Written By Rituparna Ghosh.
Tasting the local cuisines of Japan is one of the greatest advantages of travelling to the country. The essence of their traditional cuisine is unique and hard to cook and find in other countries in the world.
Tokyo being the capital of Japan is covered with many traditional Japanese restaurants along with some restaurants providing cuisines from all around the world. I have listed some of the best restaurants in Tokyo which are highly popular among international visitors as well as the locals.
1. Ise Sueyoshi
Ise Sueyoshi is a restaurant in central Tokyo, located between Roppongi and Hiroo. It is a private Japanese restaurant, serving traditional kaiseki style Japanese cuisine.
The people here can enjoy the four seasons of Japan on a plate. The visitors fall over themselves to get a reservation in the restaurant as there are only 5 seats at the counter and 6 tables, that serves only 11 people at a time. The chef and the owner of the restaurant Chef Yuki Tanaka has a unique background that reflects on every dish in the restaurant.
Before opening his own restaurant in 2015, the chef studied the secrets of traditional Japanese cuisine at the renowned restaurant Kikunoi which is located in Kyoto. After that, he went on a road trip and visited over 15 countries including Canada and Toronto, armed with soy sauce and some kelp.
His travels among those countries taught him that a country’s food culture is always born out of local ingredients. After returning to Japan he headed back to his native land Ise in Mie Prefecture and made connections with the farmers and other food producers.
Mie Prefecture is always known as the treasure trove of foodstuffs as it is blessed with both the mountains and sea. Finally, he opened his own restaurant in 2015, using the highest quality ingredients from the ancient city of Ise. The authentic dishes speak the history and culture of the chef in an extraordinary way.
The chef offers food to the guests by sharing the backstory with a rich experience and deep understanding of each dish and ingredients. For foreign visitors, willing to learn about Japanese culinary culture, the restaurant provides a Multi-language leaflet with information about Kaiseki cuisine, basic knowledge and etiquette.
The chef also prepares the dishes according to his guests’ preferences and explains the origins of the food to them in English during each course. Talking about food, apart from the traditional kaiseki cuisine, the restaurant also provides Vegetarian, Halal, Vegan and Gluten-free dishes.
Address– Mizuno Bldg 3F, 4-2-15 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku. It is situated at 11 minutes walking distance from Roppongi Station.
Opening Hours– 06:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Cuisine– Japanese, Sushi, Kaiseki, Kappo.
Uobei is popularly known for its high-speed servicing of Sushi in a bullet train and Racing car. It is located in Mizuho, Tokyo and allows each customer to order dishes using touch screen tablets. This innovation helps the customers to order multiple items multiple times without calling a waiter and waitress every time and to make the customers comfortable.
Uobei has styled their delivery trays as a mini version of different kinds of trains and cars that one can find around Japan. All a guest needs to do is just select the dishes using the tablets and the items will be in front of them within a minute.
Among the different kinds of Sushi, there is Ikura Gunkan (fresh salmon Sushi with fish and egg on top of rice), Caprese flavoured Sushi ( topped with Basil and Tomato), a standard Nigiri-style Sushi ( raw fish on the top of rice), Gunkan-style Sushi ( loose toppings on top of boat-shaped rice and seaweed) which is also called the Battleship Sushi.
Some classic Nigiri Sushi, including Tuna, Salmon and Mackerel can be found in any Sushi restaurant, but Tempura Shrimp, Hamburger Sushi and limited-edition Crazy Sushi that includes Raisin Cream Cheese Sushi and Gyoza Dumpling topped Sushi can be found in Uobei, only for a few weeks at a time.
As the food servicing gadgets i,e trains and racing cars attracts most of the kids, the restaurant offers a cute set of kids meal which includes their own paper vehicle.
Another interesting part of the restaurant is they never put Wasabi on Sushi, whereas the customers in other Sushi restaurants request the waiter or chef to exclude it from the order as the Wasabi is automatically put on the Sushi.
Uobei allows the customers to add as much or as little Wasabi as they like. And also, if you are not in the mood of having Sushi then you can go for the other dishes, such as Fried Chicken, French Fries and Ramen.
Address- 2-29-11 Dogenzaka 1f, Shibuya 150-0043 Tokyo. It is located at 5 minutes walking distance from Shibuya station.
Timings- 11:00 am to 11:00 pm.
Cuisine- Japanese, Seafood, Fast food and Sushi.
3. Han no Daidokoro
The restaurant is a sleek lounge, located on the 4th floor of the Dogenzaka Center Building in Shibuya. It is one of the best restaurants in Tokyo and has been awarded as the most popular restaurant in Japan among international tourists by Tripadvisor in 2018.
The restaurant serves the best quality meats and provides excellent service to the guests. The chef and all the staff here are very friendly and happy to recommend their prided cuisine to the guests on their first visit. An English set menu is available for foreign visitors.
With a relaxing atmosphere, the guests can enjoy their meal in private seating. The restaurant serves Korean style Yakiniku (grilled dish) with the finest Japanese Wagyu beef ( the game changer).
