|Cheese tsukemen in Nakameguro 中目黒にあるチーズつけ麺|
Lately I've been raving and whining to my friends about the amazing restaurants in Tokyo. I've been talking about posting this info for months, so I decided to just publish it. Blogger's composition editor has been killing me though; I may need to format this directly in HTML. Sorry for the weird parts - they will be ironed out eventually.
- I'll add photos and revise text later, so expect to see this post evolve over time. Let me know if you want to know more about any particular shop or have further questions.
- Gurunavi has terrible English pages, but often they are the only source of English information, so I'm providing them even though they're terribly sad. TripAdvisor is probably a good source of English information, but I haven't had the time to look at their content.
- Japanese restaurants are often a steal at lunch, where they offer set meals to entice local office workers. The lunch menu offerings are often limited since they're going for efficiency and volume, versus dinner time when prices may double or triple. Some restaurants are priced the same at all times, which is great for people on a budget, so I will note this when it is important.
- It helps to have the Japanese names of places, as romanized names can be worse than useless
- For example, the English Gurunavi pages romanize the shop names and it's just a mass of meaningless characters
- Map out places carefully with Google maps as Tokyo is a very dense city and it is easy to miss a shop.
- The order of the shops presented on this page is a bit random since some restaurants have multiple branches.
- Free WiFi is not that common in Tokyo, so it's probably useful to rent a WiFi router
- I tried Docomo's visitor service but couldn't connect - maybe you will have better luck
- Get your tickets to the Studio Ghibli Museum 三鷹の森 Mitaka no Mori through an international JTB authorized travel agent before you depart. The international tickets are good for all day - without time restriction, although you still have to specify what day you go and you pay more for this convenience.
- If you didn't get your tickets in advance, you can still buy tickets at Lawson's ticket machine, but weekends are usually sold out, and the Japanese interface is challenging if you can't read Japanese.
On to the fun part, food!
- 寿司の美登利 Sushi no Midori (English gurunavi page) has locations in 銀座 Ginza, 渋谷Shibuya, etc. Go early for lunch or dinner to avoid the lines at peak eating times. Both Japanese and foreign tourists frequent this place, but the sushi is solid and they're pretty efficient. They have a daily lunch for 800 yen in the Ginza location on weekdays, but it's reasonable even for dinner - $30-40ish depending on what you order. Be warned that the easily accessible Shibuya branch is usually terribly crowded and it's a smaller store than the Ginza location.
- 築地寿司清 Tsukiji Sushi Say has locations around Tokyo - mid-range in price but good sushi. A step up from conveyer-belt sushi 回転寿司 but they won't break the bank like Sukiyabashi Jiro.
- Sun-mi Takamatsu (English gurunavi page) - go for the Japanese food floor and get the hamburg steak lunch - excellent.
- The grilled fish is also really nice. At dinner the menu can be more limited but they're always open for lunch. The Italian and French floors are pretty good too.
- Check back later when I have time to write about the teppanyaki at Colza.
- The potato hashbrowns are great if you like potatoes in butter, and the ice cream with crepe is lots of fun.
|garlic rice is highly recommended|
|ice cream crepe|
- Old-school service. Lunch is pretty reasonable; dinner is a bit pricy.
- For a true Ginza experience, relax and enjoy some French desserts at the maison de dessert ぶどうの木 Budou no Ki - pricy but exquisite.
|Gateau chocolat is sadly a seasonal item so not always available. The pepper accent is pretty amazing. Warning - it is small!|
- The first floor is home to the ねんりん家 Nenrin-ya pastry shop, famous for their baum kuchen (which is interestingly is a very popular type of cake in Japan). I don't normally like baum kuchen but theirs is wonderfully moist. They make a great souvenir, but can perhaps be a bit bulky.
- There are a lot of interesting dessert places off of this little street hosting Budou no Ki - there's a Japanese tea place and some fancy chocolate places across the street.
- I think one of the Mariage Frères tea salons is on that same street.
