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Japanese is one of my favourite cuisines and, over the years, I have eaten a lot of Japanese food. Before visiting Japan I thought that I had quite a good grasp on what Japanese food was about but it only took a few days in the country to realise that what I knew barely scratched the surface. Some of what I did know about Japanese food was confirmed and other things that I thought I knew were turned upside down. In Tokyo, my final stop on this adventure I had an opportunity to see how things in the capital differed from the previous 2 cities I had visited, Osaka and Kyoto.

I knew that there would be a lot of great food to eat in Tokyo. I’d done my research before arriving and had an extensive list of places to eat at around the city. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer volume of places that were offering something to eat and drink. Many of the food places in Tokyo are small, and seat no more than a handful of people and they are found everywhere. On main streets, down alleyways, in basements, and several stories up in the high rise buildings that are all over the city somebody is cooking something. Sometimes these places are easy to spot and sometimes they are not – the phrase “follow your nose” is apt. Indeed, by the end of my time in the city I’d barely visited any of the recommendations that were on my list – my wife and I kept on stumbling across places that looked and smelled amazing, and were full of locals – always a good sign. If I have one piece of advice to impart to you for when you visit Tokyo it would be to bring a list of places to visit, make sure you check out a few of the places that really interest you but don’t let the list restrict what you try. Tokyo is a massive city and often you’ll find yourself in a part of town that’s not near any recommendations on your list. Additionally it can be hard to find certain places as streets are more often than not not in English (both physical street signs and in Google Maps), the venues don’t have English names and aren’t always on the main street level. Use the guide as exactly that – a guide. Follow your nose and don’t be afraid to make your own discoveries.

Food standards in Tokyo are high, from the quality of the food and its presentation to the customer service that patrons receive. I’ve never been anywhere in the world where standards are so high on such a consistent basis. Perhaps because of this, Tokyo has a reputation as being an expensive city but another thing that surprised me was how affordable the food and drinks in Tokyo, and indeed in Japan, were. Of course the food in Tokyo isn’t as cheap as that in other Asian countries such as Vietnam and Thailand but when compared against similar highly developed, global centres it fares well.

While there are definite regional differences that are apparent when travelling through Japan, there are also a lot of similarities. I’m going to try and keep any repetition between my Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto food guides to a minimum and will be cross-referencing to the other guides in here as I put them up. Rather than listing the places that I ate at, I think a better way of setting things out is by the type of food – a brief introduction to the dish, followed by some recommendations based on my experiences followed by recommendations that were on my list that I never got around to visiting.

 

Ramen

Ramen is a dish that consists of wheat noodles in a soy and/or miso flavoured meat or fish stock soup along with a variety of toppings such as sliced pork, sliced kamaboko (fish cake roll), nori (dried seaweed), spring onions, and a poached egg.

It’s a popular meal all over Japan and each region has its own version, with the broth being what differs the most. The 4 main types of ramen are:

  • Shio (salt) has a pale, clear broth that is seasoned with a lot of salt, with chicken, vegetables, fish and seaweed being most commonly used. Noodles of varying thickness are generally used.
  • Tonkotsu (pork bone) has a thick, cloudy broth. Pork bones are left to simmer for several hours which allows the fat and collagen to break down and give the broth a strong pork flavour and a silky texture. Thin noodles are used.
  • Shōyu (soy sauce) has a clear brown vegetable and/or chicken based broth that is heavily flavoured with soy sauce. Generally curly noodles or thin noodles are used.
  • Miso contains, unsurprisingly lots of miso which is added to an oily chicken/fish broth (and sometimes pork bones) which gives it a thick consistency and nutty, tangy flavour. Thick, curly noodles are typically used.

Along with the above 4 types of ramen, many cooks mix and match flavours and techniques to make their own versions of the dish. In Tokyo, a common type of ramen is one that uses a light, soy flavoured chicken broth and thin, curly noodles.

Sanyu-ken

My wife and I stumbled across this place while we were looking for something else. Turn left when you exit Ikenoue station (on the Keio Inokashira line) and about a 30 second walk up you’ll find this small spot. The friendly old man waving below in this “suburban” restaurant shuffled down a spot so my wife and I could squeeze in. As was the case on several occasions during our time in Japan, we were presented with a menu that had no English on it and where no English was spoken. The place was quite busy and had a decent turnover and many people seemed to be ordering the same thing so we decided to join in on that.

It was amazing to watch the cook at work. He had two huge pots – one containing stock and the other containing noodles. As well as keeping an eye on those he was also preparing and cooking various dishes and the same time.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

A short while later, out came our food. A big bowl of Tokyo style Shōyu ramen along with bamboo rice and some veg with a dumpling. It was all very tasty.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

The photo below shows why I have no idea what this place was actually called.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Sanyu-ken
2 Chome-42-11 Daizawa
Setagaya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Santouka

Santouka has a variety of Hokkaido style ramen dishes on the menu, however we went with the one that was recommended to us by a friend of a friend with the precursor “make sure you order nothing else. Once you eat this, you will know what ramen means”. With a recommendation like that, we ordered the Tokusen Toroniku Ramen (Choice Pork Ramen) and waited while watching one of the cooks pop up every now and then to check on all of the broths (the ramen itself was being cooked downstairs in another open kitchen).