Wagyu is a high-quality type of beef specific to Japan, which is enjoyed as a yakiniku. Han no Daidokoro is popular among the guests for its great quality wagyu beef. The wagyu beef is being purchased by the restaurant as a whole from the Yamagata prefecture so that they can serve to the guests every cut of the meat including the rarest parts.
They serve the Yamagata wagyu beef at a lower price than other Wagyu Beef restaurants in Tokyo. Kobe beef and Wagyu sushi are highly praised by the guests. As the restaurant allows 96 seats at a time, prior reservation is not needed here.
Address– 2-28-5 Dogenzaka Shuei Bldg B1F, Shibuya. It is located at 2 minutes walking distance from Shibuya station.
Timing– Lunch from 11:30 am to 03:00 pm and Dinner from 05:30 pm to 11:00 pm.
Cuisine– Barbecue, Asian, Korean, Japanese, Steakhouse.
4. II Ristorante Luca Fantin
Il Ristorante Luca Fantin is located on the ninth floor of the Bulgari building, in Ginza district. The restaurant offers a contemporary interpretation of traditional Italian cuisine in a stylish dining room and with an urban atmosphere.
Established in the year 2009, the restaurant celebrated its 10th year anniversary in September 2019. The chef uses high-quality seasonal Japanese ingredients with his excellent cooking techniques and artistic creativity and creates elegant dishes that are very popular among the local as well as international visitors.
The famous Bento Box is carefully crafted one by one, using only the fresh ingredients carefully selected by Executive Chef Luca Fantin himself, and gives the customers a traditional Italian dining experience at home. The restaurant is decorated with spectacular Chandeliers, seasonal dishes, high ceilings and perfectly ironed white linen tableware.
In 2015 the chef was awarded as the Best Italian Chef in the World, and in the same year the restaurant was renamed as ”Il Ristorante – Luca Fantin” from its previous name ‘Il Ristorante’.The restaurant held a Michelin star since 2011. Mr Fantin focuses on using Japanese ingredients to create Italian classics with a modern twist.
Address- Bulgari Ginza Tower 2-7-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Timings- Sunday to Saturday. Lunch from 11:30 am to 02:00 pm and Dinner from 05:30 pm to 08:30 pm.
Cuisine- Italian and European.
Kikko is the most sophisticated Japanese restaurant, located in Asakusa, just a stone’s throw from Sensoji Temple. It provides authentic Japanese cuisine and entertains the guests with the live music performance of Shamisen, which is a traditional Japanese musical instrument.
Shamisen is a long three-stringed Japanese guitar played with a plectrum, based out of Western Aomori Prefecture. The guests here can enjoy the beauty of Japan through its food, architecture and various performances. Sometimes folk-songs are sung by the performers.
It has been awarded the top restaurant in Taito ward (includes Asakusa) by TripAdvisor. Mr Kodai Fukui, the owner of the restaurant and one of Japan’s most accomplished Tsugaru shamisen musicians entertains the guests with his performance.
Mr Fukui opened this restaurant in order to serve his guests to leisurely listen to Tsugaru Shamisen while dining and chilling with friends and family. Shamisen is performed four times a day, two times during lunch and two times during dinner.
The interior decoration of the restaurant is a reconstruction of an old Japanese house and between each seat, there is a little more space than usual so that the guests can enjoy their food slowly and comfortably. The house was shifted to the current location some 50 years ago and is a wooden building with its flagstone entry, rustic furnishings, wooden rafters and tatami seating which is rare in Asakusa today.
Listening to tones of Tsugaru shamisen music while dining in this warm space is a lifetime experience anyone could ever have. The restaurant provides three seating options – chairs, tables, and a “horigotatsu” (low table over an opening on the floor to put your feet in) so that each guest can choose the seating options to their convenience.
The lunch menu and the dinner menu are different from each other. During lunch, the menu is called “ Waen Gozen ”, which includes 9 dishes, which are served to the guests and some dishes are even served in a bento box, which is a Japanese style lunch box. This place truly represents the customs and traditions of Japan.
During dinner, Kaiseki ryori and Fugu (Blowfish) Kaiseki are served. Three kinds of Kaiseki ryori and two kinds of Fugu Kaiseki are being offered by the restaurant. The contents of Kaiseki ryori are changed every month so that the guests can have fresh seasonal food.
All the dishes are described in English and the staff can speak in English to a certain extent. During the Tsugaru shamisen performance an explanation in English will be given. Also, a prior reservation is required.
Address– 2-2-13 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo. It is at 5 minutes walk from Asakusa station.
Timing– Lunch from 11:30 am to 02:30 pm and Dinner from 05:00 pm to 10:00 pm (Closed on Wednesdays).
Cuisine– Japanese and Asian.
This is another restaurant in Tokyo that serves the best quality Wagyu Beef along with some popular seafood dishes. It won the” Certificate of Excellence Award ” from Tripadvisor and held the position for 4 years in a row. The restaurant offers a wide selection of drinks and all-you-can-eat options to the guests.
The restaurant is popular among the locals and as well as foreign visitors from all around the world. The delicious taste of Japanese beef such as Matsuzaka beef and Black Hair Beef will melt in your mouth instantly.
