The first thing that usually pops in mind when Japanese food is mentioned is sushi. That or a hearty bowl of ramen. But that’s too limiting, don’t you think? Actually, there are a lot of delicious dishes in Japan and one can find in the city of Tokyo edible gems you won’t see anywhere else. Whether you’re a hungry tourist visiting for the first time (or maybe the nth time), Tokyo won’t disappoint and you’ll find everything delicious in here.
From bustling streets where vendors sell the best street foods to hole-in-the-wall izakayas where working-class people enjoy a serving of sake with their grilled skewers and to high-end restaurants serving some of the most sophisticated meals you’ll ever see, there’s always a budget for everything. You can always splurge or save on your meals but the fun part is, your expectations will always be met. It’s a city where one can find comfort in sharing drinks with complete strangers turn new friends, a haven not just for tourists but also for locals and foodies.
And because of that, listed down are carefully curated edible gems you should try when visiting the city of Tokyo in which you can also check out the restaurants and food joints that serve these unique dishes. Munch on these delectable treats and soon you’ll find that you can’t get enough of them.
Let's start with our Tokyo Food Guide for 2020.
Like ramen, sushi is one of the dishes you shouldn’t miss when visiting Tokyo. It may be small and perfectly fits the palm of your hand but this bite-size dish is big on flavor and texture. It’s an iconic dish that comes in many forms but is essentially a combination of vinegared rice and seafood, sometimes an addition of nori (seaweed).
In recent years, sushi has been developing different flavors and methods, making it accessible to everyone. Some fear the idea of eating raw food that’s why sushi opened its way to boiling or roasting ingredients such as tofu, vegetables, and even wagyu beef for meat lovers. Because of this, the search for the best sushi in Tokyo has been on-going ever since.
The different types of sushi are also something to be excited about because it gives variety to taste, size, and flavor. You can always take the classic nigiri-sushi and eat it on its own but if you like it fancy, there’s the maki-sushi, oshi-sushi, and gunkan-maki to name a few. And what’s also amazing about sushi is that you can find it almost everywhere. This delicate yet delectable dish is something one should definitely try.
There are a lot of restaurants which offer great servings of sushi. You can easily find it in convenience stores, stalls, and high-end restaurants. Because of its authenticity, some of these restaurants charge expensively but of course, you can always roam around and score these delicious fellows for a cheaper price without scrimping on flavor and taste.
Here are some top sushi restaurants in Tokyo!
Sushi Saito will probably take you months to get a reservation here but it’s all worth it. They are one of the best sushi dishes in town that a typical serving of sardine will come out exquisitely glorious.
Hashiguchi does not only serve a diverse selection of sushi, but it’s probably the only restaurant that serves dancing sushi. Chef Hashiguchi is known for using a certain method that puts pressure on the sushi, making it look like it’s dancing.
Sushi Zanmai is a budget-friendly sushi restaurant that doesn’t scrimp on flavors and servings. It’s a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant perfect for those who are eating sushi for the first time.
Sukibayashi Jiro is a famous sushi restaurant which offers Edo-style sushi. They only offer one thing on the menu and it’s the delicious omakase tasting menu which consists of 20 pieces of beautifully arranged sushi pieces.
Sugita may be one of the hardest sushi restaurants to place a reservation but once you’re in, you’re rewarded with iwashi roll (sardine roll), shima ebi, and his famous kinmedai nigiri which are one of the few items on the menu that will definitely keep you coming back for more.
It being the greatest Japanese invention is enough reason for you to get yourself a bowl of ramen. With its exceptionally mouth-watering broth, chewy noodles, and delicious toppings, it’s no doubt that ramen is one of the many highlights when visiting Tokyo. The best thing about ramen is that you can find it almost everywhere. A quick trip down the street and there’s a stall or a ramen-ya (special ramen restaurant) you can visit.
