Escape: Eating in Tokyo

It’s so weird to write this post, I certainly didn’t plan for it, I didn’t even wanna do it. But some people asked me to. I don’t feel entirely confident to actually list places to eat at in Tokyo, and I can only justify this list by being transparent about my sources. Anyhow, I had a great time eating at all of these, so you will very likely enjoy them as well. Enough with the excuses, here’s a list where to eat in Tokyo.

This list is not a result of years of research, weeks of comparisons and days of contemplating, but a fruit of my trusted network, namely Dylan Watson, who used to live and work in Tokyo and sent me a very long list of places I had to go, plus the recommendations given on the website of Lucky Peach, plus a plethora of other people feeding me tips and hints. Anyhow, I’ve already discovered too many other places, we didn’t manage to eat at many of the places Dylan recommended, and I haven’t even been outside of the central districts. So what am I even talking about?! Again, stopping the excuses now and starting the list.

Just one more thing: don’t order more than you can eat, and make sure you finish what you’ve ordered, giving food back is considered offensive to the chef. Ah, and no tips. Don’t even try, they won’t accept it. Oh, and I only gave you the google maps link, but make sure to find out opening times. Many places are open for lunch, close for the afternoon and open again at 17:00.

Ramen

Obviously, the thing to eat in Tokyo. I came to deepen my relationship with the ramen soup and completely fell for tsukemen, where the plain noodles are served with an intense dipping broth, which sounds unnecessarily complicated (why not just combine the two in the first hand, is what I thought before dipping my first noodles), but is so insanely delicious, it will blow your mind. Nevertheless, the soup is still amazing and to be had in so many varieties, you won’t be bored even if you only ate ramen every day. Promised. I owe this list heavily to Ivan Orkin, a chef who used to run a ramen shop in Tokyo, ramenjunkie on instagram, and author of “The 5 Ramen Shops You Should Visit in Tokyo” list on Lucky Peach.

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Rokurinsha
David Chang is going nuts about this place, and despite the long line out the door – it’s not taking as long as they announce on the floor stickers –, and the rather random location in the basement of Tokyo Station – it’s a part of Ramen Street, an underground aisle of the best ramen places in the city – this tsukemen is sooo good. Sooo good, I have no words.

Fuunji
We visited this place on the first night we spend in Yoyogi, queued with all the other hungry customers inside of the shop, and watched the eaters in awe as they slurped their tsukemen. It’s an amazing place to visit, with a kitchen team that’s totally in tune, and a super delicious broth, obviously.

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Konjiki Hototogisu
Another one from Orkin’s list, this place is even more laid-back than the usual ramen joint, and also even smaller with its eight seats.

Dokan Ramen
Just around the corner from Konjiki Hototogisu, and also just a couple meters down the street from a Taiyaki stand (literally one of two we encountered in our time in Tokyo, which was a disappointment, but we’r open to blaming it on our lack of taiyaki-focus), which makes a fabulous dessert. Yes, I can totally enjoy dessert after downing a huge bowl of noodle soup, why you asking?

Saikoro
A little more out of the way (not really, though, in Tokyo-standards, but for centre-loving tourists like us), but incredibly cool and worth the (short) travel.

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Kagari
This might sound like a bit much, but if you can only eat at one Ramen place, make it this one. This beautiful, beautiful bowl of bright, clean chicken broth topped with sensational veggies was like nothing else.

Other Food

Sushi Shin
We decided to have sushi only once, but then to make it a good one. We ended up spending about 64 Euro for fourteen pieces of nigiri (one of them pictured at the top) and didn’t regret one yen. Not only did it look gorgeous, but the inventive, yet subtle add-ons like grated yuzu peel, smoked chili powder, the freshly grated wasabi and obviously the prime quality of the fish had me enjoy every single bit. We went for lunch, dinner is obviously more expensive. Also, remember to book a table before, well before, that is. 

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Honmura An
We didn’t eat enough Soba, honestly. This one was delicious, though. I had them with a fresh tofu, that was so much better than any tofu I had outside of Japan.

Mitsukoshi
The basements of many big department stores are usually devoted to food, but don’t make the mistake to expect some Karstadt-like buffets of mayonnaised salad (and if they have it, it’s probably amazing), but aisles and aisles filled with the most mouth watering food to take away, giving you the hardest time ever deciding what to get. Plus a small compartment reserved for prime fruits with picture-perfect melons and mango coming up to 120 euro – a piece!