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Unlike most ramen that I have eaten, this one came out with the noodles and broth in one bowl and the toppings in another. It only took one bite for me to decide that this was the best ramen that I had ever eaten. The pork cheek was extremely rich, flavoursome and tender and the fat was silky and melted in my mouth.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Santouka is actually a chain that has some locations overseas as well as in Japan. One thing came up several times during my research before this trip and that was confirmed from my own experiences was that in Japan, unlike many other places in the world, there are some very good chains of restaurants. Despite expanding to several locations, many of these places manage to maintain their high level of quality and consistency. I can’t speak about the other branches of Santouka, but the ramen at the Shibuya branch was outstanding.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Santouka
Gojo Building, 1st Floor
3 Chome-13-7 Shibuya
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Other Recommendations

I had planned to try several other styles of ramen while in Tokyo but simply ran out of time. If you manage to check any of them out let me know what you think.

Matador
1st Floor
2 Chome-4-17 Senjuazuma
Adachi-ku, Tōkyō-to

Tsuta
1 Chome-14-1 Sugamo
Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to

En
21-21 Yokoyamachō
Hachiōji-shi, Tōkyō-to

Fuunji
2 Chome-14 Yoyogi
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

 

Izakaya

An Izakaya is a casual venue that serves food and drinks. Similar in style to spanish Tapas venues, there are a range of small dishes on the menu and you can either order as the night progresses or in one hit at the start. The food comes out as it’s cooked and the whole thing very informal. Generally there’s an open kitchen with seating at the bar/kitchen as well as standard tables.

It’s not hard to find Izakayas in Tokyo. There seems to be something down every back street and alleyway. This spot, for example, was down an alleyway next to an elevated train line just away from the main part of Akihabara.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Beniton

My wife and I wanted to eat at Butcher Brothers (which I’ll talk about later on) but it was full so we went into this place which was nearby and full of people. The clientele was mostly salary men winding down with drinks and food after a long day at the office. The place was loud and vibrant and a little bit seedy. Research later confirmed that this part of Tokyo (Kanda) has historically been full of dive bars and some other seedy establishments but is undergoing a transformation as hot new restaurants and bars open up in the area. Walking around it was obvious that the area was a mix between the two.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Befitting a dive bar/izakaya, the drinks and food were cheap and good. The menu was in Japanese however the girl who served us understood enough English that we were able to ask her to give us “whatever was popular”, and she proceeded to bring out a varied range of dishes. It was comfort food that really suited the vibe of the place and it all tasted great.

To start was cabbage with a spicy dipping sauce.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Next were beef skewers with mustard on the side.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Next was sizzling pork dish with grated daikon.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Finally was fried chicken with mayonnaise.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Beniton
4 Chome−2−17 Nihonbashimuromachi
Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to

Omoide Yokochō

Omoide Yokochō (Memory Lane) as the authorities will have you call it or Shonben Yokochō (Piss Alley) as the locals actually call it, is a network of tiny alleyways packed full of extremely small Izakayas. It’s nickname comes from it’s original days as a post World War II eating area that sprung up in an ad-hoc manner that didn’t contain any toilets, the lack of those facilities resulting in people urinating wherever they could. The whole place actually burned down in the 1990s and was restored quite well – walk through it today and it feels like it’s been there forever. There are about 50 Izakayas in here, serving food that ranges from the conventional yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) to the less conventional such as beating frog hearts. This part of Tokyo has a very unique vibe and is well worth checking out. Eating here is a truly unique experience.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Every single one of the Izakayas was packed so my wife and I walked up and down a few times until we spotted a couple of seats in one place.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Pickles to being with.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

I got the “salt” option which was a variety of yakitori. From left to right: skin, thigh, liver, breast cartilage, breast, heart. Simple, fast and delicious, with not a bit of the chicken wasted.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

My wife got the “sauce” option, which was the same as mine but with the addition of a light, sweet sauce and a green pepper skewer.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Golden Gai in Shibuya is full bar small bars and Izakayas. The options for diners are seemingly endless and it’s hard to go wrong.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

I didn’t eat at as many Izakayas as I had planned to in Tokyo because I had already eaten at quite a few earlier on in the trip in Osaka and Kyoto. Tokyo Izakayas that were on my list that I didn’t get a chance to eat at are listed below.

Birdland
4 Chome-2-15 Ginza
Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to

Totoshigure
5 Chome-30-12 Daizawa
Setagaya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Shirube
2 Chome-18-2 Kitazawa
Setagaya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Tonkatsu

One of my favourite comfort foods back home is chicken katsu, which is a crumbed and deep fried chicken cutlet, generally served with rice and cabbage. In Japan, chicken katsu is rare, with pork katsu (tonkatsu) being much more widespread and popular. Either a pork fillet (hire) or loin (rōsu) is crumbed with panko (japanese breadcrumbs which have a greater surface area and result in a crunchier, lighter coating than western style breadcrumbs) and deep fried. It is served with rice and cabbage and tonkatsu sauce, which is similar to Worcestershire sauce.