It’s a satisfying meal that you can eat any time of the day. For breakfast, afternoon delight, or maybe for that midnight thrill of sipping hot, savory broth to cap off the night. To everyone who’s had ramen, it’s definitely something worth lining for. You can order a different broth every time like shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt), and tonkatsu (pork-based).
For your choice of protein, you can always choose to have it with seafood, pork, or beef and you can also choose what type of noodles you’ll have like egg noodles or wheat noodles. Other varieties such as tantanmen, tsukemen (dripping noodles), and ebi ramen are also found in some restaurants and all of which are equally delectable.
Here's a list of some great places to try ramen in Tokyo!
Toripaitan Kageyama is a perfect place if you like chicken and ramen. Their specialty paitan ramen has one of the richest broth that has a refreshing aftertaste.
Enji serves up tsukemen, where ramen noodles are dipped in delicious, concentrated fish and pork ramen base.
Afuri is a vending machine like system where bowls of ramen are selected and ordered. One must order their signature dish called yuzu shoyu ramen.
Tonchin is where you find cheap but authentic ramen dishes that won’t burn your pockets. It is the pioneer of Tokyo tonkotsu shoyu ramen.
Tsuta is actually the first ramen shop to be awarded a Michelin star because of its popular signature dish called shoyusoba.
For a more detailed guide on where to eat ramen in Tokyo, check our Best Ramen in Tokyo article.
Tempura was first introduced by the Portuguese people in the 16th century and since then became a crowd favorite among people. If you think that tempura is just another deep fried dish on the menu, well think again. This deep fried goodness found its way to our hearts by being simple but packed with flavor.
Contrary to the popular belief, tempura doesn’t use panko (breadcrumbs) for its breading but a simple mixture of flour, eggs, water and sometimes seasonings like salt and pepper. This deep fried goodness is enjoyed on its own or with rice. It’s also best paired with a soba dish. One of the great things about making tempura is that you can use any ingredient to fry. It may be protein, vegetables, and even fruits! It’s also great with a sweet sauce. Savory or sweet, tempura is one delicious dish you’ll want your hands to get into.
Here are some recommended places to eat tempura in Tokyo.
Kondo is where you’ll find greaseless tempura dishes like asparagus, scallops, fish, and fruits.
Miyagawa is also a gem where they serve milder and lighter tempura dishes cooked in sunflower oil instead.
Fukamachi is a Michelin star tempura restaurant where their tempuras are fried in freshly pressed and unroasted sesame oil which gives of some of the best flavors in town.
Kaneko Hannosuke is an affordable restaurant which serves one tempura dish that is packed and delectable. If you don’t mind waiting and long to taste an authentic tempura dish, then this one is for you.
Gyoza may have been originated in China but it craze remained in Japan and has been a favorite ever since. This little fellow is normally filled with minced pork, chives, and cabbage and then wrapped in a dough wrapper. It is then shaped like an ear. You can have it fried, deep-fried, or boiled and then dipped in a sauce which is a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. You can always add chili oil if you like it spicy or maybe some garlic and sesame oil. It’s one of the most convenient dishes in Japan that you can have access to it everywhere. Though ready-made gyozas are available in supermarkets, nothing beats a freshly made one and we’re pretty sure you’ll be picking up more gyozas off the plate and be amazed on how a simple, little dumpling can make you go crazy.
Here are a few Tokyo gyoza shops selling delicious dumplings.
Sweet Baozi is a popular restaurant that serves a handmade gyoza dish which uses the same recipe for many years. The waiting game may be long but the promise of gyoza is worth it.
Okei serves traditional and authentic gyoza dishes that, among its patrons, best paired with beer.
Ichimireirei is a gyoza specialty restaurant that serves a variety of flavors ranging from tomato, seafood, lemon, and other different ingredients which may sound strange but actually works!
Though mostly packed, a trip to Kameido Gyoza won’t disappoint. They have affordable gyoza dishes that are so juicy and crispy, it goes well with beer.
