[Tokyo] There are just too many good foods in Tokyo to list here, from sushi, kaiseki meals, ramen, soba, yakitori, donburi – where you can get from the streets to Michelin starred restaurants.
These are just some of the 10 popular or known food places in the bustling city that attract diners from all over the world, not to deny that some of the best dining experiences are found in unknown hole-in-the-wall places.
I included a mix of more affordable quintessential Japanese food, to acclaimed fine dining restaurants.
Maisen Tonkatsu とんかつ まい泉
4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan (Omotesando Exit A2)
〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区 神宮前4−8−5
Tel: +81 3 3470 0071
Opening Hours 11:00am – 10:00pm
Historical Tonkatsu Institution At Omotesando
Maisen has been known for serving tonkatsu since 1965, located in a former World War II public bathhouse, thus you can still appreciate some of the original design details and high ceilings which stand through the test of time.
Their signature is the kurobuta pork, also known as the Japanese black pork from the Berkshirepork pigs known for its fine meat fibers and juicy flavors.
BUT, look out for their specially reared and locally sourced pork brands such as Amai-Yuwaku and Tokyo-X, available in limited quantities per day. Much more pricey of course.
The Maisen tonkotsu is said to contain four distinctive features: fat-rich meat with finest sweetness; fine meat texture; tenderness that melts in your mouth; and deep, delicious taste.
Maisen Tonkatsu (Omotesando, Tokyo)
Ichiran Ramen Tokyo
Shinjuku: Peace Building B1F 3-34-11 Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku Tokyo-to 160-0022
(3 min walk from JR Shinjuku Station Higashi Exit)
Opening Hours: 24 Hours
Google Maps – Ichiran Shinjuku
Tonkotsu Ramen With Snaking Queue
Ichiran Ramen 一蘭 is known as one of the best ramen in Japan, if not the best – mass market wise.
Its winning formula can be attributed to the creamy smooth classic pork-based tonkotsu soup, topped with Ichiran’s original red pepper sauced mixed with 3 type of spices.
First sip of the creamy goodness, peppered with a touch of spice, and I told myself “I can have this tomorrow again.”
Thin and springy home-made fresh noodles slide through the milky rich broth, which remained piping hot almost throughout. The sliced pork was thin, tender and tasty.
My ‘half-portion’ red sauce was spicy enough, and was indeed the all-important element which differentiated Ichiran from the-other-good-ramen-down-the-street.
Is this the best? Maybe not. But at least satisfying and well-known. Ichiran Ramen 一蘭 (Shinjuku, Tokyo)
慎 Shin Udon
2 151 0053, 2 Chome-20-16 Yoyogi, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-0053, Japan (Shinjuku Station, Exit 6)
代々木2-20-16 (相馬ビル1F), Shibuya, Tōkyō, 151-0053, Japan
Tel: +81 3-6276-7816
Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm (Mon – Thurs, Sun), 11am – 11pm (Fri – Sat), Closed during New Year period
Google Maps – Shin Udon
Hole-In-The Wall Udon Shop
Shin Udon is a short 5-10 walk from Shinjuku station (try Exit 6), but I know of people taking half an hour simply because they got lost.
If it helps, the small eatery is hidden in view in a lane near a police post, about a minute away from the insanely popular Fu-unji ramen 風雲児.
The buckwheat udon is made in house, fresh upon order, in cold or hot versions, topped with ingredients such as tempura, sliced beef, mentaiko and soft boiled egg.
The basic variants are Kake Udon – Hot udon in broth topped with thinly sliced scallions; Zaru Udon – cold noodles accompanied with a chilled dipping sauce; and Bukkake Udon – cold udon with thicker dashi broth.
Thick, square cut udon traveled into the mouth with that slippery soft texture, which had a certain ‘bounce’ which made it pleasurable to just chew and chew. Shin Udon 慎 (Shinjuku, Tokyo)
(Click PLAY for video highlights of Tsuta Tokyo.)