Isetan
Admittedly, not as amazing as Mitsukoshi, but still great, and with a roof top terrace where you can enjoy your bento on the lawn with a view over Shinjuku.

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Nodaiwa
Eel is a delicacy in Japan, and this place not only has decades of eel cooking history under its belt, it also doesn’t serve cultured, but caught in the wild eels. Get the unaju dish, juicy unagi fillets broiled golden-brown, on a bed of white rice, served with grated radish, pickles and a soup with eel liver. This also seems to be a prime spot for date-night, with youngsters in impeccable make-up and preppy clothing trying to make conversation.

Savoy
Why would you go and eat pizza in Tokyo? Because it’s perfect, that’s why!

Yutopian
In case you’re in the mood for an experience of 1980s Tokyo, this is your izakaya (aka bar that serves food), where not only the interior hasn’t been updated since, but also the menu features what Showa-Japanese most enjoyed: including mayonnaise potato salad, potato-beef-stews and delicious fried asparagus. Also: many dishes featuring stamina in the name, like stamina natto – fermented, gooey soy beans with a rather special, rotten taste served with raw egg yolk. What makes this one special are the many varieties of sake, the Japanese-only menu written on paper sheets decorating the walls, and the big groups or ri-man (salary men, employees, if you will) in black pants and bright white button downs getting totally hammered.

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Coffee

Little Nap
The coffee scene is strong in Tokyo, which makes sense with the Japanese perfectionism, patience and passion when it comes to all things food. From all the coffee we had, we enjoyed our iced coffees at Little Nap the most. Might be owed to it being the first spot we went to (with jet lag in tow), might be because the smooth and soft flavors were outstanding.

About Life Coffee Brewers
You have to visit Tokyu Hands’ Shibuya store anyway, and this instagram-ready coffee spot is just a mere 7 minutes walk away.

Lattest
Tucked away in Aoyama, or Omotesando, I’m not entirely sure, this coffee spot is located in a super interesting neighborhood, that is so quiet with its many small houses. It’s a great study of maximizing space while still making everything look surprisingly cosy (hint: loads of potted plants and natural, raw materials make the trick).

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Café L’Ambre
A totally touristic site, but still worth the visit – the hundred years old owner, who presumably used to brew the coffee up to a couple years ago, is now comfortably seated in a niche by the entrance, while his busy and super friendly staff prepares the coffee. This shop only serves coffee, nothing else. If you don’t want a cup, go for the coffee sherbet.

Toranomon Coffee
This is the spin-off of uber-famous Omotesando Coffee, who had to close doors of its former location due to building renovation issues. This new place is heaven for every third-wave-follower and thus aptly placed inside of a super clean and posh office building. Think shiny marble walls, designer furniture, lush gardens and very cool start-up people.

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Drinks

Gen Yamamoto
What Gen Yamamoto serves in his bar is so much more than just cocktails. In a tasting menu, he showcases local spirits joined with local and seasonal ingredients. He’ll juice some tomatoes and mix them with gin before your very eyes, pair yuzu juice with sake and serve all of that in beautiful, hand-crafted glasses. No shaking, nor bottle juggling needed.

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Sweets

Pierre Hermé
The master of macarons was just crowned the world’s best pastry maker and his shops in Tokyo proof this: the macarons merge Japanese and European ingredients to such glorious combinations like chocolate and miso, or strawberry and wasabi.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
We came twice to taste as much baked goodies as possible, ’nuff said.

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Hidemi Sugino
Located in a totally unassuming street with nothing else there, this shop is packed with people looking for excellent sweets. We couldn’t decide what to get so we just bought as much as we could carry. And it was worth it.

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Sadaharu Aoki
This is where you can have macaron ice cream sandwiches. Let me type it again: Macaron ice cream sandwiches. Glory.

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  1. Fernando @ Eating With Your Hands on

    Reply

    Insanely good looking places here! And props for actually making the list…Tokyo is just and endless, endless, endless array of eateries and simply no one list will ever cover the city rightfully.

    Going after Ivan the Ramen God and David Chang’s recommended places seems to be the best bet since they visit Tokyo all the time.

  2. Rachel on

    Reply

    I seriously just looked up plane tickets to Tokyo for this spring after reading this. Yum! The price is good, I just may go for it!

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      You should definitely go! It’s even more amazing than you’d expect it to be :)

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