Tonkatsu Suzuki

Tokyo Station contains a maze of places to shop and eat at in the basement levels underneath the train tracks. One section is called “Kitchen Street” and contains a variety of bars and restaurants.  Tonkatsu Suzuki specialises in, as the name suggests, tonkatsu.

My wife ordered the daily special, which were small tonkatsu fillets on a bowl of rice with some mayonnaise and pickles.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

I ordered the hire set menu which contained 2 decent sized tonkatsu fillets along with the obligatory rice, cabbage and pickles, as well as some miso soup. We both really enjoyed our meals. The pork was perfectly cooked and the crumbing was crispy and light.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

It’s easy to get lost in Tokyo station. For Kitchen street you need to go to the first floor main concourse between the North Yaesu and North Marunouchi exits.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Tonkatsu Suzuki
JR Tokyo Station
1-Chome Marunouchi
Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to

Maisen

Maisen is generally considered to be one of the best places for tonkatsu in Tokyo. They have a few outlets however the original in Aoyama is the one to go to. Located inside an old bathhouse, it’s a classy spot with its wooden accents, high ceilings and abundance of natural light.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

When it comes to the food, Maisen doesn’t disappoint. I ordered the signature dish, the kurobuta tonkatsu which uses black/Berkshire pork, and is famed for its high fat content and juiciness – the wagyu beef of pork if you will. I ordered the rōsu version and without a doubt can say that this is the best tonkatsu that I have ever eaten. The pork was so tender and juicy, the fat melted in my mouth and the breadcrumbs were buttery and luxurious yet still light.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

My wife ordered set menu that contained two smaller tonkatsu pieces and a sort of seafood and vegetable soup.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

A sorbet at the end comes with all meals.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Maisen
4-8-5- Jingumae
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Along with Maisen, there is one other place that has a reputation as being on of the best places for tonkatsu in Tokyo and that is Tonki, which has been serving up tonkatsu for over 70 years. I didn’t get a chance to visit, but by all accounts its up there with Maisen.

Tonki
1 Chome-1-2 Shimomeguro
Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to

Sushi

Sushi is still very misunderstood in the western world, with many assuming that it starts and ends with raw fish. While raw fish, either by itself as sashimi or with rice as sushi is certainly one very common type of sushi, the only thing that sushi needs to have is vinegared rice with a topping, which can be cooked and does not have to be fish.

Sushi Zanmai

Sushi Zanmai is a chain of sushi restaurants that can be found throughout Tokyo. The main branch is in the Tsujiki fish market however we went to the Asakusa branch. The fish is high quality and tastes great. The seafood is visible from the counter where you can sit and each piece of sushi is prepared fresh when ordered. The menu is in both Japanese and English.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

My wife got the rice bowl with uni (sea urchin roe) and salmon roe. She was very impressed with it.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

I ordered a selection of sushi. It was all very tasty and super fresh. From left to right: crab paste, uni, tori-gai, horse mackerel, gizzard shad, medium fatty tuna, herring roe.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Sushi Zanmai
2 Chome−28−20 Asakusa
Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to

 

Nakaya

This was perhaps the lowlight of food on our Japan trip. My wife and I went to the Tsujiki fish market early in the morning and were planning to have a sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai. We followed directions, found the small side street with the place with the green curtain and went in. We weren’t allowed to take photos of our food, the woman behind the counter was quite grumpy and both the rice and fish were merely ok. Turns out that this  was not Sushi Dai, which was in fact down the next side street. Here’s a photo of the front so you know what to avoid.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

We ate lots of other sushi on the trip in Osaka and Kyoto. The sushi at the department stores, especially Takashimaya is very tasty. Along with Sushi Dai, here are the other sushi places on our list that we didn’t get to eat at.

Sushi Dai
5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji
Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to

Sushi Taichi
6 Chome-4-13 Ginza
Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to

Midori Sushi
17-6 Daikanyamachō
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Sushi Saito
1 Chome-9-15 Akasaka
Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to

Tempura

Tempura is essentially a selection of seafood and/or vegetables that have been battered and fried. The batter is light, crispy and fluffy and the tempura is usually served with sea salt and a tentsuyu dipping sauce. We didn’t make it to any places that specialised in tempura in Tokyo however if you look at the section “Sake” further down on this list you’ll find a place where we ate some great tempura amongst other things.

 

Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is a Japanese hot pot dish. It contains thinly sliced pieces of meat as well as a variety of ingredients like vegetables, tofu and noodles. This is all placed in a shallow “soup” of soy sauce, mirin and sugar. A raw egg is generally placed on the side to be beaten and act as a dipping sauce.

Yoshihashi

Yoshihashi is a Michelin starred restaurant, hidden down the side street of a street which itself is unassuming. It’s known for its high quality wagyu beef and is quite pricey (over ¥8,000 for dinner) however during lunch time, you can go there and get one of the 12 walk-in seats at the counter close to the kitchen. The menu isn’t in English, and the staff don’t speak English however ask for the Sukiyaki and for around ¥2,000 you’ll get yourself an amazing feed.

