おかえり! Okaeri! Welcome back!
So you’re coming back to Tokyo! Excited? Mouth watering dreaming of all the gorgeous sushi and ramen you’ve been missing?
You’ve hit up most of the “must-eat” places last time you were in town and you’re wanting to try something a little less known. Having lived in Tokyo for 3 years (and eaten out my fair share – honestly a lot of times it’s cheaper to eat out here than cook), I’ve amassed quite a list of places I recommend. In order to keep it a bit more manageable, here’s a short list of places covering a variety of foods, styles, budgets, and locations.
(Fair warning…I am definitely not a food photographer and I haven’t photographed every place. I’ll update photos as I return to these places.)
Ushigoro / Ushigoro Bambina
Yakiniku (grilled meat)
Ushiogoro and Ushigoro Bambina are my favorite yakiniku restaurants in town. Ushigoro is the higher end version, while Bambina is a bit more on the reasonable side and prides itself on its wine offerings. There are a few locations around town, but I generally like the Ushigoro location in Ginza and the Ushigoro Bambina location at the top of the hill in Ebisu. Their Shibuya, Nishiazabu, and other Ebisu location are also solid. Don’t miss out on their “beef nigiri”!
Miyazaki-style chicken izakaya
As the name would imply, Birdman is a great little izakaya that specializes in chicken dishes. Specifically ones from the Miyazaki area of Japan. The portions are perfect for sharing, and the price tag is low, so this is a great place for a large group of people. You have to try their chicken nanban (fried chicken with tartar sauce…it’s way better than it sounds). I actually prefer their version to ones I’ve had in actual Miyazaki. The entrance is pretty hidden, so look for the tiny sign near a nondescript door.
Wanting something a bit more continental in a trendy location? Head over to Cedros in Daikanyama. Owned and run by two brothers from San Diego (Rui and Yui), this restaurant specializes in fusion-y seafood in a laid-back California atmosphere. The creamy, decadent lobster risotto is #1 and their crudo offerings are always on point. It’s also a perfect date night spot.
Shabu Gen was the first shabu shabu place I ate at in Tokyo and it has remained my favorite. Small, unassuming, and absolutely delicious. Their Shabu Gen set menu is affordable and filling, offering both pork and beef. The owners of the restaurant are utter delights, and I’m sure they’re part of what make me love this place so much. When the end of the meal comes and it’s time to choose rice or noodles, go with the rice and make sure you’ve saved room! They use the leftover stock, rice, and eggs to make the best rice porridge I’ve ever had.
Want to eat ramen in a shack? Who doesn’t! This ramen joint looks like it could fall down at any moment, but that certainly doesn’t detract from anything (in fact, I think it adds to the charm). Plop down on one of the communal benches and order your ramen and some gyoza from the menu off the wall. This shack specializes in Chinese-style ramen, so I’d recommend going for the Tantanmen if you’re a fan of sesame and a little bit of spiciness.
Looking to enjoy some delectable hummus and a glass of wine out on a terrace? Well then Cicada is your place. I love coming here with friends to share all of the tasty Mediterranean “tapas” as well as sample their interesting wine list (wines from Greece, Israel, etc). The atmosphere is relaxed but upscale, blending in perfectly with the vibes in Omotesando.
Grilled Pork and Wine
We stumbled upon this small, unassuming restaurant located on the 2nd floor of a nondescript building purely by google luck while looking for a dinner place one night. The atmosphere is…interesting – lots of dark stained wood, tchotskes, ,and old posters fill the small restaurant. I was definitely skeptical as they sat us at the kinda-dingy bar surrounding the kitchen, but I was won over as soon as the food started arriving. Their grilled pork is some of the best I’ve ever had, and their wine selection is quite reasonable and impressive.
All types of Izakayas
Ok, so it’s technically not one restaurant, but a bunch of them crammed in to a small building. A yokocho is an alleyway that is lined with restaurants and bars, easily found around train stations. Ebisu yokocho looks to recreate that atmosphere in an indoor space. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from (izakaya, grilled meat, fish specialty, mushroom specialty), all of them incredibly cheap and delicious. Get there early to claim a table, as it is getting very popular lately. It’s something to experience!
Eggs N Things
Sometimes you’re just craving a good American-style breakfast and Eggs N Things is your solution to that craving. Anything eggy is on offer, from decadent Eggs Benedict to healthy grain bowls. Go hungry, because their portions are also American sized.
Eggs N Things
New York Grill
The bar made famous by Bill Murray’s character in ‘Lost in Translation’ is attached to a pretty swank restaurant that’s perfect for a night of splurging. Enjoy the amazing views from the top of the Park Hyatt while you sip on a Manhattan and nosh on caviar. Every time I’ve been here I’ve seen a proposal happen…yeah it’s one of those kind of fancy places. Slip on over to the bar after dinner to enjoy your dessert while you listen to their live jazz band (yep, that part of the movie is totally accurate!).
New York Grill
Honorable mentions –
Uoshin is a great place to head to if you’re looking for a solid, inexpensive izakaya that focuses on fish. Their sashimi offerings are always fresh, and the atmosphere is always lively. Great for groups of people and for enjoying the weather when it’s nice (they’ll open all of the doors/walls).
Originally hailing from Karuizawa, Kawakamian is a great soba place. Their menu is quite large and every item I’ve had is great. I’m a huge fan of kamosoba (duck soba) and theirs is one of my favorites. Their tempura is also top-notch.
Veganic To Go
Vegan burgers? Absolutely! This small cafe offers giant, delicious vegan burgers/sandwiches in a few different styles. If you’re having trouble finding veggie/vegan options in Tokyo, check this place out.
Veganic To Go
Well now that I’ve made myself sufficiently hungry, I’ll wrap this up! As I was writing it I realized I could definitely make this much, much longer. If you’d like any recommendations for specific cuisines that I haven’t listed here, feel free to ask in the comments section!