Food is probably one of the reasons you visit Japan, and without any doubt, you will be served!
During my trip to Japan, I challenge myself to try a maximum of traditional dishes, cool places and I have to say that it has been a success! I still have plenty of restaurants and specialties to try, but it will be another time for another Japanese adventure. Food is at every corner in Tokyo, it can be hard to decide where to eat!
Here, I am sharing my restaurants’ tips and favorite restaurants and food places in Tokyo.
Where to eat in Tokyo
Most of the time, each restaurant has its specialty, ramen, soba, sushi, shabushabu, Okonomiyaki, tempura… there is something for every taste!
Tokyo is BIG, if you are organized, you will save time and enjoy this amazing city more. You can freestyle (which is cool), but if you are reading this article, it means that you wish to organize your trip and here are my tips:
+ TIPS: My first tip is to use Google maps and pin the restaurants and places you wish to try and visit. While you will be organizing your trip, the pins will make your life easier and you will also realize the distance and optimize your program! Accessible with a Google account, Google map indicates distances, addresses (in English and Japanese), the range rate, pictures, users’ reviews, itineraries and the last but not the least the transportation (line, timetable). This is gold!
+ TIPS: My second tip is to be patient. It is not rare to find a line of 25 people in front of the restaurant you wish to try. If the line is composed of Japanese people, it will be probably a good idea to wait! Not all restaurants accept reservations, check before you go. If reservations are allowed, you might want to send an email, ask your concierge or even proceed with the online booking (very widespread) and do not be late! Some very popular restaurants work with “tickets” that you can collect a few hours before your lunch (a kind of reservation).
You are probably wondering if it is very expensive… I would say it depends where you go. I am not talking a lot about prices, because everybody has his definition of “expensive” or “cheap”. It is more expensive compared to other Asian countries, but in my opinion, you can find a restaurant according to your finance.
My favorite places in Tokyo
Tsukiji Itadori Bekkan: Unless you have already eaten in Japan, believe me, or not, you have no idea what real sushi is!
This izakaya in the heart of the Tsukiji market (famous fish market in Tokyo) is the most amazing sushi place I have tried in my life. Approximately 16 seats are available with a view on the sushi chef making your menu. I still remember the taste of each preparation, from the freshness of the fish and the taste of the soup. PLEASE TAKE ME BACK!
Genki Sushi: Located in Shibuya, 2 minutes from the Shibuya crossing, Genki Sushi is one of my favorite sushi places!
You sit in front of a sushi train and make your order on a pad, then the chef prepares your sushi and send the plate to you! This restaurant is affordable and delicious, trust me we have been several times! It is also very popular, try to avoid peak hours, but good news, it is open every day from 10 am to 11:30 pm.
+ TIPS: try the salmon roe and uni gunkan maki.
Nabezo (Shinjuku): It is impossible to leave Japan without tasting a real “shabu-shabu”. It is a very tasty and popular Japanese hot pot where you cook yourself slices of meat (beef, pork…), some vegetables and even noodles. After you cook it in the broth, you dip it into a sauce (the sesame sauce is my favorite).
At Nabezo you find a huge buffet with vegetables and noodles, then they bring the meat and you can start to eat! The buffet and the meat are unlimited; you can eat for 100min with a menu at 2800Y (24€). The Shabu Shabu is very healthy but after it, you will be full!
+ TIPS: Make a reservation. The restaurant is located on a high floor of a building next to Tiffany and co.
Daikokuya tempura: A delicious tempura & tendon restaurant in the charming district of Asakusa. After visiting the Senso-Ji temple, we stopped in this traditional restaurant.
It is very frequented by Japanese people and it is not unusual to find a line at arrival. We were lucky enough to directly get a table. We had a lovely cup of green tea, as usual in Japan, and we decide to taste a good Japanese beer and sake with our dishes – what a great combo! For 2100Y (18€) you can have a full menu with a Soup, tempura or Tendon with rice.
Tsukiji Gindaco Honten: Located in front of the Tsukiji market, this small place is specialized in “Takoyaki“. It is a delicious Japanese dish made with octopus. You may sit and enjoy it or take it away. We found Takoyaki restaurants in many places in Japan, but this place is for sure my favorite!
Nobu Steakhouse: Located in the street perpendicular to the Asakusa Market, this Izakaya with 8 seats is owned by the most adorable Japanese couple. This restaurant has been recommended by the lovely “Tokyo Banhbao” (a French blogger and illustrator in love of Japan).
This izakaya has only 3 dishes on the menu, but they do it well! We had the beef with vegetables accompanied by hot sake. Nobu cooks the beef on a hot plate in front of you as all the seats are around the kitchen. They only speak Japanese, but even if you do not understand a word, they will make you comfortable. They even offered a cup of sake topped with a gold leaf. What made this dinner so special was this Japanese couple!
The dishes are from 980Y to 1480Y (8€ to 12€).
Ramen Ichiran: Ramen restaurant, here we are! We could not leave Japan without tasting a real ramen in a “Ramen restaurant”. We came at the peak time and had to wait in the queue for 45min, trust me, we deserved this ramen! When we went in, we ordered our ramen at a machine (like a vending machine) and then waited for a seat. Do not expect to have a romantic dinner, you will be sitting in a box with no view and your only contact with the cook will be when he opens the “curtain” to give your ramen. I don’t even know what the cook looked like.
Now you are probably asking, “why did you wait for 45min to order to at a machine and eat in a box when you have plenty of ramen restaurants in Tokyo?”
I would say that this ramen was very good and the way to proceed was fun! Next time I might manage my time and go during the off-peak hour. It is great value as a ramen cost 980Y (8€). Ichiran Ramen is a chain with many restaurants throughout Japan and also in New York, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Eggs’n things: there are several “Eggs’n things” in Tokyo, we have been to the one in Odaiba when we visited the TeamLab Planets digital museum. It is a great place for breakfast and lunch, where you will get waffles, pancakes, egg benedicts, and other nice treats. The staff is so nice as everywhere in Japan!
Reissue: If you are looking for an “instagramable” latte art in Shibuya, here you are. Do not expect to be serve by a “maid” or to eat something weird in a “kawaii monster cafe” … Here it is all about kawaii latte with your favorite characters like Pikachu, Hello Kitty, and others. I will be totally honest, the coffee or chocolate was not exceptional, but for 650y (6€) it was the cutest… This is the main reason you go there!
+ TIPS: Reissue is on the first floor of a tiny building – look up when you are looking for it in the streets.
Melon Pan: Wherever you find a Melon Pan shop, try it! The best I had was in Kyoto. However, in Tokyo, there is a “Melon Pan” shop near the Asakusa market. Melon Pan is a Japanese melon-shaped sweet bun filled with cream… This is a delicious treat that you must try.
+ TIPS: ask for a hot bun & vanilla cream.
Eki bento: This ritual, is probably the best part of taking the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train). “Eki” means train station in Japanese and “bento” is lunch box. Eki bento are in any Shinkansen station in Japan and the Tokyo station shops are great! In the shops, you have a large range of bento with fish, meat, vegetables and it is succulent! Grab your bento and eat it in the Shinkansen with a view of Mount Fuji while you travel to Kyoto!
The Japanese food is not limited to sushi and maki… To me, Japan is an incredible food destination.
Share withe me your favorite Tokyo restaurants and Japanese specialties!