This sukiyaki was brilliant. The serving size was very generous (it also included a bowl of rice) and the meat was very tender and flavoursome.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

You want the place on the top sign, not the bar.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Yoshihashi
1 Chome-5-25 Motoakasaka
Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to

Shōjin-Ryōri (Buddhist Temple Food)

Buddhist cuisine is vegetarian and is based on the concept of non-violence.  The food that is served has to adhere to strict Buddhist guidelines.

Itosho

Anyone who thinks that Michelin starred restaurants are all about glitz and pretension will have their preconceptions turned on their heads after a meal at Itosho.  Itosho has been serving up Buddhist temple food since 1960 and, for most of those years, owner/chef Hiroharu Ito has been running the show. We got the lunch set menu (¥6,300 + 10% service charge) which is cheaper than the dinner offering (¥8,400 – ¥10,500 plus 10% service charge) . Chef Ito is a very friendly and humble man who you treats his guests like visitors to his home. He speaks minimal English, but enough to let you know what you are eating. After taking your shoes off at the front you are ushered to a room that is very traditional with a low table and floor seating.

The menu consists of vegetables from across Japan. When we walked in we were served a pickled vegetable mixture with a dipping sauce.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

The first proper dish of the meal was matcha jelly mixed with yams, laver boiled down in soy sauce and raw wheat gluten topped with a tofu, sesame and walnut sauce. The flavours were delicate and delicious.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Next was ineffable suimono clear soup which consisted of a chestnut dango dumpling and thin strands of hime-negi scallions.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Next was Itosho’s signature dish, shojin-age which was 6 deep-fried vegetables and tofu, with coating of tiny “pebbles” made of mochi flour (it was almost like the cereal rice crispies/bubbles). A little bit of salt was provided to dab each piece in. It was easy to see why this dish is always on the menu, albeit with different vegetables depending on the season and availability – the texture and taste is something else.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Next was potato, a pickled wild plant, and another wild plant. covered in black sesame and placed on a rose leaf.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Soba noodles topped with grated tororo yam and wasabi.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Bamboo stems, seaweed, pickles, miso broth.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Bamboo rice, mushroom (I can’t recall the type) soup and pickles.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Sweet honeydew to finish with.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

I was going to take a photo of the front for this blog post however the owner, who followed us out to say goodbye assumed that we wanted him to take a photo of us and then stood outside as we left so here we are, at the front of Itosho.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

We were also give a sweet snack to take away with us.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

The whole experience was very special and unique, and I’m really glad that I ate at Itosho.

Itosho
3 Chome-4-7 Azabujūban
Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to

Department Stores

Department stores in Japan are a cut above what you tend to find elsewhere in the world. Sure, there are many cities that have high end department stores with nice food sections however in Japan the sheer selection is outstanding. Along with the highest quality fresh produce and ready-to-eat meals that you could imagine, these department store food halls are where you can find concessions from stores that have set up shop from all over the world. They even have their own name, “depachika”. The product ranges are extensive and everything is beautifully presented.

Paris is one city that is heavily represented. Mariage Freres is one of my favourite tea brands and when I lived in London I’d pay a visit to their stores whenever I was in Paris so I was happy to be able to stock up on some of their harder to find blends of teas for the first time in several years (they do have an online shop but shipping to Australia is exorbitant). The American Breakfast and Paris-Ginza blends are 2 of my favourites. They have a few outlets around the city, but the one we visited was in Shibuya’s ShinQs department store.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

The ShinQs department store is especially luxurious.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Joel Robuchon has several different outlets around Japan, and at Shin!s is the world’s first specialised Le Pain de Joel Robuchon. I bought an orange and dark chocolate coated croissant. It was sweet, buttery, flaky and super indulgent.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Pierre Herme and Jean Paul Hevin are 2 other French favourites that I hunted down while in Japan. I did so in Osaka hence the lack of photos in this post however they both have Tokyo outlets too.

I went to several other department stores in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan. Most have several locations in the major cities. Here is a selection of the best.

Shibuya Hikarie ShinQs
2 Chome-24-20 Shibuya
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Takashimaya (Nihonbashi Store)
2 Chome-4-1 Nihonbashi
Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to

Daimaru (Tokyo Station Store)
1 Chome-9 Marunouchi
Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to

Isetan (Shinjuku Store)
3 Chome-14-1 Shinjuku
Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to

Mitsukoshi (Ginza Store)
1 Chome-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi
Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to

 

Assorted Delights

Rice

If there’s one thing that people know about Japanese food, it’s that rice is a staple ingredient. Throughout my trip in Japan I was impressed by just how good some of the plain rice could taste. One place that I was keen to check out and was not disappointed with was Akomeya, which a gourmet food store dedicated to all things rice.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Akomeya opened this store in April 2013 and consists of a restaurant and takeaway counter, a grocery section with quite literally hundreds of rice related products and a store upstairs selling more rice and cooking related goods. I purchased a few assorted items that tickled my fancy, as well as one of the many regional packets or rice that was for sale. I wanted to buy so much more from here but then again, I wanted to buy so much more from every food related place I visited in Japan.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Akomeya Tokyo
2 Chome-2-6 Ginza
Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to

Sweets & Snacks

As should be clear by now, there really is something for everyone on as far as food in Japan is concerned.

