Sushi and Beyond: Dine like a Pro in Tokyo

Dive into the city's diverse dining options, including sushi, steak, ramen and more.

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Take a Taste of Tokyo

Tokyo has long been a world-class culinary destination, but the city’s dining scene has never been more exciting. With more than 90,000 restaurants and 216 Michelin stars awarded within city limits, Japan's capital offers a staggering range of gastronomic diversity — from simple izakaya fare to elaborate kaiseki banquets, intensely traditional sushi to avant-garde French cuisine. No matter their specialties, the city’s chefs maintain an unwavering devotion to quality. With Toyko set to host the 2020 Olympics, more restaurants are providing English-language menus to make ordering easier for visitors. In this guide, you’ll find classic soba and tempura, local watering holes, creative fine dining, iconic ramen, and many other reasons why Tokyo is a food-lover’s paradise.

Ryugin

Pioneering chef Seiji Yamamoto revolutionized traditional kaiseki cuisine by introducing avant-garde techniques to the Japanese kitchen (he once famously used a CT scanner to examine the skeleton of a pike eel). In recent years, he has moved away from culinary pyrotechnics in favor of a more subdued approach, but the highly refined dishes at Ryugin prove that his three-Michelin-starred food is still as exceptional as ever. Yamamoto is dedicated to outstanding ingredients, and seafood is his wheelhouse. Delicate pomfret sashimi is dotted with Japanese chile paste and served alongside crisp fried fish bones. Simmered abalone and charcoal-grilled Japanese lobster sit atop a savory egg custard, luxuriating in a silky scallop sauce enriched with abalone liver.

Isana Sushi Bar

Junichi Onuki is the opposite of the stereotypical, stern-faced sushi chefs seen in movies like Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Cheerful, laid-back and fluent in English, Onuki opened Isana Sushi Bar in 2012 after spending nearly a decade in London as the sushi chef at Zuma. His ¥10,000 tasting menu — a succession of sashimi and sushi courses interspersed with cooked seasonal dishes such as grilled scabbard fish and blanched cod smelt in ponzu sauce — offers excellent value for this level of quality.

Janice Wong Dessert Bar

Singaporean pastry queen Janice Wong brings innovative confections to Tokyo at her eponymous dessert bar, housed inside Shinjuku Station’s stylish NeWoman shopping center. The chef uses seasonal local ingredients in sweet signatures such as the Kyoto Garden (a zen-like assemblage of beet sponge, rosewater parfait and chocolate-coated ice cream flavored with Japanese chile) and Strawberry Caprese (strawberry ice cream and sakura cherry blossom pearls dusted with nitrogen-frozen yogurt). Recently, the menu expanded with savory offerings like Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings filled with foie gras and sour cherry, and curried steamed buns garlanded with candied pork floss.

Den

Zaiyu Hasegawa just wants to make you smile. Everything at Den, including the whimsical takes on kaiseki cuisine, the chummy atmosphere and uber-attentive service, is thoughtfully coordinated to inspire delight. Signatures like the Dentucky Fried Chicken — a crispy chicken wing stuffed with flavored sticky rice — and Hasegawa’s outstanding clay-pot rice dishes, which come with seasonal toppings such as wild mushrooms or tender beef cheeks marinated in dashi and sweetened soy, are matched note for note by sake selections from the chef’s kimono-clad wife, Emi. In addition to accolades from Michelin, the restaurant was named “One to Watch” by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2016.

Ranjatai

Yakitori often conjures images of inexpensive street food, but Ranjatai elevates the skewered dishes to Michelin-starred levels of refinement. Chef Hideyuki Wadahama uses premium birds from Akita and Hyogo Prefectures, and he carefully grills the chicken over binchotan charcoal embers to retain the juiciness of the meat. The ¥6,000 tasting menu comes with six grilled items, including Wadahama’s signature cumin-spiced tsukune meatball, along with a velvety chicken-liver mousse. Those who are still hungry should try the roasted pigeon, which pairs superbly with a pinot noir from the well-curated wine list.

