There are so many fabulous restaurants in Tokyo that its hard to know where to start when pairing things down. While the below list is not designed for those on a budget, it is designed for serious foodies who want to experience some of the best food in Tokyo. They’re all very different in their style and presentation but get equally great raves from multiple sources.
Established and respected, Ten Ichi (meaning tempura and chef) has been around for over 70 years. In and around Tokyo, you can find these eateries which specialize in nothing other than tempura. Here you can get vegetables such as eggplant, tofu and lotus root, as well as seafood choices, such as scallops, crab and shrimp. They serve you the meals with a green salad, braised vegetables with bonito, miso soup, and rice. Location: (6-6-5 Ginza, Namaki-dori Chuo-ku; 3571-1949)
Aronia de Takazawa:
Chef Yoshiaki Takazawa heads things up here and serves French-Japanese signature dishes including: a ratatouille terrine, with vegetables layered into vibrantly colored cubes; carpenter’s salade niçoise, with sashimi tuna and tapenade sauce solidified in the shape of spanners and screws; and his hot balloon of seafood slow-cooked with bamboo shoot and seaweed. Location: Sanyo Akasaka Bldg 2F, 3-5-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku, +81 3 3505 5052, aroniadetakazawa.com.
A fabulous view from the 40th floor of the Park Hyatt, Kozue has been around since 1994. It sways with style, is contemporary throughout and the menu features torafugupuffer fish in winter, ayu sweetfish in summer, matsutake mushrooms in autumn, and year-round shabu-shabu of perfectly marbled beef from premium wagyu cattle. Location: Park Hyatt Hotel, 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, +81 3 5323 3460, tokyo.park.hyatt.com.
Like many sushi chains, Sushi Zanmai originated in Tsukiji and it claims to be Japan’s first 24-hour, 365-days-a-year sushi bar. While it is a chain, they do a fabulous job with fresh sushi and offer the very cool “kaiten” (conveyor belt) style which is great for people who can’t decide what they want to order. It is said that Sushi Zanmai is typically a good choice for beginners or those who don’t want to spend a fortune at one of the finer sushi restaurants such as Sushi Mizutani. Location: 4-11-9 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku (many other branches throughout Tokyo; check website for details); +81 (0) 3 3541 1117; open daily, 24 hours.
Cha Cha Hana:
Referred to as a ‘dining bar’ aka “upscale izakaya”, dishes are small and expensive, but fabulous. This lively restaurant is in a small house at the end of a stone footpath. It serves nouvelle delicacies like grilled Japanese yam and yolk with bonito flakes, and potato dumplings stuffed with scallops and served with a wood-ear crab sauce. Location: 1-1-1 Kabukicho, Tokyo, 160-0021.
Basanova is all about ramen and noodles with a broth that everyone raves about. They do a fabulous and renowned green curry ramen, also order any of the dishes with lemon grass and kaffir lime. Location: 1-4-18 Hanegi, in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.
Toufuya-Ukai is located close to the foot of the Eiffel Tower–like Tokyo Tower and is set up around a beautiful Zen-style garden. Toufuya-Ukai has a broad menu with a number of dishes that covers every dish in the Japanese culinary lexicon. Why people go there however is for their twice-fried tofu which is made from well water and handpicked soybeans and is served bathed in a seaweed-distilled broth, in a sweet miso sauce, seasoned in soy milk, or twice-fried. If you want to leave with a memory, Toufuya-Ukai also has a shop next door. Location: 4-4-13 Shiba Koen, Minato-ku; 81-3-3436-1028).
Sushi veteran Mizutani is an amazing chef but bear in mind that if you want to chat about options and what’s fresh, he doesn’t speak any English. Remember you can always point to things or ask your neighbor if in a bind, or just trust the process.
Everything comes out on lightly vinegared rice kept at exactly skin temperature, and you can go for more traditional tuna and salmon or bluefin, abalone and unagi. The place is meant to be all about serenity.
Location: Juno Ginza Seiwa Building 9F, 8-7-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, +81 3 3573 5258, lunch from £130, dinner from £180. Open Mon-Sat 11.30am-1.30pm and 5pm-9.30pm.
Tetsuya Saotome is the master here and does a great job with tempura, and stir-fried dishes. He is known for his classic Edomae style, using mostly ingredients that would have been available 150 years ago. Unique, this is a reason to go alone.
The place is small and there are only places for nine at his counter. Albeit small, the place is loaded with European antiques and traditional lacquer-work. It isn’t centrally located however, so bear in mind that you have to venture out to the suburbs to experience this one. Thumbs up from several sources however. Location: 1-3-1 Fukuzumi, Koto-ku, +81 3 3643 8383, Open Thurs-Tues 11.30am-1.30pm and 5pm-9pm.
What people head to Nodaiwa for among other things is its yummy unagi, aka charcoal-broiled freshwater eel. It is noted that the fifth-generation owner-chef uses eel caught in the wild rather than from fish farms and the flavour is incomparable. What else is worth noting (and extremely delicious) is that the eel is topped with caviar. Location: 1-5-4 Higashi-Azabu, Minato-ku, +81 3 3583 7852, nodaiwa.com. Open 11am-1.30pm and 5am-8pm.
Basanova PhotoCredit:NYTimess, Mizutani photo: SFfreelife. TenIchi Shot Credit: jinlovestoeat.com. Zanmai, taken from Flickr JohnAsmund.