Tokyo: Finding the Most Authentic Japanese Food
Tokyo is one of the most populated cities in the world and as such has a vast amount of attractions to experience and enjoy.
However, the main Tokyo attraction for locals and visitors alike is very simple. It’s eating!
Tokyo is a foodie paradise with over 160,000 restaurants, cafes and eateries to try. Within this number, there’s also over two hundred Michelin starred restaurants, but there are also plenty that you should be avoiding too.
That’s not to say you should be seeking out Michelin’s approval! There are plenty of amazing authentic places to eat which aren’t necessarily recognised in this way. They’re more recognised by the queues that come out of the door and go around the block.
Best Places to Eat Japanese Food in Tokyo
If you are only in Tokyo for a few days the sheer volume of eateries presents a problem. How do you know what’s best? What does ‘best’ actually mean? What are the easiest places to get to from the comfort of your furnished apartment in Tokyo?
Best Authentic Places to Eat Japanese Food in Tokyo, you must try:
If the physical hunt for the eatery is part of the attraction for you then Kotaro is highly recommended. This is a hole in the wall that is extremely hard to find and even when you have found it you will likely be disappointed if you want a seat. Locals book for this place weeks in advance.
If you’re lucky enough to get a table you’ll be treated to an open kitchen which specialises in pimped up izakaya dishes. This is then matched with exclusive sake from all over Japan. The most popular dish here, believe it or not, is the chef’s signature potato salad.
If recognition is what you desire then Ishikawa boasts three Michelin Stars. It can also boast that it’s had them ever since Michelin came to Tokyo in 2008.
This is a kaiseki restaurant which shouts that it sources the best Japanese ingredients from all over the country. The recommended way to try them is by selecting the 10-course tasting menu, as long as you’re happy to try anything. Recent menus have included things such as sea turtle.
You wanted authentic!
3. Isetan Shinjuku
In the basement of most top department stores in Tokyo, you’ll find a depachiku, roughly translated as a food hall and the opposite end of the scale to dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant. That’s not to say that you won’t get a bit of glamour though!
Here you can try bento (quite simply a meal in a box), something simple from the patisserie or some wagashi (Japanese confectionary).
You don’t even have to stay hidden away in the basement either, there’s a fantastic roof garden where you can go up and enjoy your bento in more tranquil surroundings.
A classic looking Japanese restaurant. Beautiful wooden interior with each place setting facing the busy chef in the kitchen. Out the back, a miniature garden brings peace into the eatery.
This is a great place to eat if you don’t want to take your dinner too seriously. The chef is Japanese but trained in Sydney before working at the Japanese embassy in New York and as such has infused modern twists into his essentially traditional Japanese dishes.
The end result is actually pretty unique but is a type of kapporyori. In other words, you are served works of art on a plate that you just don't want to destroy to eat! Maybe take a picture first!
5. Yakitori Imai
An open kitchen which, unusually for this type of restaurant in Tokyo, has plenty of space and doesn’t feel crowded.
All of the seats in the restaurant face the kitchen so you can always see exactly how your food is being prepared. You’ll find that it’s mainly being prepared over a charcoal pit and comes in the form of premium meat cuts. Chicken is the speciality but don’t be surprised to find pork or even pigeon being served on skewers too.
It’s not all meat, there’s a great selection of vegetables as well as an extensive wine list.
A lot of Tokyo restaurants make you feel as if you are sitting in someone’s kitchen or living room, Den is one of those. It was, even more, the case when it was located in the back streets in an actual house. Now it has moved to a new location and has the advantage of offering 12 seats in the restaurant instead of 8.
The open plan kitchen remains the same and is the main attraction of this very intimate restaurant.
Experience Tokyo life by renting a serviced apartment instead of a hotel room. You’ll appreciate it, especially if you are staying for the medium or long term. Have a look at the short term rentals in Tokyo offered by Thesqua.re. You might even find one near to one of these fantastic eateries.
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