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This basement establishment in Daikanyama gives the traditional izakaya – a Japanese pub – a sexy, grungy revamp. Opened by a punk rocker, the walls are plastered with posters of musical icons such as the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. If you’re lucky, artist Yoshimoto Nara will make an appearance and you can drink with him while he paints the walls.
Pancake restaurants are hugely popular in the Japanese capital, with new pancake-themed cafés entering the fray and vying to compete for the title of Tokyo’s fluffiest stack. Café and Pancakes Gram consistently gets voted top of the ranks for their lighter-than-air puds – but they’re only offered three times a day (11am, 3pm and 6pm) and you’ll need to get down early to beat the queues. There are outposts all over the country, with three branches in Tokyo.
Tsuta hit the headlines in 2015 for being the first ramen shop in the world to receive a Michelin-star accreditation. At 1000 yen (£7), it seems Michelin-star dining comes cheaper than you might think. Salt, soy sauce and miso-based soups combine with noodles made on site to create a perfect umami hit. Like all good ramen bars, Tsuta has limited seating with just nine customers permitted entry at any one time. Luckily a ticketing system is in place, so guests customers can visit the restaurant from 7am onwards and collect a ticket for seating at a scheduled time later that day.
Located in the quiet streets of Meguro, this unassuming restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in stylish surrounds. Breakfast is made up of traditional Japanese staples like miso soup, pickles, grilled fish and rice, while lunch and dinner are “kaiseki” (multi-course), exquisitely presented dishes of steamed, stewed, grilled, fried and marinated seasonal ingredients. The on-site Japanese sweets, prepared in front of guests, are not to be missed. The restaurant is open all day for tea and desserts, and at breakfast and lunch customers are welcome without reservations. Dinner is by invitation only – so try and make friends with someone who has visited this peaceful haven before.
This upscale steak restaurant serves up a nine-course menu of creatively prepared wagyu beef dishes – but for us, the real showstopper is the eight-seater private dining room. Created in collaboration with digital installation artists TeamLab, book in for a surreal dining experience that combines motion sensors and projectors. As each course is placed on the table, scenes grow and move around them, reacting to the environment and the movements of guests. The result is an ever-evolving kaleidoscope of colour and light.
A noodle-lover’s dream, this reasonably priced joint is a great crowd-pleaser. Order the hand-cut noodles with tempura or the thinly sliced duck. Reservations are recommended and make sure you check opening times on the website in advance – it is closed on Mondays and on select other days every month.
You may have trouble navigating the Japanese-only menu – which changes daily depending on the produce – but have no fear, the enthusiastic staff are always keen to help and everything is excellent anyway. Make a reservation if you want to sit in the back, otherwise cosy up at the bar.
Eclectic, stylish and cheap make for a winning combination. Order a forest-green matcha cocktail infused with vodka, and lots of tapas-style food to share. The menu will surprise you with its combinations like the tofu paired with toasted baguette and honey – and it’s all incredible.
A killer Japanese/Korean spot that serves up great beef at great prices. Not for vegetarians or anyone anti hip hop, as this is the only musical genre played to accompany your munching
Los Barbados is a tiny, eight-seat bar on the outskirts of Shibuya run by a Japanese couple. Open from noon until 11.30PM, they serve up a diverse and vegetarian-friendly menu of African and Middle Eastern food, including falafel, couscous, mezze and brik (a Tunisian deep-fried pastry). You will often find that you are the only English speakers here – try not to feel to smug about it. Set back from the side streets of Shibuya, this place is very hard to find, so keep their number handy to call when you get lost.
After walking through Roppongi or visiting the Mori Art Museum, the perfect place to refuel is Parlour, a delicious Singaporean-fusion restaurant in the back streets. It has a minimalist but warm feel and you can either sit by the bar or around a high table if you’re in a bigger group. There is an emphasis on wine, but if you aren’t interested the food speaks for itself – don’t leave without trying the sweet pork dish.
This restaurant serves only fish, all of which is exquisitely fresh, and is known for is its carpaccio and sashimi. Taking welcoming to a new level, when you enter the door you’ll be greeted with a chorus of shouts from the kitchen. Kaikaya is an under-the-radar jewel in Shibuya and, like many restaurants in Tokyo, easily overlooked – pay close attention to the address.
The Oak Door, the award-winning restaurant in the Grand Hyatt, has a vast and delicious menu, top-notch service and the prices to match. Visiting DJs play in the bar and dining area almost every night of the week – it’s definitely worth visiting if you enjoy people-watching, as it’s almost always littered with Japanese celebrities.
Warayakiya is a restaurant specialising in a method of cooking from the Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku, and its distinctive smell hits you as you as soon as you walk through the door. Rather than grilling meat and fish over charcoal, the cooks use straw – which burns at temperatures of 900 degrees celsius. The cooking technique gives the food a rich and unique taste, something you can rarely find imitated outside Japan.
As far as pubs go in Japan, this is undoubtedly the best. Teyandei serves unfussy small plates in a converted two-storey house with counter seating allowing you to chat to your neighbours as you dine or watch the chefs do their thing.
Sushi Ichi serves traditional sushi in the bustling area of Ginza. Unlike many sushi restaurants in Tokyo, the chef here speaks English, so it is nice to have the opportunity to chat to him while he prepares your food. Lunch is good value, but the dinner menu can end up being pretty expensive.
This illustrious restaurant is set at the heart of the Tokyo fish market and is one of the best in Japan – no surprise that it’s as famous for its queue as its eye-wateringly long queue. The only way to avoid the crowd is to go at 5am when the fish market opens and snatch one of the highly coveted 13 seats, although if that doesn’t seem realistic then it is still worth a wait.
They mainly serve sushi here but their boiled fish shabu-shabu is our reason to visit. The chef will give you a constant flow of food – a good thing, especially when there is no English menu and no English spoken by anyone in the restaurant. Top-level culinary mastery is the reason behind high prices, so you may want to save this one for a special occasion.
This seafood restaurant just outside the Roppongi midtown area is always packed. The rooftop lined with lanterns is perfect for drinks while the specialty on the menu is the noke sushi – seaweed rolls with generous toppings of sweet sea urchin, minced chutoro fatty tuna, ikura salmon-roe eggs and crab. Often served whole, it’s exquisite both to look at and eat.
This seafood and sushi restaurant is fairly unconventional; tables are set in a large wooden boat surrounded by water and you’re encouraged to fish for your supper with the rods and nets provided. It’s a fun (albeit kitsch) way to spend the evening, but spoilsports can order directly off the menu.
The yakitori at Kushiwaka in Nakameguro is better than anything you will get from the street vendors scattered around Tokyo. It’s very popular with the locals; book for an early sitting (the latest is 7PM) or you’ll have to queue. It is worth visiting just for the tsukune, a type of chicken meatball which is particularly delicious.
Izakaya bars can be found anywhere in Tokyo and also feature outside of Japan. Buchi Bar, however, is still one of the best. Their fried courgette is second to none and for meat lovers, the duck salad and lamp chops are a must. It can get very smoky in the restaurant but this does not dampen the fantastic atmosphere at all.
You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? That’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best bits and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local – it was written by one. Eat your heart out, shop until you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.
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