Tokyo Food

(Last update Nov 2017)
 
We get asked a lot about our favorite places to eat in Tokyo. Back in 2016, we lived in southern Shibuya in a neighborhood called Ebisu. It's actually tough giving recommendations because most folks visiting Tokyo have visions of Michelin-starred, special occasion omakase experiences and we spent most of our time looking for folksy, cheap, down-home neighborhood eats. If you're thinking "Jiro: Dreams of Sushi", I'd say just hit the Michelin guide for Tokyo and let your hotel or Amex concierge book for you. If you're thinking more "Midnight Diner" then continue on...

TIP: Some places you may need to look at the Kanji from the Instagram check-in or the Google Street View to help find the place. Also, I've omitted places where you need to speak/read Japanese to dine.

 

Sushi


Every guidebook tells you to go to Tsukiji fish market, and you should. If you're a true lover of sashimi, just stop in at one of the stalls and grab a tray or two of just-caught tuna for a fraction of what it'd cost you in New York or Los Angeles. We did this often enough that I genuinely started to worry about mercury poisoning!

Be sure to say "itadakimasu!" to thank mister fish for his sacrifice to your meal!


Shin Kawa sushi. Ebisu (map 🗾). We used to go here for lunch. Small, quiet, full of locals. No English. Don't be intimidated, there are only two choices when you walk in: chirashi (bowl style) or nigiri (individual pieces). Everyone orders chirashi. You should too. Everything is perfect and reasonably priced.

look at the knife skills on that cucumber!


Tenka Sushi. Shibuya (map ðŸ—¾). This is a great kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi place. Cheap, lots of locals, some traditional stuff, some crazy stuff. Try the "bonito carpaccio" with lettuce and Italian dressing and mayo. Or the deep fried shrimp with mayo and unagi sauce. The spigot next to each seat dispenses hot water for the teabags.

Our plate stack was so high an old man came over and asked if we were training for a sumo match!


Sushi Nova. Asakusa (map ðŸ—¾). The next-generation conveyor belt sushi is maglev sushi. Skim the menu on an iPad at your seat, make your selection and a high-speed sushi train zips over to your seat with your custom order. These are popping up everywhere.




Niku Sushi "Meat Sushi". Ebisu (inside the little Yokocho market 🗾). Who says you have to love fish to love sushi? It's not really for picky eaters, though, because you're going to get at least half a dozen parts of the cow that Americans rarely eat.



Noodles

Afuri Ramen. Ebisu, Roppongi Hills, several others. Their specialty is yuzu ramen. The random question they ask you when you sit down is if you want an extra ladle of super-tasty chicken fat in the bowl. The answer is "Hai!"



Kaoriya Soba. Ebisu (map ðŸ—¾). The best soba I've ever eaten. Make sure you order the dashimaki tamago to start – it's a nice way to enjoy the quality of their dashi.



Tsukumo ramen (aka 九十九 or 99 Ramen)Ebisu (map ðŸ—¾). A machine grates a little Matterhorn of cheese onto your ramen and it slowly turns to ramen fondue while you eat. Definitely get a beer to help wash this down. For the crazy backstory on why 99 is pronounced "tsukumo", check this link.

Okonomiyaki

Monja Mugi. Tsukiji (map ðŸ—¾)Okonomiyaki is actually from Western Japan. Its Tokyo-area cousin is called Monjayaki. It's a bit more runny and soupy but it's still quite tasty. There's an entire district near Tsukiji dedicated to restaurants serving it. I'd be falling down on the job if I didn't mention that before an actual Okonomiyaki place.



Jingumae Yaiyai. Shibuya (map ðŸ—¾). Get the Amakara or the Negi. 


Bakeries

Angelica. Shimokitazawa (map ðŸ—¾). First off, I love this neighborhood, so it's worth coming here even without the bakery. That said, I still dream of their sweet potato donut. So so so good. They have several types of curry pan as well, all of them delicious.  Closed Fall 2017 :(


Shirahige cream puff. Shimokitazawa (map ðŸ—¾) Not sure if they're officially licensed, but if you want Studio Ghibli cream puffs in an adorable tree fort-like space, go here.



Eki-ben

We spent so much time on trains that we ate a ton of these little bento boxes during our stay. They run the full gamut: from fancy department stores' $80 ekiben full of wagyu beef to the train platform kiosks' rice and vegetable ekiben for $6. My favorite was this one: pull the little rip-cord and it heats itself up!!


Other Japanese

Niagra Curry Station. Nakameguro (map ðŸ—¾). Model railroad curry! Be careful – the spicy curry is actually really, really spicy!


Tonki Tonkatsu. Meguro (map ðŸ—¾). Tonkatsu is a breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet. Tonki's is legendary. The line starts well before they open, so plan accordingly.

 

Parting Thought…

I posted this to Instagram and I think it's a great mantra: be brave!

“I'm intentionally not tagging this photo because awesome #Ramen is so ubiquitous and cheap in #Tokyo that all you need to do is just walk into the little shop underneath the train tracks and order what everyone else is having”

Coffee

Japan has amazing coffee, it's just not quite as ubiquitous as it is in New York. There's a coffee search engine here. Three personal favorites:


Also

My main Japan tips page is here.
My New York City food guide is here.
Some fun things we did in Taipei here.

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