The magic of Japanese food cannot be overstated. From the moreish umami of soy sauce to the lighter than air takes on western baked goods, there really is something for everyone in this vast sea of flavour. Naturally, Tokyo is the epicentre of the Japanese food scene: it’s home to some of the best restaurants, cafes, and confectionary stores in the world, as well as fish and seafood markets that stretch farther than the eye can see. Trying to figure out where to eat here can be a battle with choice fatigue, especially when convenience stores sell better food than most restaurants in other countries. However, even in this foodie utopia there are some restaurants that stand out. If you’re looking for an unforgettable week of meals, then we’ve got you covered.
Tucked away by the Yaesu entrance to Tokyo station is this unassuming spot. Whilst a lot of places that serve breakfast in Tokyo focus on Western style meals, at Hatsufuji you can get a hearty, reasonably priced traditional Japanese breakfast that will set you up for a day of sightseeing. Eating here is not a fancy affair: you order one of seven set breakfast sets through a vending machine (plus extras, if you’re so inclined) and it arrives fairly quickly. The natto combo is a local favourite, although everything is delicious. If you find yourself walking past in the evening, then it turns into an Izakaya (tavern), so you can pop in for a totally different experience.
Blu Jam Cafe
Originally an LA hotspot, this American implant serves a wide array of breakfast foods, smoothies, and hot drinks. With one of the most diverse menus in the city, they try to bring joy to the idea of breakfast in Tokyo, and they definitely achieve this. Blu Jam serve up dishes that are hearty and delicious, as well as catering to pretty much any dietary choice you can think of. They’ve recently opened a new branch in Azabu Juban, but the Daikanyama restaurant remains more popular. Their take on a Florentine Benedict is both tasty and visually appealing.
For a food culture that’s so exacting, it can sometimes feel a bit disappointing when you’re presented with a square of soft, white, processed bread with your breakfast in Tokyo. However, there are more than enough ways to avoid this flavourless fate, and one of the best places to do so is Crossroad bakery. They bake fresh every day and serve possibly the best bread in Tokyo alongside the usual breakfast treats you’d expect. Their all-day breakfast menu is incredibly popular and has some interesting inclusions, the best of which is the shrimp bisque soup.
High end sushi joints in Tokyo can be notoriously hard to get into, but for some reason this wonderful restaurant seems to have flown under the radar. The atmosphere is nowhere near as austere as other sushi places with similar reputations, with customers and staff laughing and joking throughout their dining experience. They serve up one of the best omakase in Tokyo, and Rinda has the advantage of an English-speaking chef who can explain what some of the more interesting items on the menu are. Classy, relatively inexpensive when you take into account the quality of food, and incredibly fun, you won’t be disappointed with a trip here.
One of the main joys of being a foodie in Tokyo is that every hole in the wall place or family style restaurant could be serving up something worthy of the best of haute cuisine. Tomita, originally on the famous Ramen Street but now in Tokyo station, is a prime example of this. Although it looks unassuming, this place is regularly quoted as the best ramen place in Japan. Queues tend to form from around 7am, and customers are allowed in based on a ticketing system. The Toksei Tsukemen is a restaurant specialty, and you can get whatever topping you’d like to go along with the artfully formed noodles.
Located in the Tokyo Grand Hyatt, Keyakizaka serves up some of the best teppanyaki in Japan. The ambience of the restaurant is refined yet welcoming, and the service is top class. Whilst it’s a bold claim to say that somewhere is the best steakhouse in Tokyo, Keyakizaka is definitely one of the frontrunners in the conversation. They have a selection of prime meats that would make any steak lover salivate, and when this is paired with the excellent selections on the wine list you get a delectable, unforgettable culinary experience.
Like many of the best restaurants in Tokyo, this much vaunted sushi place is easily missed by pedestrians walking past, but the food on offer is truly something else. There are only nine seats at the counter and a private room to dine in, and it’s quite hard to get a seat unless you do so in advance (and even then, your best bet is to do so via a hotel concierge), but the effort is more than worth it. It’s a travesty that it only has one Michelin star, as head chef Sugita turns sushi into an artform. Also, unlike many sushi masters, he’s quite friendly, which makes the experience a lot more welcoming than some other high-end sushi spots. This is possibly the best omakase in Tokyo, but it will cost you: the chef’s selection is Yen 21,700, but worth every penny and then some. Jiro may have dreamt of sushi, but Sugita has perfected it.
The label high end doesn’t really do justice to this exclusive restaurant, but there’s no doubt the struggle to get in is worth it. With a waiting list that can run as long as three months, this is an invitation only, cash only Kaiseki restaurant that has rejected Michelin’s offer of three stars because they simply don’t see the need. The tasting menu is approximately Yen 34,000 (sans booze), but you’re unlikely to have a better meal in your life; even the table water is infused with cherry blossom. The quintessential Japanese dining experience, the menu is dogmatically seasonal, because they refuse to use anything other than perfect ingredients. Although every dish is astounding in its taste and presentation, the Kegani is usually on the menu and seen as a standout favourite in a field of the highest class.
Those with a sweet tooth and a sense of adventure need to check out this Tokyo confectionary maker, who pump out delicious, visually appealing wagashi. Despite being exacting about everything they do, Higashiya’s mission is to bring joy via confectionary to the masses. They have a whole host of different confectionary, including some seasonal pieces, but the monaka is a specialty. Possibly the best wagashi in Tokyo, and definitely worth visiting.
Heading to Tokyo for a pit-stop visit before moving on? Take a look at our ultimate 3 day itinerary for exploring the best of the city.
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