Okashi Land is in the basement of Tokyo Station and contains a selection of products from Morinaga, Calbee and Glico. There’s stuff in here that you won’t find elsewhere – big boxes of giant Pocky snacks in unusual flavours for example.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Okashi Land
Tokyo Station
1 Chome-9-1 Marunouchi
Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to

Calbee also have a few of their own stores that contains a wide array of their fried prawn snacks with all sorts of flavour combinations available. I went to the one in Harajuku. Fried prawn chips with chocolate anyone?

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Calbee+
1 Chome-16-8 Jingūmae
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Candy Show Time sells rock candy. It’s nothing special on the surface however they have some really interesting flavours. My wife and I bought a packet that had various seasonal Japanese flavours. They have a few stores about, we went to the one in Shibuya.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Candy Show Time
6 Chome-31-15 Jingūmae
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

No addresses for the below places, just a few photos that show the sorts of place you can find all over Tokyo. The shop below sold sweet potato type chips. I got a spicy one that packed a punch.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

This shop sold a variety of cakes. I got a few with soft fillings that were nice.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

This shop sold rice toppers. I got one each of what appeared to be the most common ones to bring back home.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Sake

Sake is actually the Japanese word for alcohol. The drink that we in the West call sake is actually called nihonshu. The term “rice wine” is also quite inaccurate – the brewing process has more in common with beer. Terminology aside, I’m a big fan of the drink.

Hasegawa Saketen

A great place to sample a range of styles and figure out what you like is Hasegawa Saketen. who produce a range of quality sake spanning all budgets. We bought 2 bottles of our favourites to bring back home. They have a few outlets, we went to the one in Tokyo Station.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Hasegawa Saketen (Tokyo GranSta Branch)
Tokyo Station
1 Chome-9-1 Marunouchi
Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to

Maishin

I wasn’t sure where to slot this place in when writing this post but, as I did come here for the sake, here it is. There is a very extensive selection of sake at Maishin and, despite no English being spoken by anyone in the venue, manager Takeuchi-san was still able to take us on a journey from our original request of “dry sake”, through to some very tailored and tasty drinks. There are some extremely rare and seasonal brews on offer at Maishin. One of the ones we tried was one of only 350 bottles produced in fact.

As a bonus, the food was excellent too. We had sashimi followed by a mixed vegetable and seafood tempura.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

I never knew that sake could be this good until I tried some of the drinks that Takeuchi-san selected for us.  Maishin is hard to find but your patience will be rewarded if you’re willing to make the effort. Walk down the street until you spot the NTT Docomo store. Next to it is a little walkway. Go down the walkway and down the stairs, then duck under the half sized door on your left and you’re there.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Maishin
B1F, Suyama Building
2 Chome-10-12 Dōgenzaka
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

 

Non-Japanese

Japan isn’t just about Japanese food. I ate primarily Japanese food however there is food from all over the world to be found.

Butcher Brothers

After almost 2 weeks in Japan I was craving something that wasn’t Japanese and was keen to go to Butcher Brothers, which is known for its very well priced, excellent quality steaks.  The vibe is casual and fun, the fit out is very modern and the whole place feels like it wouldn’t be out of place in Brooklyn, Shoreditch or Fitzroy (insert your city’s on-trend “hipster” suburb here).

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Olives and prosciutto.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Pickles.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Duck liver pate and bread.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

A green green salad which was ordered to get some token vegetables into our systems.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

My wife got the roast duck which was sweet and smoky.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

My rump steak was cooked perfectly, tender and, served on a bed of fries, was only ¥840 which represented amazing value.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Butcher Brothers
4 Chome-5-10 Nihonbashihongokuchō
Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to

Two places on my list that I didn’t get an opportunity to eat at were World Breakfast Allday, which focuses on the breakfast of a different culture every 2 months and Kitchen Nakamura, which serves Western inspired dishes using only local ingredients and produce.

World Breakfast Allday
3 Chome-1 Jingūmae
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Kitchen Nakamura
B1F, La Porte Aoyama
5 Chome-51-8 Jingūmae
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Fast Food

Mos Burger

A post on Tokyo food wouldn’t be complete without me mentioning Mos Burger. When I first went overseas, which was to Sinagpore in 2001, I discovered Mos Burger and was hooked to the taste of both the regular burgers and the rice patty (instead of bread) burgers. Every time I’ve visited a city that has a Mos Burger since, I’ve always paid one of the outlets a visit.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

They neither the best nor the worst burgers that you’ve tried but they hit the spot for something junky if you’re in the mood – essentially Japanese McDonald’s. I got this one to get a bit of food in me during a Friday night out in Roppongi after a few (well ok, more than a few) sakes. Hit the spot beautifully, and can be found all over Japan.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Coffee & Tea

A lot of people aren’t aware that Japan has quite a long history with coffee. Beyond the chains such as Starbucks, options for very good espresso based coffees are limited, with the Japanese preferring filtered coffee. Brands such as Hario and Kalita are based in Japan and make some of the best drip filter, pour over and syphon coffee equipment in the world. While I love my milky espresso based coffees, I also really enjoy filtered coffee as it really allows the flavours of the coffee beans to shine through.

