It’s no secret that I love traveling to Tokyo. What is a secret, to some, is how to navigate the food scene. Everyone knows to look for sushi and ramen while in Japan, but at which restaurants should you spend those few vacation days you have? I’ve put together a list of my top places to help you on your next culinary adventure in Tokyo. From cute, adorable cream puffs, to traditional rice bowls, let me show you some of my favorite chow spots!
1. Matsunaga Bokujo in Ginza for Yakiniku
Yakiniku in Tokyo has never been more diverse than at Matsunaga Bokujo, where a grand total of 18 different courses for every taste are on offer. They purchase whole Japanese black beef cattle, certified in Shimane prefecture to be of the finest quality, cutting the meat only upon receiving an order. Just one taste of their tender and insanely marbled A5 Kuroge Wagyu Beef is sure to convert even the most discerning patrons. Come with your family, friends, work buddies – they will love their experience here!
Arubore Ginza 8F
2-4-18, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Opening Hours: Closed on Mondays
Lunch: 11:30am – 14:30pm
Dinner: 17:30pm – 23:00pm
Nearest Station: Ginza Station and Yurakucho Station
2. RED ROCK’s Roast Beef Rice Bowl
The moment you enter the restaurant, you can sniff all the greatness that’ll soon make its way to your hungry stomachs. Red Rock’s Roast Beef Rice Bowl comes with rice and a GIANT pile of Roast Beef, topped with onsen egg – A MEAT LOVER’S DREAM. Come at around 10.30 pm at night (or at off-hours) so you will only have to wait around 30 minutes! (I tried coming here at lunch time and the wait is over 3 hours, INSANE)
3-11-14 Takada, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Opening Hours: Daily – 11.30 am – 12am
Nearest Station: Takadanobaba
3. Ichiran Ramen
Ichiran Ramen is known as one of the best ramen in Japan, if not the best – mass market wise. Their Tonkotsu ramen is characterized by a rich, thick broth, which is almost white in color as a result of the pork marrow bones simmered to create it, and diners can customize this basic ramen however they want. The ramen is ordered at a ticket vending machine in the restaurant’s entrance, where diners also have the option to add-on sides like pickled vegetables, green onions or seaweed.
Diners are brought to wooden booths where a second order form is passed through a small hole in the wall, with the restaurant’s staff never visible. The form is used to personalize the ramen, allowing diners to select the noodle firmness, level of spice, and type of garlic, among other features. The finished ramen is eventually passed through the same hole. The wooden booths separate diners like study cubicles in a library, although they’re still open enough that it’s possible to chat with friends if you come as a group. That said, most diners are too focused on savoring their perfect ramen to make conversation.
The Ichiran Ramen that I frequent to is located in Shibuya, but they have location everywhere so it is very convenient.
Tel: +81 3-3463-3667
Opening Hours: 24 hours (on select location)
Nearest Station: Shibuya Station
4. Maisen Tonkatsu
No trip is complete without going to Maisen Tonkatsu and getting their black porn tonkatsu loin. Google a tonkatsu place and Maisen Tonkatsu will certainly pop up in all the search results. This is because they make the fattiest, and juiciest fried meat in existence. Crisp yet not too oily the meat was substantially thick yet moist and sublime. the contrasting worlds of outer batter and inner meat co-existed in perfect harmony. The cabbage that was served as a side was free flow and they were crunchy and sweet. I discovered the omnivorous side of me when I kept asking the waiter to refill the cabbage. Make sure to come earlier to avoid long lines!
tel: 81 120 42 8485
Daily: 11am – 10.30 pm
Nearest Station: Omotesando Station
5. Gyukatsu Motomura
This beef cutlet (called “Gyukatsu”) is the only thing Gyukatsu Motomura serves, and boy they do it well. There’s always seem to be a line even at odd hours of at least 15 people when I went, so be prepared to wait! Even during odd hours like 3pm, the queue persisted with food enthusiasts and eager Japanese, all waiting patiently in line for a taste of the trending food.
