshing. It isn't too sweet or strong. As you can see, it's a bit on the "wet" side. It doesn't have much structure. The cake base is very moist, or rather soaked. Although it's a bit on the small side, I really liked it. If you just want a sweet bite after dinner, it's satisfying.
Since Rue has a big sweet tooth, I got only 1 or 2 small bites of it.
But I could still enjoy it. It's not too sweet and the texture is nice.
It's a lot of alcohol for 1100 JPY, and it tastes about what you'd expect from a $10 wine. I liked it though. We had the white one before and this one is sweeter and less dry. It's enjoyable and goes down easy. It's not bad. If you can't stand cheap wines, you'd probably won't like it, but I think it's fine. It's really big, so unless you have a big group, expect to bring the bottle home.
Even though it's a typical cheap wine, it's good enough to add an extra accent to the food you get here at Saizeriya!
It contains 1.5L (3.17 pints) which is too big for two of us. So we usually drink 2 or 3 glasses of it then bring the bottle back home and enjoy the rest on another day!
Lunch/Dinner Average Budget for 1 person: 800 - 1400 JPY
- Service & Hospitality
The service is fine. It's not super impressive, but each time I've gone, the servers have always been nice. Our food came within 15 minutes after we ordered.
It's a comfortable atmosphere. It was a bit loud this time. There weren't any people shouting or kids screaming, simply people talking at normal volume. The lights are slightly dimmed, creating a calm, fancy feeling. There are a few classical looking paintings on the walls. There's a light, delicious smell inside the restaurant.
There are shields between most of the tables, giving both privacy and peace of mind. The menu art also changes periodically. It's a nice touch.
You can see many different groups of people - from students to older folks, from groups of friends to couples to people dining alone.
The food ranges from "fine" to "good." As long as you're not expecting anything fancy, it's enjoyable. I think my one complaint is that a lot of the dishes could simply use more seasoning. One of the benefits of dining at Saizeriya is that each dish is pretty cheap, so you can mix and match as you please.
It might be surprising that something that is "cheap" is rated so high, but I genuinely like coming here. For the price you pay, you get to relax and eat good food.
One of my favourite things about Saizeriya is that because of the low price, you can decide how much you want to spend. You can come in for a full meal's worth or just a small bite while you relax.
Another plus is that Saizeriya really feels like a restaurant for anyone. Regardless of your age, your group size, or how much you want to eat, it's a comfortable place.
- Would I come again?
Absolutely. I'm looking forward to it! I wouldn't come too often, but it's a nice easy option when I want to dine out. If you're only in Japan for a few days, I can understand passing. However, if you staying for a while, I suggest you try it at least once.