Kappabashi Coffee

If you’re looking to try some coffee in Japan, one of the best places to go to is Kappabashi Coffee. A range of blends and single origin beans are offered and almost every style of coffee brewing that you can think of is available. It’s proper specialist coffee and there’s an English menu too. The food options are very good too, with a range of breakfast and dishes. The fitout is very modern, and there’s a design shop upstairs that’s worth checking out too.

The Japanese parfait was delicious, especially the matcha ice cream.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

The yuzu cheesecake was also very tasty. With the yuzu giving it even more of a tang than the usual  lemon.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Single origin bean of the day.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Cassia and cherry iced tea.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Kappabashi Coffee
3 Chome-25-11 Nishiasakusa
Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to

Kanda Coffee

Kanda Coffee is a another great spot to grab a coffee. As you can see from the photo below, filter coffee is the speciality here, with either black or milk options being available. There’s a small food menu and it’s open from breakfast right through until late in the evening where it acts as more of a small bar.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Kanda Coffee
2 Chome-38-10 Kanda Jinbōchō
Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to

Moving on to tea, there’s no question that tea is more popular than coffee in Japan. There are many varieties of green tea in Japan, and further to that there are different grades of each variety, each having different flavours and strengths.

  • Sencha is the most popular type of green tea in Japan. It has quite a grassy, sharp taste – the sharpness coming from the high tannin contact which results from its being exposed to direct sunlight during its entire life cycle.
  • Gyokuro is shaded for 20 days after the first new season shoots appear. This lack of direct sunlight increases the theanine levels in the tea leaves, resulting in a tea that is rich in umami.
  • Hojicha is similar to sencha but rather than using the upper leaves, the leaves closer to the ground are used. The leaves are roasted at a high heat which gives it a milder, toasted flavour.
  • Matcha is a powdered green tea that uses the same leaves as Gyokuro. Instead of being rolled/twisted like the other types of green tea, the leaves go through several drying processes and are then ground into a fine powder.

Ippodo Tea

Ippodo Tea is a great place to try Japanese green tea. Originating in Kyoto, Ippodo has been producing and selling tea for almost 300 years. They have every variety imaginable to try and a great tea shop full of different teas and tea related paraphernalia.

I tried the Gyokuro Kanro tea, which was a medium grade Gyokuro. The waitress explained the brewing process to me. First I placed the tea into the kettle and filled it with water. The 4 cups were to get the temperature of the tea down to 60%. Each pour (30 second intervals from memory) reduced temperature by 10 degrees. The tea had a very strong umami content and was very pungent to being with. With subsequent pours the flavour became more mild. It was enjoyable, but personally I prefer sencha.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

My wife ordered a Matcha tea set which consisted of pure unsweetened matcha, a cup of sencha and a chocolate.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Ippodo Tea
3 Chome-1-1 Marunouchi
Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to

Tea Shop Kenyan

Another nice cafe is Tea Shop Kenyan. They offer a variety of Western and Japanese tea drinks and had what looked like some decent cake and savoury food options. I got myself the specialty, which is a rich iced milk tea. Nothing fancy but it hit the spot. A great place to chill out if you’re looking for a cafe.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Tea Shop Kenyan
1st Floor Nambu Building
1 Chome-14-8 Jinnan
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Trends

Tokyo, just like any other city in the world has its trends and on the food front.

Food Trucks

The every popular food truck has found its way into Tokyo.  Outside of this office building there were 4 different food trucks offering a variety of foods.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Popcorn

Flavoured popcorn was something else that seemed to be all over the place in Tokyo. Pop’s Popcorn in Harajuku was one of the place that we tried and there were a variety of flavours to choose from. We got the raspberry and the grape flavours which were quite nice.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Pop’s Popcorn
3 Chome-24-5 Jingūmae
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

KuKuRuZa is a Seattle based company that sells gourmet flavoured popcorn. We walked past a few times during our stay in Tokyo and every time there was a big line outside so we figured we’d give it a go and see what all the fuss was about. A variety of interesting flavours are on offer – we tried the raspberry and vanilla, truffle fromage porcini, and cinnamon bun. They were all very tasty and it was obvious that the ingredients were high quality – nothing tasted fake. By far the best of the 3 that we tried was the cinnamon bun, which was had lashes of icing over the popcorn.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

toyko food guide blog where to eat

KuKuRuZa
4-12-10 Jingumae
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

Crepes

Another very popular things that we saw all over Tokyo and had been told about by a restaurant owner back in Kyoto as something “all the young people are eating” were rolled pancakes filled with all kinds of sweet and savoury toppings. We didn’t try any but one of the most consistently popular ones that we saw was Santa Monica Crepes, right in the heart of Harijuku.

toyko food guide blog where to eat

Santa Monica Crepes
1 Chome-9-31 Jingūmae
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my Tokyo Food Guide and would love to hear about any Tokyo food recommendations you might have in the comments below. If you’re planning a trip to Osaka or Kyoto, check out my Osaka Food Guide and Kyoto Food Guide.