Sincere

Shinsuke Ishii takes a fun and innovative approach to French cuisine at Sincere, which opened to rave reviews in early 2016. The tasting menu showcases refined interpretations of bistro classics, each with a Japanese twist. A poached oyster comes on the half-shell, bathed in vermouth-spiked brown butter and dotted with Japanese micro-herbs and nori crackers; the flaky fish pie, stuffed with sea bream and placed on a vermillion pool of lobster veloute, resembles taiyaki, a fish-shaped Japanese confection typically filled with sweet bean paste. The gleaming open kitchen makes every seat in the intimate space feel like a spot at the chef’s table.

Nihonbashi Kakigaracho Sugita

There is no street sign in front of this high-end sushi restaurant, but regulars know exactly where to go. Takaaki Sugita gained a cult following as the master of Miyako Sushi before opening Sugita last year in the Nihonbashi district. The chef excels at the art of aging and applies an arsenal of subtle techniques to maximize the flavor of each ingredient. Deep garnet slices of bonito, matured for four days, have a buttery texture and exquisite depth. A short cure in salted water unlocks the intense sweetness of raw white prawns, and a marinade of miso infuses salmon roe with sweet-and-savory complexity. One of Sugita’s specialties is ankimo (monkfish liver pâté), slowly simmered over low heat in soy sauce, sake and mirin. Served with a thimbleful of sake, it is a palate-expanding experience of umami, the fifth taste.

Higashi-Yama

Opened two decades ago, this stylish haven in hipster-approved Nakameguro still sets the standard for contemporary Japanese design. The sleek interior by owner Shinichiro Ogata combines wood, stone and metal with washi-paper fixtures, to gorgeous effect. The menu, which changes monthly, comprises elegant takes on Japanese home-cooking classics that reflect the restaurant’s philosophy of simplicity. The vegetable palette is a colorful assortment of seasonal produce in a variety of preparations — steamed, pickled and marinated — presented in a wooden box like a gift. The five-course, ¥6,000 prix fixe set comes with a choice of starters, like duck and taro root in walnut sauce, and mains, including chargrilled wagyu. The spacious dining room on the second floor offers counter and table seating; the lounge downstairs is a chilled-out den serving sake, wine, shochu and Japanese whisky.

Mensho Tokyo

In a city teeming with thousands of ramen shops, Mensho Tokyo deserves props for the experimental creations of owner Tomoharu Shono, the mastermind behind a quintet of shops in Tokyo and, more recently, an outpost in San Francisco. Located just outside of Korakuen Station, the sleek space features a shiny glass-and-steel laboratory, where the chef tests his latest ideas. Mensho Tokyo is famous for its lamb tonkotsu soup, a rich and milky broth made with pork and mutton bones. The signature bowl comes with homemade noodles, slices of seasoned roast lamb and a squeeze of zesty sudachi citrus, for a crazy-sounding combination that works brilliantly.

Sushi Tokami

Tuna is a house specialty at Sushi Tokami, where dinner opens with a cone-shaped hand roll filled with buttery chopped tuna collar. Chef Hideyuki Sato procures his ruby fish from one of Tsukiji market’s most-famous suppliers. The ¥18,000 omakase tasting menu includes a trio of different tuna cuts, which range from lean to richly marbled, as well as an array of seasonal favorites like autumn saury, its silver skin carefully scored to reveal rosy pink flesh. Sato uses naturally fermented red rice vinegar, which lends the sushi rice an assertive tang.

Sougo

Shojin ryori is the meticulously prepared vegetarian cuisine that has been eaten by Buddhist monks since the 13th century. Chef Daisuke Nomura, who made his name at the two-Michelin-starred Daigo, brings this ancient tradition into the modern age at Sougo. Meals are a procession of surprising flavors and textures: small courses such as vegetable sushi topped with dashi-marinated tofu skin, green beans tossed in sesame dressing, and plump figs in an airy tempura batter made from arrowroot. The tasting menu starts at a reasonable ¥6,000, and simple lunch sets are available from ¥1,500. Vegans be warned: Nomura usually uses bonito flakes in his dashi, so let the restaurant know in advance if you abstain from fish.

