Oh cheese, glorious cheese! Known as chiizu in Japanese, this gooey, melty, creamy dairy delight is arguably one of the most universally-loved foods. And while Japanese food by itself is both exciting and delicious, many restaurants in Tokyo are daring to fuse the traditional Eastern cuisine with Western styles of cheese. You can definitely get your cheese fix while on your Tokyo trip, so if you’re worried about having withdrawals or maybe separation anxiety from cheese, never fear! This is a connoisseur's comprehensive list of the wildest cheesy foods in Tokyo.
A drum roll please for our first cheesy food and curious hybrid, cheese ramen! Tsukumo Ramen is the place where ramen fiends and cheese fanatics alike to band together, where the beloved Chinese-style noodle meets gouda. Here, their best seller is a tonkotsu-based cheese ramen that features a mountain of freshly grated gouda on top. You can mix it right into the hot ramen broth or watch the cheese slowly melt down into the broth, but either way, it is ridiculously delicious! Tsukumo Ramen, which has just celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2018, prides themselves on quality ingredients with pork meat from domestic pigs and gouda made from milk produced in Hokkaido. They recommend a getting a cheese-topped onigiri rice ball on the side, to mop up those stray cheesy ramen juices. They have also have expanded their range of ramen flavors to include chicken and cilantro ramen.
The gyoza specialists at Warashibe Gyoza have invented the ultimate combination of gyoza dumplings and melted cheese! Yep, they are responsible for bringing the humble gyoza together with melted cheese in a delicious, gooey teppanyaki hot plate style fondue. The plump little dumplings are lined up on a teppanyaki at your table, where you watch the mozzarella and cheddar melt together before your very eyes. When it’s ready, you can dip the gyoza into the molten cheese to your heart’s content. Not only cheese gyoza, but they also serve seven different types of dipping sauce and all kinds of other specialty gyoza flavors too, ranging from cilantro to tandoori chicken! It’s often pretty busy here in the evenings so try and book ahead.
Let us introduce the next best cheesy dish, a bowl of cheesy udon carbonara! This ingenious fusion is brought to you by Udon Shin, an intimate restaurant that has come into fame for its high-quality udon, and for delicious, innovative creations such as carbonara udon. It kind of looks like a traditional bowl of udon, but doesn’t taste like it at all. This amazing fusion of pasta-meets-udon is one of their most popular dishes, and it’s made from fresh udon wheat noodles, an egg, a cube of butter, and a big fat slice of tempura bacon! And, of course, not to forget it’s got a generous dose of parmesan cheese too for that rich carbonara flavor. Located on the western side of Shinjuku JR Station, this tiny restaurant only has 12 seats but is still incredibly popular, so prepare to line up (but it’s totally worth it).
Perhaps, especially for the connoisseurs among us, you’ve experienced a more standard piece of deep-fried cheese, most likely crumbed. You can often get this style of cheese at kushikatsu restaurants, an Osaka specialty which specializes in “bite-sized” deep-fried food on a stick (though not just cheesy ones). For something a little different and a fitting companion to follow udon, cheese tempura at Wa Cheese Tensai is the next cheesy dish on our list! Seriously, the cheese is mixed in with different vegetable tempura options and fried together, for that gooey fusion with a crunch. They also have a range of other cheesy side dishes, and of course regular tempura items which are delicious too. Their lovely fresh vegetables come from a small farm in Shimane Prefecture.
The popularity of the Chicago Pizza from Meat & Cheese Ark has rapidly grown in recent years, with its well-documented insta-worthy ooze. More than just a “deep-dish” pizza, this Chicago style “pizza” from the first look seems like more of a tart or a pie. In fact, it’s essentially a big puddle of cheese fondue held inside a crunchy pink tart base. The shell is crunchy and delicious while the cheese is more like a soup or a dip, and soon as you cut a slice a sea of cheese floods everywhere! They also sell a raclette of two types of cheese, and some perfectly grilled meat dishes which have melted cheese poured overtop. Here, you can enjoy your cheesy goodness with sake or a beer, as you snag that cheesy overload happy snap (say “cheese!”)
Contrary to the belief that as a part of Asia, Japan “doesn’t do cheese very well," Tokyo alone has a number of incredible specialty cheese restaurants. For the cheese purists among us, you can find a surprising amount of pizza or cheese fondue restaurants dotted throughout the city just waiting to be discovered!
Here are some of our recommendations for cheesy foods in Tokyo, which are well and truly cheesy, and that we believe deserve an honorable mention.
Hokkaido is known for its excellent milk and cheese products. Here at the Hokkaido Cheese Fondue Factory they have cheese-themed fondue containers and dishes where oozing cheese is scraped directly from the wheel onto your plate!
This is the place to go if you are looking for freshly made cheese products! At Shibuya Cheese Stand the cheese is actually made in Shibuya, including fresh ricotta, mozzarella, and a Tokyo burrata-style cheese, which you can have in all kinds of sandwiches and posh cheesy dishes.
You’ll be cheering at the Cheese Cheers Cafe, with its modern Italian flair, where you can get blobs of mozzarella on pizza, and cheesecake in the shape of a slice of Swiss cheese! On top of that, they have carbonara pasta or pizza served in a hollowed out cheese wheels. They have another store in Shibuya too.
You’ll find many luxurious cheesecakes amongst a variety of other cheesy or cheese-themed products at Cheese Garden. You can get double cheese hot dogs, pizzas and fondue inside an entire round of crusty bread! Pop in if you’re visiting the Tokyo Sky Tree and are in need of a cheesy snack.
Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory should be your go-to for cheesy desserts, with the softest milk cheesecake you’ve ever had, and a range of amazing cheese-infused cookies! With a number of milk and cheese products, there are a few branches throughout Tokyo if you want to find your new favorite cheese.
Japan is famous for inventing all kinds of uncharted Japanese and Western-style foods combinations. For a more everyday kind of cheesy fix in Tokyo, many dishes come with a cheese option. For example, some cheese oozing out of a fluffy omurice (an omelette over rice) or inside a hamburger meat patty (called a “hamburg” in Japanese), is a delicious addition to some more standard food fares.
If you want to add some cheese to a Japanese dish, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (a layered style of savory Japanese pancake) matches perfectly with a big dose of cheese melted on the top. Or, perhaps a big bowl of Tomato Ramen from the Taiyo no Tomatomen chain, topped with a generous cheese mound, this might do the trick to satisfy your cheesy needs. Otherwise, adding cheese to a regular gyudon beef bowl or to some Japanese curry is delicious too. If you can handle spicy foods, you can also try some cheesy Korean cuisine in Shin-Okubo, Tokyo’s resident Little Korean Town.
Wherever you go, you’re sure to be able to get your hands on something crazy and cheesy in Tokyo!