1-14-1 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo (5 min walk from Sugamo Station)
東京都豊島区巣鴨1-14-1 Plateau-Saka 1F
Opening Hours: 11am – 4pm
Google Maps – Tsuta
1st Michelin Ramen Shop In Tokyo
Tsuta 蔦 Japanese Soba Noodles in Tokyo is the first ever ramen joint to get a Michelin star, which is an indication of its possibly exceptional quality.
First thing’s first, while Tsuta is named a “soba” shop, it won a Michelin for its “ramen”.
Only 150 bowls of ramen are served daily – priced at ¥1,000 to ¥1,500 (SGD13 to SGD20) a bowl.
The 9-seater ramen eatery serves soba in ramen style (¥1000 for its most basic bowl, ¥1500 for the most popular shoyu bowl), known for its soy based broth where the soy is aged for 2 years.
The noodles are made with four types of whole wheat flour, chashu served with black truffle sauce, and broth an umami chicken-seafood blend, along with rock salt, red wine and rosemary infusions.
The broth itself had a clean yet layered taste, intricate and delicate, unlike other rich heavy ramen broths (which excite in a different way). It was light enough, and so won’t leave queasy feeling even if you intend to finish the bowl.
Warning: Must queue very early to get a ticket. Find out how to. Tsuta 蔦 (Sugamo, Tokyo)
Harajuku Gyoza Lou
6−2−4 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo (Meiji-Jingumae Station, Chiyoda, Fukutoshin lines)
神宮前6-2-4 Shibuya, 東京都 〒150-0001
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 4:30am (Mon – Sat), 1130am – 10pm (Sun)
Google Maps – Harajuku Gyoza Lou
Harajuku’s Most Famous Gyoza Shop
There are just two styles of gyoza dumplings available – Fried or Steamed, at ¥290 for six of them. That works out to be SGD3.60 or USD2.70.
Affordable by Tokyo standards.
The Gyozas were fantastic – delightfully thin and just a thin layer of crisp.
As you bite your way through, the juice from the pork fillings would burst in your mouth, savoury-sweet and fresh. So good you won’t even need any additional sauces to complement.
Harajuku Gyozaro (Harajuku, Tokyo)
Bills Omotesando 東急プラザ表参道原宿
4-30-3 Jinugu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 7F Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku, Tel: +81 3-5772-1133
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 11:00pm
4-minute walk from JR Yamanote Line Harajuku Station or 1-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line/Fukutoshin Line Meiji Jingu Mae Station
Reservations can be made online https://bills-jp.net
“Best Breakfast in The World” at Harajuku
Other than traditional Japanese food, Tokyo is only the city for some brunch, pancakes and crepes.
Bills at Omotesando Harajuku 東急プラザ表参道原宿 is one of the most popular brunch place there.
The classics include the Ricotta Hotcakes, Fresh Banana & Honeycomb Butter (¥1400, SGD17.27) and the Scrambled Organic Eggs with Toast (¥1200, SGD14.80).
Every single table was having the light soft fluffy pancakes. Every Japanese lady was all smiles after eating it.
I would recommend the Full Aussie Breakfast with Toast, Mushrooms, Bacon, Roast Tomato and Chipolatas (¥1800, SGD22.20). You would realise Bill’s scrambled eggs are not that ‘scrambled’, with slippery texture and a light buttery fragrance. Bills Omotesando (Omotesando, Tokyo)
Sukiyabashi Jiro すきやばし次郎
B1F, Tsukamoto Sozan Bldg, 4-2-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Tel: +81 03 3535 3600
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 2pm, Dinner 5:30pm – 8:30pm
Closed Sun and Public Holidays, and during mid-August, late Dec to early Jan for annual holidays)
Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. I Dream Of His Sushi
3-star Michelin Sukiyabashi Jiro すきやばし次郎 run by sushi master Jiro Ono has been touted as one of the most difficult restaurants to book in the world, other than Sushi Saito.
Reservations have to be done a month in advance, in Japanese language with a local number from Japan. Its popularity multiplied after the award-winning documentary.
That means you need a reliable hotel concierge or good Japanese friend to make that call for you on the first day of the month at 9am (Japan time) for the next month.