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44 Comments

  1. Kimberly Lemker
    18 May, 2016 at 4:41 PM

    Hello Paul & Mrs. Paul. My name is Kim & I have had the extreme pleasure of living in Japan for the last year & a half. I live in Kanagawa Prefecture & can get to most places in/around the Tokyo area in an average of an hour. Needless to say, I have enjoyed so many places to eat, shop & sightsee. I want to thank you for sharing this information as I found at least 5 more places I need to visit just by reading. If you do plan another trip to our area you must check out a restaurant called Alacatraz ER, for pure entertainment value it’s a hoot. I’m by no means a food critic but it’s a place that if you’re in the area you should visit even if only once. There is however a very small Thai restaurant in Minami Rinkan that deserves intense props. Absolutely delicious & an even better value. Anyway, I’m beginning to ramble. I just wanted to thank you for sharing. I’m planning a trip to Australia next summer & would love any advice if you have visited as this will be my first visit.

    • 19 May, 2016 at 10:43 PM

      Hi Kim. I’m glad you enjoyed reading the guide and got some tips from it. I hope to visit again so thanks for your suggestion! Let me know when your trip down to Australia gets closer and I will give you some tips.

  2. Noriosuke
    30 November, 2015 at 4:35 AM

    Great post! It successfully captured “real” everyday food and what life in Tokyo would look like (well, department store is on the luxury side though). To add to you post, I wanted Japanized pastas, such as mentaiko/tarako (fish row), ume-shiso or natto pasta included.

    And, you are so Japanese! A typical traveler would not go into a ramen shop like Sunyu-ken, nor explore Setagaya-ku, let alone Omoide Yokocho. Even as a life-long Tokyo native myself (now living in the US), I always hesitate to step into that kind of narrow backstreet bars because of the “regulars only” atmosphere of the bars and the street itself. Weren’t you nervous when you went there?

    I miss Mos Burger so much in the US, I like In-n-Out burger and Five Guys Burger for their quality of ingredients though. Last time we went back to Japan my wife insisted in going to Mos Burger 3 times a week!

    Thanks!

    • 1 December, 2015 at 12:19 AM

      Thanks for your comment Noriosuke. Those dishes you’ve mentioned sound great. There’s so much complexity to Japanese food and I’d love to visit again to discover even more. I always try to get to as many “local” type places as I can when I travel – not only do you get great food but you meet some very interesting people too.

      I’m going to the West Coast of the US next year and can’t wait to try the famous In-N-Out burgers!

      • Mandy Ng
        7 March, 2016 at 12:08 PM

        Hi Paul
        Love all yr japan recommendation. Which hotel would u suggest

        • 7 March, 2016 at 9:59 PM

          I’m glad you like all of the Japan content. For Tokyo I stayed in Hotel Niwa – a great hotel.

    • Kimberly Lemker
      18 May, 2016 at 4:44 PM

      Nori San, had you heard Mos burgers are beginning to close? We lost the one in Minami Rinkan which was right down the street from my school so on breaks I would go there. I even toook my elementary students a couple of times to practice their English. I miss it.

  3. 28 May, 2015 at 5:04 PM

    You collated such a great list! Julie loves Japan, too – the food, the culture, everything! Thanks for these!!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

  4. 22 May, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    We never have any trouble deciding where to eat in Japan and have so much difficulty deciphering and finding addresses that we rarely make plans to look up particular places. I will make an exception for Itosho though, that looks fabulous

    • 27 May, 2015 at 5:17 AM

      Figuring out addresses is one of the hardest things in Japan. I took me a while to get all of the proper addresses sourced for this post but I got there eventually. Type the addresses in this post into Google Maps and the spot you get will be the correct spot 🙂

  5. 20 May, 2015 at 3:52 PM

    Hi Paul. Thank you so much for going to the effort of recording the many highs and occasional lows of your Tokyo trip. Very helpful indeed. My partner and I will be heading there next week and many of your recommendations are high on the list!

    • 21 May, 2015 at 4:51 AM

      Nice one. Have a great time!

  6. 22 April, 2015 at 3:01 AM

    Great post, thanks so much! So excited to visit Tokyo now in a few days 🙂

    • 22 April, 2015 at 6:57 AM

      You’re welcome. Have a great holiday!

  7. Jonny
    10 April, 2015 at 1:15 PM

    This is absolutely incredible reviews and suggestions! its hard to find specific places to eat due to the bazillion eateries in tokyo lol, thanks for taking the time.

    • 10 April, 2015 at 5:11 PM

      I hope you get some good use out of the tips 🙂

  8. 1 April, 2015 at 9:15 AM

    So glad to have found your blog, love it!

    • 1 April, 2015 at 9:34 AM

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you’re enjoying it 🙂

  9. 26 March, 2015 at 11:37 AM

    Such a complete guide! It will be extremely helpful in my upcomming trip to Tokyo. I can’t wait!

    • 26 March, 2015 at 8:02 PM

      Have a great trip!

  10. 14 January, 2015 at 11:40 PM

    Hi Paul!!!!! I just found your blogs as happened!!!!! You really provide many cool informations here, i am going to Tokyo soon, not going to stay long time, but these suggestion still helps me a lot, please next time come to Taiwan, let me take you to discover some nice places as feedback!!