- A bit of a walk from Ginza in Kabuki-za: 丸山海苔 Maruyama Nori's food and Japanese desserts are delicious - the matcha cake is highly recommended. It's a very elegant space with a gorgeous souvenir shop in front. They serve fresh matcha tea too.
- The Kabuki-za building is also great for authentic traditional souvenirs - check out the basement and the 5th floor. The garden on the 5th floor is also lovely and free.
- There is a hidden Kabuki gallery - I believe on the 4th floor - with access from the 5th floor - do check out the Kabuki actors over the years.
- Check out my 青山 Aoyama/渋谷 Shibuya/恵比寿 Ebisu page for recs in that area.
- For good ramen:
- I like the salt ramen at 山頭火 Santouka (the fatty pork ぶたバラ is ridiculous, and can be a bit too fatty), and I hear the tonkotsu ramen at 一蘭 Ichiran is good.
- But there are so many ramen places! This deserves its own post. For now, I will point you specifically to the chicken ramen in Azabu Juban 156 Ichikoro
- Their gyoza is pretty good too.
- While you're in Azabu Juban, don't miss the Chinese medicine-influenced 漢方 Szechuan
food 四川料理屋 Piao-xian 飄香 for
the best Chinese food everreally good Chinese food.
|Tasty meatball and dumplings|
- Extremely reasonable lunches for amazing quality. I loved everything, and the soups (free refills!) were amazing.
- Refreshing and delicious yet healthy. The frozen yogurt dessert has the green Szechuan peppers; it will numb your tongue.
|Frozen yogurt dessert with tongue-numbing Szechuan peppers|
- The almond tofu is apparently amazing - I recommend that over the frozen yogurt. First class food and first class service and decor. It's a beautiful place and the staff are genuinely friendly.
- There's also a top-notch grilled fish restaurant たき下 Takishita - go there for lunch.
|kuromutsu is reliably delicious|
- It's crowded though, so go right when they open or a little late at 1pm to avoid the lunch rush. They have their own furikake - great on rice with the daikon oroshi.
- 笹塚 Sasazuka station is a bit out of the way - about 5-10 minutes by train/taxi from Shinjuku 新宿 station - but it is home to 豪快 Gokai (map) - the best 坦々麺 tantan noodles I've ever had (definitely a Japanese variation on the Chinese original - very creamy). Cheap all the time, and pretty fast. Counter space only (12 seats). Just order the tantanmen 坦々麺.
- After your tantanmen, go to the red entranced Taiwan store across the big noisy street (to the left of the Summit grocery store and the Times parking lot) and order the Mango Charmy Snow Ice - it's like fluffy snow covered with sweet mango. I could only eat half of a serving, but my companions all finished theirs.
- The store is hard to find - they don't advertise the Mango snow ice - but they are there 10-8 (except year end holidays) and they have a little eat-in corner on the right side of the store.
If you have time for 中目黒 Nakameguro (especially nice but crowded during cherry blossom season, but fun anytime for casual walks along the river):
- An excellent yakiniku place called Shu-en 洙苑 (東京都目黒区東山1-5-1) is a lunch-time favorite:
- Their yakiniku set lunch is 1000 yen and is reliably delicious. The wagyu 和牛 and kalbi options are pretty luxurious. While not authentic, their ちじみ Korean pancake is usually delectably crispy - 3 people can easily share this in addition to their lunch sets. Of course they serve Japanese rice.
- For lunch or dinner, one of my favorites is the amazing Italian restaurant Vigore イタリアンレストラン ビゴーレ (Tokyo, Meguro, Aobadai, 1−15−4)
- Their bread is home-made and amazingly light and chewy. Addictive. The chef was one of the chefs for the Italian national football team (soccer for you Americans)
- It's a very elegant environment. Perfect for relaxing.