Whether you’ve seen it being sold in stalls or restaurant, okonomiyaki will always be a favorite among locals and tourists. This versatile dish is something you can whip up at the comforts of your home. It’s made with pancake batter, shredded cabbage, and literally anything else you want to add ranging from your choice of protein to any additional vegetables.
There are actually two styles of making okonomiyaki: Kansai-style, wherein you mix all the ingredients and fry it while Hiroshima-style is where you layer the batter then the shredded cabbage which is repeated three to four times. Another type is negiyaki where green onions are used instead of shredded cabbage. Most people call it the food for the hungry soul because it’s easy to make and very hearty. With its versatility and availability, okonomiyaki is your go-to dish to prepare and make. It’s one of Japan’s most sociable dishes, great for sharing with family and friends.
Here are some great okonomiyaki restaurants in Tokyo.
In some restaurants, you can cook your own okonomiyaki and it’s a fun way to bond with your family and friends. Some of the best okonomiyaki dishes are served in Kiji Marunouchi.
If you’re looking for a guilt-free serving of okonomiyaki, full of fresh vegetables and don’t use oil, try Ushio.
Hiroki is popular among the crowd for serving cheap but delectable okonomiyaki dishes which a lot of their patrons go back to.
Osaka Kitchen lets you enjoy the time of making and cooking your own okonomiyaki and they are at very reasonable prices, too.
Usually served during winter, oden is one of the oldest dishes in Japan. Mostly seen placed in stainless steel food warmers in restaurants and convenience stores, it’s a dish that reminds you of home. A heartwarming stew made of firm tofu, fish cakes, daikon (radish), boiled eggs, and other ingredients simmered in mouth-watering dashi broth. Variations can be made with oden. Some add boiled potatoes while others are hardboiled eggs. It’s a convenient meal because you can always add more ingredients while the broth simmers. Add a dab of spicy mustard and your oden is ready to be eaten. It’s the perfect companion for cold days and is also quite enjoyable all year round.
Here are some fantastic oden shops in Tokyo for the soul-warming dish.
Konakara is an oden specialty restaurant serving original oden dishes to their guests. Among the popular oden dishes is Tori Supaisu Tsukune which has spiced chicken meatballs and Kyo-ganmo which has deep fried tofu mashed with carrots, seaweed, and has a quail egg in the center.
Otaku has their bestselling toumeshi dish that makes people go back to this restaurant. It’s a special oden dish with rice simmered in delicious dashi broth and topped with a hefty serving of tofu. It might sound too simple but its taste is to die for.
Oden is perfect to be paired with sake (rice wine) and in Tokuichi, you get exactly that. They serve their oden Kansai-style which has an almost light clear broth with a rich flavor that cuts through once you’ve down it with sake. Aside from that, they also serve their a delicious oden dish during summer which is called Hayashi-oden or cold oden.
Azabu Ichigo is the only Michelin-starred oden restaurant in Tokyo. Their oden dish is prepared with its one of a kind blend of eight different broth seasoned with salt from the Noto Peninsula.
A quintessential staple in festivals during summer, takoyaki is a crowd favorite. It is a round, perfectly fried dish made with pancake batter, green onions, ginger, and of course, the famous octopus. Because of its rising popularity, takoyaki is now found almost everywhere. A warning to those who will eat takoyaki for the first time: it’s best eaten while it's piping hot but if you’re patient enough, let it cool a bit and enjoy it.
Typically, takoyaki is served with a special sweet sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and topped with dried seaweed. Of course, let’s not forget katsuobushi (bonito flakes). This salty, paper-thin fermented bonito tuna is probably the most interesting part because of the way they look like they’re dancing on top of takoyaki. There are also other varieties such as adding shredded cabbage instead of green onions. It’s a delicious cultural experience with its outside crispiness and gooey, soft inside that will surely hook you up the first time you take a bite out of it.
Here are some of Tokyo's top takoyaki shops!
Gindaco is probably the most popular takoyaki restaurant in the country. Started out in 1997, the business grew big and now they have several other chains in Asia. A must try is their ebi tartar and cheese mentaiko.