Part of the reason it takes so long for you to get to your food is that the beef is served to you as rare as possible, and you have to cook it slice by slice on a little counter-top grill. This probably aids in the stuff being enjoyed bite by bite, but this is really something that needs to be savored. If this meal was served to you as a giant cooked cutlet, it wouldn’t taste nearly as good.
No matter how long I left the beef on the grill, it came off of it super tender and flavorful. You ever cut cooked meat in twain with chopsticks? You can have that experience here.
3-18-10 Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku B1F
Tel: +81 3-3797-3735
Mon to Sat: 11am – 11pm
Sun: 11am – 9pm
Nearest Station: Shinjuku Station
6. Sushi Kanesaka for 15-Course Omakase
A well-deserved 2 Michelin Starred Omakase Restaurant in the heart of Ginza. If you are one of those people who are trying to get into Jiro Sukiyabashi but can’t (hard to get a reservation and less friendly to non-Japanese), Sushi Kanesaka is the perfect place to go. They are english friendly, allows you to take photos, and serve you at your pace.
1-1-1 Marunouchi 6th floor
Tel: +81 3 3211 5323
Opening Hours: Lunch 11.30am – 2pm, Dinner 5pm – 10pm
Nearest Station: Shimbashi Station, Higashi-ginza station
7. ANYTHING from Tsukiji Fish Market
Basically every sushi/seafood lover’s dream: Fresh catches of high quality fish, affordable price, and DELICIOUS food. Favorite places to eat: Itadori Uni Tora Kurau for Sea Urchins, Sushi Daiwa, and Cremia Ice Cream!
Tsukiji Fish Market
Tel: +81 3-3547-7074
Opening Hours: Daily
Nearest Station: Ginza Station
8. Yakitori at Torimasa Omotesando
From Omotesando station, walk towards Aoyama Iccho-me, turn at a stylish building and you will find the signboard of “Torimasa”. They are your standard fare of Yakitori but boy, do they do it well. You can’t go wrong with any kinds of skewers, but I recommend their crispy chicken skin along with plenty of Kirin Beer.
3-13-2 Minami Aoyama, 1st floor of Yamakawa Building
Mon-Fri 11:30~14:00, 17:00~23:00, Sat & Sun & Holidays 17:00~22:00
Nearest Station: Omotesando Station
9. Tamahide Restaurant for Oyakodon
Tamahide in Nihonbashi Ningyocho has a perpetual line out its front door, regardless if it is a weekday or holiday. Its signature dish, oyakodon, literally means mother and child, is bite-size pieces of chicken mixed with scrambled eggs and a sweet sauce. The chicken is cooked and then added to the eggs which is then just given some heat to start to set and this is poured over a hot bowl of rice. Tamahide has been in business since 1760, and dubbed as the best Oyakodon Restaurant in Japan. Just go, you’ll thank me!
Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi-Ningyocho 1-17-10
Opening Hours: 11.30 am – 10 pm, closed on Sundays
nearest station: Ningyocho Station
10. Aoyama Flower Market Tea House for your Instagram Feed
If you found yourself in Omotesando and looking for a hidden gem, this place is a must-visit! This beautifully put together tea house is located inside of a flower store, and the setup of the coffee shop makes you feel like you’re not in the hustle and bustle of the city. If you are just passing by, you would never know such a gem is inside. They offer a wide range of tea blends, delicious cakes, and savory bites – certainly one of the cutest cafes (insta-worthy) cafes I’ve encountered!
Aoyama Flower Market Tea House
Hours: 11am – 9pm
Nearest Station: Omotesando Station
11. Reissue in Harajuku for 3D latte
If you are a fan of latte art and the internet, then I’m sure you know the trend that is currently sweeping the online world: 3D Latte Art! Boasting as one of the best latte art in Tokyo, they can make any Latte Art from cute 3D animals to famous japanese artwork. In fact, you can request for the staff members to create your favorite character or animals, just be nice when you’re asking! Price is around $11 for 3D latte, and around $4 for a regular latte.
