Known as Tokyo’s busiest district, both a business and entertainment hub, Shinjuku sees about 3.5 million people pass through its famous train station every day. Both locals and tourists flock to this neon-lit district where tall buildings tower over small ones, streets are filled with unique boutiques and brand names, and of course, mouth-watering dishes await in Shinjuku restaurants that are tucked away, just out of sight.
People in Shinjuku might be busy, but they sure do know how to treat themselves to some of the best Japanese food when hunger strikes. Not only is Shinjuku home to 36 Michelin-rated restaurants (as of 2019), but Shinjuku also boasts some hole-in-the-wall spots that are only known to locals. If you want to splurge on dinner at a fancy restaurant or simply snack on something from a little alleyway shopfront, Shinjuku has got you covered. One can always find a restaurant in Shinjuku that is fit for their budget.
Shinjuku of course offers some Japanese food staples, such as udon and okonomiyaki, dishes which are comforting and classic. There’s always a good ramen-ya around the corner, serving tonkotsu ramen and shoyu ramen, perfect for an afternoon meal or after-work reward. The great thing about the restaurants in Shinjuku is that despite the buzz of everyday life and how busy everything can be, there are still tiny sacred spots where people can eat as the stress of the day melts away. Don’t get stuck, lost in the sprawling train station or overwhelmed by the sheer number of chain restaurants. This guide to the best restaurants in Shinjuku has you covered.
You might get overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city and end up in an average chain restaurant if you don’t know exactly where to eat in Shinjuku. But Shinjuku actually has a lot of unique restaurants. From the carefully crafted sushi to smoky grilled skewers, you can find everything in this district. Below, find our list of some of the best restaurants in Shinjuku.
Sushi Rosan is a great place to go when you’re craving sushi and want something a little classier than the average conveyor-belt sushi place. Just a stone’s throw away from Shinjuku Station, on the 7th floor of the Isetan department store, this inexpensive sushi restaurant has accumulated loyal patrons with their delicious sushi and fair prices. While it can be busy and crowded, lunchtime is still the best time to visit the place and get your sushi fix in an instant. Walk-ins are accepted but calling ahead of time for a reservation is strongly recommended. Sit at the counter seat for a close-up look at the chef in action, or choose a table seat if you’d like to focus your attention on your companions.
Kyourakutei is an affordable one-star Michelin soba restaurant in Shinjuku that specializes in making hand-cut soba noodles. The grain is milled, dough is kneaded, and noodles are cooked fresh daily. You can even watch the chef make the noodles right before your eyes as you enter the restaurant. Sitting at the counter seats gives you the best view of the open kitchen, where you will see how your bowl of noodles is made. Aside from their signature soba dishes, you can also find other dishes such as jumbo Japanese tiger shrimp and conger eel, dipped into a thin layer of tempura batter and fried until golden brown. It’s a comfortable restaurant where you can dine, relax, and be at ease with your family and friends, and for a Michelin-starred restaurant, it is quite affordable. Read our article, Most Affordable Michelin-Starred Restaurants in Tokyo, for more delicious and accessible Michelin meals in the city.
Nothing beats a big bowl of ramen to end the busy day. In Shinjuku, one go-to ramen shop is Menya Sho. This ramen-ya is popular for serving delicious bowls of ramen at cheap prices. Shio ramen, also known as salt-flavored ramen, is their specialty dish. This light but filling bowl of ramen has that clear taste of chicken broth and addictive saltiness that stimulates the appetite even more and keeps you salivating! It’s heaven in a bowl, and won’t leave you feeling too heavy afterwards, unlike some other types of ramen like tonkotsu. No wonder people line up for this simple dish.
Kohaku is known for earning its three-star Michelin restaurant status for serving some of the simplest yet sophisticated dishes in the city. Located in Shinjuku’s Kagurazaka, sometimes referred to as “Little Kyoto” for its traditional vibe and geisha houses, some of which are still in operation today, it is a stunning venue for an upscale meal. The atmosphere of the restaurant exudes elegance, harmony, and beauty. Attention is given to everything from furniture to tableware and of course, their menu. Balance has always been top of mind for Chef Koizumi of Kohaku, ensuring that the flavors and textures are complementary. He gauges and learns from the reactions of his guests in order to improve his craft. One specialty is his tender and succulent shinjo dumplings, where he first charcoal-grills the fish first to bring out the flavors. It is his attention to detail that truly impresses, and makes Kohaku a gem in Shinjuku’s culinary landscape.
If you want to splurge a little bit, try Cheese to Wagyu Kikori no Ouchi. Japan is known for its melt-in-your-mouth wagyu (Japanese domestic beef), but not so much for cheese. At this restaurant, they have rare imported cheeses and combine the two glorious foods to produce a heavenly dishes. The cozy, log cabin-style of the restaurant, with a private room for groups, makes for a really enjoyable place to indulge in an abundance of dairy. Cheese to Wagyu Kikori no Ouchi offers a selection of 50 cheeses, 10 types of Japanese wagyu, and 100 types of wine. The melted cheese enhances the flavor of the beef, which is cooked rare for extra juiciness. Or, their wagyu fondue set is the perfect choice if you’d like to try a variety of local products. They have a tabehoudai (all-you-can-eat) cheese fondue plan for 3,980 yen, which includes 50 types of cheese, pizza, risotto, 2 types of steak, and more! For more cheesy restaurant suggestions, see our post: Wildest Cheesy Foods in Tokyo.
Eating at Udon Shin requires patience, but give this Shinjuku restaurant a shot and you’ll appreciate their made-to-order system and the attention to their craft. Udon Shin’s handmade noodles are cut and boiled upon receiving your order, ensuring the freshest possible noodles. Their menu includes 26 styles of udon, both traditional and unique dishes. One of the bestsellers is their cold udon served with delicate chashu (braised pork) slices and shrimp and veggie tempura. But if you prefer your noodles hot, they also have a wide selection of dishes. Try their Kamatama Udon with parmesan cheese, butter, bacon, and pepper. For something simpler, they also have the classic Tenkake Udon, with 2 pieces of shrimp tempura alongside other vegetables.
Kagurazaka Ishikawa is a 3-star Michelin restaurant in Shinjuku unlike any other. Located in the traditional, former geisha district of Kagurazaka, the tone for your meal is set before you even set foot inside the kaiseki restaurant. Once you have arrived, you will instantly feel the hospitality and aesthetics of Japan. The easygoing chef-owner, Hideki Ishikawa, will greet you with a warm smile and conversation. Every dish is prepared deliberately, with delicate precision. Chef Hideki sources all of his ingredients locally and uses familiar ingredients which you can find anywhere in Japan, but he puts his special twist in his dishes, which are ultra-seasonal, in true kaiseki style. Imagine wild spring veggies and wagyu served in a personal hot pot, conger eel with matsutake mushrooms in autumn; or maybe grilled ayu sweetfish in the summer. Through simplicity and elegance, Chef Hideki pours his heart into each dish, and even the setting and tableware enhance the kaiseki experience. To learn more about the craft of kaiseki, the traditional multi-course banquet, see our Introduction to Kaiseki Ryori.
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