Shirosaka

Kappo ryori is the more casual cousin of kaiseki, the multicourse Japanese haute cuisine that originated in Kyoto. At Shirosaka, Chef Hideki Ii infuses traditional fare with modern sensibilities and creative flair. His signature dish is as finely wrought as a Faberge egg: Nestled into a mound of diced tuna surrounded by fragrant ginger broth, a white rice-cracker orb conceals a layer of dashi gelee with quail egg yolk and black herring roe. All of the dishes on the ¥7,800 seasonal tasting menu are artfully presented and served at an immaculate wooden counter in the main dining room, which looks out onto a lovely miniature garden.

Falo

This stylish spot in trendy Daikanyama has the look and feel of a modern yakitori restaurant, featuring counter seating surrounding an open kitchen with an impressive stone grill. But skewered chicken is nowhere to be found on Chef Noritaka Kashimura’s diverse menu of Japanese-inflected Italian fare. Charcoal-grilled porchetta, which comes in meaty slabs, is Kashimura’s signature, though the slow-roasted duck breast is the runaway star. Rubbed with a mix of sansho (Japanese pepper), charred onion and fennel powder, then lightly brushed with honey, the dish balances savory, spicy and sweet notes in near equal measure. Seasonal pasta dishes, such as homemade gnocchi in tarragon-butter sauce topped with ikura salmon roe, pair nicely with the selection of natural wines.

Hosokawa

At this venerated soba restaurant, Tadashi Hosokawa uses 100 percent freshly milled buckwheat flour to make his legendary noodles. The resulting texture is delightful, with a heft and pleasant chewiness that wheat-flour noodles lack. Dipped in a smoky soy-based sauce that offsets the nutty flavor of the buckwheat, Hosokawa’s soba is best enjoyed with a side of delicate anago eel tempura or juicy, flash-fried eggplant. With elegant hardwood tables and earth-toned walls daubed in a mixture of mud and straw, the space is warm and inviting.

Liberte a Table de Takeda

Hidden among a tangle of side streets in residential Azabu-Juban, this understated jewel box shows off Kenji Takeda’s highly polished and expressive cooking, which incorporates Japanese flavors into vibrant and ambitious dishes based on French cuisine. An assemblage of tender whelk and mountain vegetables — a springtime delicacy — swims in an emerald pool of shellfish broth pureed with herbs, and it tastes sublime paired with fruity sake from Akita Prefecture. Though the dinner tasting menu at Liberte a Table de Takeda is exceptional, the ¥5,800 prix fixe menu is perfect for a long, leisurely lunch.

Florilege

With its theatrical open kitchen, magnificent ikebana floral arrangements and massive stone counter, Florilege could get by on looks alone. But Hiroyasu Kawate’s lush and technically stunning cooking is the undisputed star of the show. The chef plays with texture, temperature and expectations in gorgeous edible still lifes. There’s soft-shell turtle two ways — deep-fried and also simmered until tender — atop a silky chawanmushi egg flan in clam broth. Covered in a consomme made from vegetable trimmings, aged wagyu carpaccio is paired with apple granita. Kawate’s confidence surpasses his relatively young age, so expect even more amazing things to come.

Suzuran

Ramen is an obsession in Tokyo, and Suzuran has been a favorite for it ever since it opened. In 2014 the shop moved from its original location to classier digs, refining the recipes to match the ambiance. The menu of limited-edition offerings brims with seasonal ingredients like asari clams with napa cabbage, but the classic shabu-shabu ramen — paper-thin slices of pork in an aromatic yuzu-tinged broth — never disappoints. All the noodles are homemade and come in a range of widths and textures.

Ippo

Run by brothers Masato and Hideki Takano, this unpretentious fish bar turns out simple, satisfying seafood dishes to accompany the extensive and ever-changing sake list. The fish comes fresh from Tsukiji’s market each day. Start with an assortment of sashimi and work your way through the menu of tasty small plates: Fuwa-Fuwa Satsuma-Age (fluffy fried pillows of minced fish and black sesame), Namero (mackerel tartare laced with ginger, scallions and miso) and Kinmedai Nitsuke (red snapper simmered in sweetened soy sauce). The tender meat on the grilled tuna collar, a house specialty, is easily coaxed from the bone with chopsticks. The original Ippo in Ebisu is charming but tiny, so head to the second location in quiet Azabu-Juban for more legroom.