Ginza Fukuyoshi serves traditional takoyaki dishes. Their takoyaki is fluffy may be the fluffiest one you’ll ever have with a crispy exterior. Their batter, which is always made from scratch, has dashi which makes it richer.
Takohachi has their own style of eating takoyaki which follows an old tradition that instead of being served with sauces, takoyaki is dipped in dashi to enhance the flavor. They strictly don’t let the guests eat the takoyaki with the sauce.
Takoazabu is an izakaya-style takoyaki restaurant which is home to 11 types of takoyaki. Pair it with ice cold beer and you’re good to go.
It’s known for being the caviar of meat and don’t think too quickly that it’s just another slab of meat on your place because wagyu is more than that. Literally translated as Japanese cow, wagyu is known for its supreme quality. Raising your own cattle has only been a recent tradition but it’s already been booming in the business.
There are four breeds of wagyu which are: kuroge washu (Japanese black), akage washu (Japanese brown), mukaku washu (Japanese polled), and nihon tankaku washu (Japanese shorthorn). One probably thinks that steak is the only way to prepare and serve wagyu but you can actually enjoy it on a stick, hamburgers, teppanyaki, and even in your favorite sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. It’s actually a versatile ingredient and most people, even after eating it for lots of time, still go crazy for that first bite in their wagyu dish. It’s a melt-in-your-mouth goodness that will keep you coming back for more.
Here are some fantastic restaurants for Japanese wagyu beef in Tokyo!
Nihonbashi Iseju has been up and running since Meiji period and serves sukiyaki with wagyu in it. Everything is prepared fresh and their serving of wagyu in their sukiyaki is top-notch. After finishing a bowl, you’ll probably have seconds or maybe thirds of that delicious wagyu in their sukiyaki.
Imafuku is a one-star Michelin restaurant proves that they have the best shabu-shabu in the city and it never fails to deliver the supreme quality of this dish to their guests. You can also watch as the chef slices your beef before serving it to you.
Vacca Rossa offers glorious slices of wagyu beef steaks to its guests. Buttery and almost melts in your mouth, they serve their wagyu beef in a mass of 4cm with their signature gravy.
Blacows is a classic burger joint that will give you the best burger experience in the city. They only use fresh and top quality ingredients, which of course is a 100% fresh kuroge wagyu beef.
Although cheesecakes aren’t a traditional dessert in Japan, this dessert somehow made way to Japanese people’s hearts. Unlike the familiar New York-based cheesecake, which is quite dense and rich, Japanese cheesecakes are more akin to the chiffon-like texture which is light and fluffy. It is less sweet and is the perfect companion to a cup of coffee or maybe a cup of green tea. One can find cheesecakes practically in every café or bakery in the city and the whole country, each one serving a unique version of their own. They can be plain, topped with fresh fruits or compotes, or may be mixed with other ingredients.
Here are a few cheesecake shops in Tokyo for the decadent dessert!
Cheese Garden is known for their bestselling Goyotei Cheesecake that is so perfect and smooth, you kind of don’t want to ruin it by slicing it. It oozes out with sophistication and refinement every time and every bite is a heavenly treat.
Tokyo Buono produces stick shaped cheesecakes which are individually wrapped and very convenient to eat anytime. You can buy a whole box of it and take it with you anywhere.
Cinq Cinq has ten different varieties of cheesecakes in one cake! Made from quality cheese from Hokkaido, their base is a basic cheesecake which is incorporated with different flavors and textures. They have slices of chocolate cheesecake which has Belgian chocolate in it, blueberry, apple, yuzu, tomato, strawberry, fig, pumpkin, cherry blossoms, Le Lectier pears, and dekopon mandarin oranges.
Shirotae Cake Shop's cheesecake is clearly the fan favorite among the bunch. It has a buttery and crumbly crust that is layered with a rich and creamy cheesecake. It’s topped with slivers of pistachios for that right crunch in every bite.