3-25-7 Jingumae 2F
Nearest Station: Meijijingu-Mae Station, Omotesando Station
12. Pablo Cheesecake
Japanese cheesecake, known as “rare cheesecake,” is a much-loved item at Pablo. Rare cheesecake maintains the deliciously tart, yet sweet taste of a regular cheesecake. Its consistency is very smooth – much like silken tofu. Pablo Cheesecake is a stellar example of Japanese cheesecake, can’t stop from scooping the whole thing into my mouth!
1-14-21 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Opening Hours: 10am-9pm (last orders 8pm)
Nearest Station: Omotesando Station
13. Daily Chico Ice Cream in Nakano Broadway
Daily Chico’s 20cm ice cream tower consisted of 8 different flavors for you to try: strawberry, coffee, hokkaido milk, chocolate, black sesame, mocha, green tea, and ramune soda. The Tokudai Soft Cream is not just an ice cream; it’s a challenge, and a serious one at that. I tried to finish but I failed oh so miserably. They’re also super generous on portion and incredibly inexpensive, with a price of just 480 yen (USD $4.00)! Seriously, a trip to this little stall on the basement of Nakano Broadway will have your expectations of icy treats elevated to a whole new level (literally).
Daily Chico at Nakano Broadway
Nakano 5-52-15, Nakano Broadway B1F
Opening Hours: 10.00-20.00
Nearest Station: Nakano Station
14. Shirohige Cream Puff Factory
Come here for the cutest, most adorable Totoro cream puffs ever existed! Flavor range from vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, to seasonal ones such as pumpkin and chestnut. Be sure to come early because they sell out really, really, quickly.
Shirohige Cream Puff Factory
Setagaya-ku 5-3-1 (東京都世田谷区代田 5-3-1)
Open everyday except Tuesdays
Opening Hours 10:30 to 19:00
Nearest Station: Setagaya-Daita Station
15. Harajuku Gyoza Lou
Affordable and delicious gyoza joint in the heart of Omotesando, 6 pieces of this juicy pork gyoza will only cost you 280Yen – a steal!
16. Tsuta Japanese Soba Noodles
The only Ramen store awarded with a Michelin Star in Japan. Perfect soft-boiled eggs, blanched bamboo shoots, delicate chashu, springy handmade soba noodles, and comforting clear soy truffle broth. Queue can get as long as 4 hours, so make sure to come early and grab a ticket reservation for the day!
17. Aoyama Garden Cafe in Omotesando
This fluffy pancake went viral on my Instagram, and it is definitely a sight to behold. I’ve never seen pancake (or hotcake Japanese called it) this fluffy and jiggly – taste pretty good too, very light and filling. As always, come early – especially for brunch!
18. Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku
This crazy Cafe got so much hype last year, and this place is definitely TRIPPY. Unicorns and multi-colored sheep. Huge baby bottles hanging from the ceiling. Oversized mushrooms growing up from the ground. And in the center of it all was a huge rotating cake. The restaurant is also staffed by 5 different “Monster Girls” – Baby, Dolly, Candy, Nasty, and Crazy! If you’re lucky you might spot one and even take pictures with them!
19. Le Monde
There’s only one thing you should order from this quaint little Shinjuku restaurant that only seats 10 people at a time: their Tenderloin Steak. For $12 you got the most juicy and flavorful steak, along with some side dishes (asparagus and french fries). My only criticism is that the portion is tiny. But hey, it’s $12 for a high quality steak, so I can’t really complain.
20. Seryna Tokyo
Seryna excels in the Kobe Beef Shabu-Shabu department, beating all the other shabu-shabu competitor in the area. The Kobe beef that I tried was so beautifully marbled with snowflakes of fat that it literally melts in the mouth. It does cost a pretty penny – but if you’re in Japan and feeling like treating yourself, this might be the place to go!
That’s it guys! Hope you all found it helpful. I’ll be doing a part 2 soon, and maybe some food guide posts for Kyoto, Osaka, and Hokkaido. What do you guys think? Until then, check out #HungryNYCJapan for more Japan food pictures!