Tonki

Old-school and proud, Tonki still serves tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets) the way it did when the restaurant first opened in 1939. There are essentially two choices, rosu-katsu (sirloin) and hire-katsu (tenderloin), which are twice-battered and breaded, so that the exterior forms an extra-crunchy, copper-hued crust. Both come with the standard fixings — finely shredded cabbage and a blob of spicy mustard — along with white rice, pickles and miso soup. The brightly lit space is a wide-open kitchen surrounded by wooden counters on three sides. Service is polite but efficient, and lingering is not encouraged. Though not ideal for romantic dates, Tonki offers an authentic taste of Japanese culinary history.

Motoyoshi

There are many excellent tempura spots in Tokyo, but nine-seat Motoyoshi stands out both for the superior quality of its ingredients and the restaurant’s soothing interior, which blends traditional and contemporary Japanese aesthetics. Though sheathed in a crisp coating of golden batter, the deep-fried delicacies taste impossibly light. Chef Kazuhito Motoyoshi has a winning way with vegetables: His signatures include spears of asparagus, pudding-like croquettes of sweet Japanese corn, and fried shiso leaves crowned with bright-orange uni from Hokkaido. Choose your own o-chokko (sake cup) from a tray of antique ceramic vessels to accompany the meal.

Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara

Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara showcases wagyu beef in all its marbled glory. The menu at this upscale yakiniku barbecue restaurant showcases nose-to-tail beef: Choices range from humble offal to super-premium sirloin. Kentaro Nakahara sources his beef directly from small local producers to ensure fresh cuts, which he slices with the precision of a sushi chef. Opt for the tasting menu (from ¥8,500), which includes seven different cuts for diners to grill on the tabletop, or pick a la carte options. The beef tartare is a tower of cubed beef enriched with runny egg yolk. The hire-katsu, a breaded cutlet of lean tenderloin with a rosy center, requires ordering in advance, and it is well worth it.

Azure 45

This fine-dining French restaurant makes the most of its perch on the 45th floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo hotel. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the glittering lights of Tokyo’s mind-boggling cityscape. Michelin-starred chef Shintaro Miyazaki’s contemporary cooking is poised and precise, with a classic edge that reflects his training in France. On the recent tasting menu, marinated Scottish blue lobster with cauliflower cream precedes a roast loin of Hokkaido venison, the earthiness of the meat enhanced by a kiss of hardwood smoke. All of this pairs with a selection of wines from the award-winning drinks list.

Hinokizaka

Hinokizaka, The Ritz-Carlton’s spacious Japanese fine-dining establishment, is really four restaurants in one. At the front, beautifully presented seasonal kaiseki feasts are served in discreet rooms with bird’s-eye views of the Tokyo skyline. Inside, there’s a sushi bar and an area specializing in tempura, but the most-popular place to dine at Hinokizaka is in the teppanyaki section, where chefs prepare fresh seafood and prime wagyu from Kobe and Kyushu on the griddle in front of you. The room is handsomely appointed with a black stone counter and custom-made aluminum tiles.

Bulgari Il Ristorante Luca Fantin

Avant-garde Italian cuisine stars on the menu at Luca Fantin’s Michelin-starred restaurant, a stylish glass box atop the Bulgari Tower in glitzy Ginza. Tokyoites come to be dazzled by the chef’s delicate and artful interpretations of Italian classics, made almost exclusively with Japanese produce. A single raviolo filled with smoked burrata broth and topped with caviar from Miyazaki Prefecture is a perfect, decadent mouthful. Fantin’s clear minestrone soup, adorned with Jewel-toned root vegetable marbles, is as beautiful as it is delicious.

Hiroo Onogi

The relaxed atmosphere at this refined izakaya strikes the perfect balance between sophisticated and informal. Inside the warmly lit wooden interior, a sprawling uprooted tree hangs from the ceiling. Shelves of pottery line the walls of the beautiful open kitchen, where Chef Shigeki Onogi prepares ingredient-focused, seasonal Japanese fare with modern touches. Choose one of the three tasting menus, or cobble together a meal from small plates like breaded oysters from Miyagi Prefecture, kegani crab from Hokkaido topped with dashi gelee and sea urchin, and grilled wagyu steak with the chef’s miso dips. Wash them down with sake, wine or a whisky highball from the well-edited drink list.

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