Best Places to Eat in Tokyo
Culinary Quest for the Best Restaurants
by Bill Fink
Think Tokyo cuisine and you inevitably think of Japanese culinary staples such as sushi, ramen and rice balls. But Vacation is here to let you in on a secret: Tokyo is one of the best all-around foodie destinations in the world. In fact, the city has over double the number of Michelin-starred restaurants as Paris (217!), 13 of which have earned the coveted three stars. Another misconception: Tokyo is outrageously expensive. We can attest that you don’t have to spend a small fortune to have great food, as the city’s ubiquitous street stalls, department store markets and even train stations serve quality meals at affordable prices. The only challenge is choosing where to eat from the estimated 100,000 food venues in town. Here’s a neighborhood-by-neighborhood guide to our favorites.
Known for its electronics markets and festive nightlife, Shinjuku is a neighborhood best enjoyed with a hearty meal. Nothing warms your insides quite like a good bowl of ramen noodle soup, the best of which can be found at Ichiran – just be prepared to wait in line. For a fancy international culinary scene (made famous in the film “Lost in Translation”), head to New York Bar at the top of Park Hyatt Tokyo for steak and cocktails, live jazz and spectacular views. The quintessential Japanese dining experience of sukiyaki hot-pot cooking can be found at Kisoji, where helpful staff members give tips to newbies on how to best combine and simmer high-quality meats and vegetables at their tables.
Tokyo’s high-end shopping neighborhood is named for the silver mint that was once located here. While you may need a bit of silver (or gold) to afford the restaurants here, the food and experience are well worth it. For an exotic night out, try Tapas Molecular Bar at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, where a dinner with over a dozen courses of liquid nitrogen-infused offerings amaze the palate. Any visit to Japan should include dining on Kobe beef, and Ginza’s Gyuan restaurant provides mouthwatering selections in a traditional setting (go during lunch for a slightly more affordable meal). For the best sushi, three Michelin-starred Sushi Yoshitake offers a sublime mixture of culture, food and atmosphere.
Often referred to as the “Brooklyn of Tokyo,” Shimokitazawa’s hipster vibe permeates its boutique shops, bars and music stores along with a foreigner-friendly collection of Japanese eateries, including the lively Shirube izakaya (“a bar where you eat”), which offers fusion dishes such as cheese tofu and mackerel toasted at your table to a background of clapping and shouting sake-drinking customers. For some of Japan’s curiously popular curry, go to Rojiura Curry Samurai for a wide selection and unique spins on “basic” curry soups with both meat and veggie options (hint: try the “magic spice”). The nearby Shiro-Hige Cream Puff Factory (near Setagaya Station) has an almost-too-cute-to-eat collection of Japanese animation-inspired dessert treats.