The Omakase Tasting Menu of 20 pieces is priced at ¥30,000 plus taxes, for both lunch and dinner. It used to be cash-payment only in the past, but the restaurant has started to accept credit card payment.
The sushi course could take below 45 minutes. Pace yourself, just eat (don’t eat a heavy meal before this), don’t talk too much.
If getting a reservation at the main restaurant is too tough, you can head over to the son’s Roppongi branch of Sukiyabashi Jiro (link for reservation details), helmed by second son Takashi Ono. 2-star Michelin nevertheless.
B1 Seizan Gaien, 2-5-4, Jingumae, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo City (6min walk from Gaiemmae Station on the Ginza Line)
Tel: +81 03 6440 0878
Opening Hours: Lunch from 12:00pm – 1.30pm (last order), Dinner from 6.30pm to 8:00pm (last order), Closed Wed
Google Maps – Florilège
Reservations Online – Florilège
Amazing And Imaginative French Cuisine. Asia’s 50 Best
Among all the rising dining stars in Tokyo, Florilège by Chef Hiroyasu Kawate is definitely the one meal to have if you are looking for a fine dining option.
Florilège, meaning anthology in French, serves up classy Japanese and French fusion cuisine.
Lunch course is 6 or 7 dishes at ¥7000++ (SGD$84.14), while the Dinner course is 11 courses at ¥13000++ (SGD$156.27).
The food served combines the exquisite styles and techniques of French cuisine with the freshest Japanese produce and ingredients.
The menu is omakase style French-Japanese fusion cuisine and varies with the seasonality of the ingredients and changes every two months. Florilège (Aoyama, Tokyo)
Side Roppongi Building, 1st Floor, 7-17-24 Roppongi Minato, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan
Tel: +81 3 3423 8006
Roppongi Station on Hibiya Line (Tokyo Metro), 2 minutes walk from Exit2（in front of Meiji-ya super market). Tokyo metro oedo subway line roppongi station exit 7(in front of Tokyo Mid-town) 5minutes walk.
Reservation Online – Nihonryori RyuGin
One of Japan’s Finest, 3-Michelin Stars
The meal at Nihonryori RyuGin at Roppongi Tokyo was probably one of my best meals ever.
A tasting menu is priced at ¥21,600 Yen (SGD266.65, USD203.47), excluding service charge (10% for table, 15% for dining room).
RyuGin’s Chef Seiji Yamamoto is known to push culinary boundaries, creating avant-garde dishes, while blending with the seasonal ingredients available in Japan.
Every season has a different menu, and every day it may differ based on what is available in the market.
And every single dish was a piece of art.
The dinner was not only about eating anymore, but appreciating every containing plate, smelling the scents, appreciating the plating, listening to the explanation and story, and just simply watching in awe how art is created. Nihonryori Ryugin (Roppongi, Tokyo)
Sushi Dai 寿司大
Japan, 〒135-0061 Tokyo, Koto, Toyosu, 6 Chome−5−１
Tel: +81 3 6633 0042
Opening Hours: 5:30am – 2pm (Mon – Sat), Closed Sun
Sushi Restaurant Famous Tsukiji Fish Market, Now At Toyosu
The most popular sashimi and sushi restaurants from the ‘old’ Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場 – Sushi Dai 寿司大 and Daiwa Sushi 大和寿司, have moved to the new Toyosu market. (Many chose to walk in random shops during their visits, without the queue, and their standards won’t be too far off.)
Sushi Dai 寿司大, located at the 3rd floor of Block 6, is easily most popular joint, with queues snaking at the side of the shop, and can take from 2 to 3 hours for your wait.
Compared to the old premises, there are seats for waiting under shelter.
Starting operations at 5am, the set of 10 pieces and 1 roll will set you back by ¥4000 (SGD48.48, USD35.90).
For something very similar in quality and a much shorter queue, head over to Daiwa Sushi which is located on the 1st floor of Block 5, which is actually run by the son of the owner of Sushi Dai.
A Daiwa Sushi Set of 7 pieces and 1 roll will cost ¥4,320.
Daiwa Sushi has about double capacity of Sushi Dai, and so can clear the queue faster.