- Excellent, reasonably-priced French food: Cafe Bar Dining MUSHIKI (English gurunavi page) and conveniently open most of the day (a lot of Japanese restaurants close between lunch and dinner)
- Try their specials - usually the plate specials are a steal where you can try a variety of foods
- They bake their own bread
- Rue de Shuri -
As you might guess, an elegant little French establishment. The lunch
sets are elegant and prepared wonderfully. Not much volume, but high
quality. Lunch is only served on Sunday weekends though. Dinners
feature the same excellent quality at a higher price. The fish seared on a small iron skillet is nearly always perfect!
- They make their own sorbet which is often simple but interesting; we've had watermelon and yuzu there.
homemade watermelon sorbet
- If you're used to American sizes, you might want to order an extra lunch for every 2 people. They do chicken and duck really well too. Everything is delicious.
- Bistro Pepin - a
French dining bar a bit hidden but close to Nakameguro station, it is
at the 6th floor of a little building, near the coffee and sweets place Cafe Facon
Chicken cutlet is amazing
Foie gras nigiri is admittedly not the best value, but tasty
- Singapore nights is a cool, chill bar to relax and lounge with friends while enjoying the extensive record collection - they take requests too!
- Koi Sushi 鯉寿司 - a creative sushi place on the Nakameguro Shopping street 商店街
- Paris Cafeteria パリの食堂 on the 3rd floor of a building. Their lunches are a steal. Inside is a cozy Bistro/Cafe. They do quite elaborate lunches. The patio is a nice place to sit on sunny days.
Paris Cafeteria lunch plate
- On the dessert side:
- I cannot fail to mention 雅庵 Miyabian - their seasonal specialties are always so good! If you get a chance to try their fluffy cakes you are super lucky.
The mochi is amazing
- trasparente has mini fruit pastries for 210 yen or so - I like the pear and fig variations. They have these bread twists with sausage in them - so good!
fig fruit pastry - a bite of heaven
- Cafe Facon
- A tiny cafe with tiny, wonderful desserts. The coffee is again small but pretty good. However, don't come here if you need volume.
- Aux Bacchanales (Tokyo, Meguro, Higashiyama, 1−1−6 風見ビル1F)
- I usually get their pear or apricot pastries. Their sandwiches and the ham and cheese salad are delicious too.
- For とんかつ tonkatsu, I can recommend 今かつ imakatsu in 六本木 Roppongi, but I'm sure there are lots of other good places. Their croquettes are pretty popular. Get the メンチカツ menchi-katsu, an amazing Japanese invention where they deep fry hamburger meat. You cannot go wrong with this. It's addictive.
Some staples when you just need decent food fast:
- Tsubame Grill
- reliable standby for reasonably priced hamburg steaks. Branches are usually pretty big so even at peak times you can get in after a moderate wait.
- The afore-mentioned ramen chains.
- Harajuku okonomiyaki: http://www.sakuratei.co.jp/en/ good for groups; has English menu
- Great chicken wings and escargot, and chewy buns they call focaccia. Salads are decent too.
- A pasta chain in Ebisu, Nakameguro, etc. The eggplant and mozzarella is pretty good, but I also like getting their Japanese standard - mentaiko. Pretty solid.
I'll close with some notes for the vegetarians out there.
These phrases might come in handy:
- 菜食下さい sai-shoku kudasai (vegetarian please)
- 魚 だめ sa-ka-na da-me (fish bad)
- 海鮮 だめ (seafood bad)
- 精進料理 sho-jin ryo-ri: buddhist vegetarian food
Perhaps some native speakers can suggest some better ways to communicate vegetarian requirements.
I've never been to these restaurants but:
- Inside Tokyo station there is a food street called Keiyo Street which has this restaurant: http://ts-
- A vegan acquaintance went twice and said it was great
- And nearby http://www.musmus.jp/
- Otemachi is right next to Tokyo station: http://bento.com/m/e/
- Marunouchi is also right next to Tokyo station: http://www.bento.com/
- And some options in Ueno which is a station away: http://www.bento.com/r-
Timeout Tokyo has a listing of vegetarian restaurants - I thought "Eat More Greens" is kind of bland, but it is convenient; Nataraj is delicious - I always eat a ton of kheer there, and my vegetarian and non-vegetarian friends also like it.
I am starving now!