    • 15 January, 2015 at 9:50 AM

      Hi Sherry I’m glad you’ve found my Japan posts useful. I’d love to visit Taiwan sometime – it’s on the list!

  11. 5 December, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    This is such a delicious look at Tokyo Paul! I lived there for years and it is such a treat and as you say there is just so much to see and eat there! You could never get tired of it 🙂

  12. julia
    14 November, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    This is an amazing article on wonderful Japanese dishes! What was your favorite dish? Share it on your Besty List!

    • 14 November, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite when there’s so much that’s good 🙂

  13. 14 October, 2014 at 4:27 AM

    This is seriously amazing. You must’ve put so much work into it!! I think I actually came across your account on Instagram and didn’t realize that you were a fellow blogger. It’s awesome to discover your blog now, I’m taking notes for future travels to different parts of Australia and the world! I’m currently in Europe and enjoying this little page of wanderlust prior to packing my bags for home (Perth). Thanks for sharing these tips and essential notes with us. Great work Paul!

    • 14 October, 2014 at 7:29 AM

      Thanks for the kind words Laura. You’re correct in assuming that these food guides involve a lot of work but it’s worth it each time I read a comment from someone who has enjoyed reading them 🙂

  14. Lauren
    30 September, 2014 at 4:30 AM

    Hi Paul,
    Found your blog today while looking for Tokyo food recommendations. I immediately emailed this to myself so I can use it while I am there – it’s an incredible amount of information! I am heading there in two weeks for a ten day trip – completely alone – traveling mainly for business. Was wondering if you had issues speaking English at any of these places, or if you made your way through (assuming you don’t speak Japanese)? I have traveled all over Europe but never to an Asian country, and I am a bit nervous about the language barrier. Thank you!

    • 30 September, 2014 at 5:11 AM

      Hi Lauren. While English wasn’t widely spoken at most of the places, I found that the people I met really went out of their way to try to make things work and I didn’t have too much trouble getting by. One thing I will say, is that one those occasions where the language barrier can’t be breached, Google Translate is a lifesaver – for more info check out this link http://thecitylane.com/8-tips-you-should-know-visiting-japan/.

      Have a great time in Japan!

  15. 11 September, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    Really enjoyed reading this post — I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon this blog, but I’ve become quite a fan. I like your down-to-earth tone. I’m going to Japan next year, and this post has brewed some extra excitement. I’m curious though, I eat a lot of brown rice here in Australia – did you notice any in Japanese restaurants, or was it predominately white rice?

    • 11 September, 2014 at 3:42 PM

      Thanks for the kind word Grace I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts. You’ll have a great time in Japan. Even when you know it’s going to be great it somehow manages to constantly impress when you’re over there.

      I can’t say I noticed brown rice being much of a thing over there. Even when I went to Akomeya, which had loads of difference types of rice I can’t recall noticing any brown rice. That’s not to say that you can’t find it, but it certainly wasn’t mainstream.

  16. 8 August, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    This is great! It looks like a very complete guide. It will be very useful.

  17. Pam Reynolds
    28 June, 2014 at 1:15 AM

    We are ending our two week stay in Japan as I am writing this. Thank you for your great blog. We have loved trying a lot of different foods here. Your blog was very helpful!

    • 28 June, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      You’re welcome. Sounds like you had a a great time 🙂

  18. Aethe
    15 June, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    FYI the unknown names are:
    San’yūken
    Beniton (http://www.beniton.jp/)
    Nakaya (http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/46_nakaya/index.htm)

    • 15 June, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      Thanks for the info. Much appreciated!

  19. 10 June, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    Awesome post! Bookmarking it for when I eventually get to Japan. Reading this has made me want to go more than ever!

    • 10 June, 2014 at 11:18 PM

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Lily. I’m really excited for you – you’ll have an awesome time and won’t go hungry that’s for sure. I want to go back myself already!

  20. 20 May, 2014 at 11:07 PM

    Paul,
    Thank you for writing a realistic post, in regard to dining in Japan and helping people truly understand that one can visit Japan and not blow their entire budget. If one truly is wiling to get off the beaten path and search the backstreets and local neighborhoods as you have done, there are pearls. My oldest son lives in Yokohama and has been in Japan for three years. He is not coming back and is learning the language. I love Japan also and am debating retiring there. Just have to check on healthcare for ExPats. Thanks for sharimg. My son thought your post was the first accurate one he had read!
    Mike

    • 10 June, 2014 at 10:05 AM

      Thanks for the kind words from both you and your son. It really means a lot. I can’t wait to return there – it’s a brilliant part of the world.

    • 11 December, 2014 at 8:48 PM

      Very true Paul’s blogs are spot on !!! Japan is a great place , well my wife is japanese say no more lol !!!!

      • 11 December, 2014 at 9:48 PM

        Thanks for the kind words John. I truly appreciate the feedback 🙂

  21. 17 May, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    Amazing post Paul, i’ll write down some of the options for my trip in summer.

    • 10 June, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      Thanks Ricard. Have a great time in Japan.