Established some 32 years ago, this restaurant serves high-quality beef cooked in three different styles, such as yakiniku, shabu-shabu and sukiyaki.
The restaurant is decorated in traditional Japanese style, bringing you a very relaxing and cosy atmosphere while dining and provides 20 table seats and 20 private rooms. Assorted Matsusaka Beef Sirloin Plate is highly recommended by the guests.
Address- 1-3-1 Sunflower Bldg.6 to 7F, Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0023 Tokyo. It is at 3 minutes walking distance from Shinjuku Station.
Timing- Monday to Friday, Lunch from 11:00 am to 04:00 pm and Dinner from 05:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
Florilège is considered one of the best French restaurants in Tokyo. Meaning anthology in French, it is the stage for chef Hiroyasu Kawate’s imaginative modern French cooking. In 2016 the restaurant won the One To Watch Award, and listed itself within the top five of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, consecutively for two years.
In High School, the chef specialised in French food and spent his later kitchen years in Paris. He also secured senior positions in some of Tokyo’s most famous restaurants, including Quintessence and Le Bourguignon. In 2009, he opened Florilège in a backstreet in Minami-Aoyama and in 2015 shifted to the current location in Shibuya.
The restaurant allows only 20 seatings at a time and provides a private room for 5 to 6 people on guests’ choice. English service is available for the convenience of foreign visitors. As the menu is mainly French, there are some few pages reserved for Japanese wines.
Guests here can also go for an alternative pairing that serves herbal cocktails, infusions of beer and spirits and smoked wine. Some signature dishes of the restaurant are green prawn, manjū dumplings stuffed with pigeon and simmered in port wine, duck and oxalis, sustainable beef carpaccio. The colourful drinks include beetroot purée, red apple sorbet and smoked potato purée.
Address- 2−5−4, Zinguumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
Timing- Lunch from 12:00 pm to 01:30 pm and Dinner from 06:30 pm to 08:00 pm (closed on Wednesdays). It is located at 0.7 kilometres distance from Omotesando.
8. Hakushu Teppanyaki
Hakushu Teppanyaki is a family-run restaurant in Shibuya, Tokyo. Teppanyaki is the best way to enjoy Japanese Wagyu Beef, and Hakushu Teppanyaki is one of the best and authentic Teppanyaki restaurants serving glorious Kobe beef and top-ranked Wagyu beef in Japan.
It held 3rd position on the Tripadvisor 2019 Travelers’ Choice Awards list. The guests can watch delicious Kobe beef grilled to perfection before their eyes. Apart from their signature dish shrimp, squid, and Kobe beef fillets are very popular among the guests.
Since the restaurant is extremely popular among the guests, it is recommended to reserve seats in advance. It serves 20 guests at a time in a cosy atmosphere with warm and friendly hospitality. The staff can speak in English to a certain extent. The restaurant is considered to be the heaven for beef lovers.
Address- 150-0031 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Sakuragaokacho, 17−10. It is located at 4 minutes walking distance from Shibuya station South Exit.
Timings- 11:00 am to 11:00 pm.
Cuisine- Japanese, Steakhouse, Asian, Grill.
Established in the year 2015, Den has been a Japanese restaurant with a difference. The chef and owner of the restaurant Zaiyu Hasegawa welcome his guests with a playful and warm personality. He took Japanese traditional kaiseki cuisine and some series of intricate dishes, known for their wealth of rules and formal approach and reinvented it into ‘fun dining’ for the visitors.
Widely celebrated as The Best Restaurant in Japan, it is also awarded as Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, and Art of Hospitality Award 2019, sponsored by Legal. The restaurant is an inextricable combination of two elements, which are impeccable food and selfless hospitality.
Zayu Hasegawa offers his guests elevated and Japanese home-cooking dishes influenced by home-grown ingredients along with some other ingredients from forests, pastures and the ocean.
Den is the ideal place to dine, not just because of its warm welcome and unique customised dishes but the chef’s own visit’s into the dining room and his positive sense of humour makes the guests feel special. English menu and English speaking staff are also available here.
The guests can enjoy their signature dish foie gras monaka, which is a wafer sandwich, and a fresh vegetable salad plucked from the Den’s garden, featuring a carrot with cut-out eyes and a smile, inspired by the chef’s mother, who used to put a smiley face in his lunch boxes.
The chef applies the same spirit, to bring smiles to the faces of his guests. Some other dishes of the restaurant are the Kentucky Fried Chicken, which comes with a customised fast-food take-out carton and the Donabe-Gohan, a clay pot-cooked rice with wagyu beef or seafood.
Address- 2-3-18 Jingumae Kenchikuka Kaikan JIA Bldg., Shibuya 150-0001 Tokyo
Timings- 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm (closed on Sundays). It is located at10 minutes walking distance from Gaienmae station.
Nakiryu is the best place for lovers of authentic Japanese Ramen. In 2017 it became only the second ramen restaurant in Tokyo, Japan to be awarded a Michelin star. Though the restaurant was popular earlier, it has gained an incredible amount of fame after receiving the honour.
The owner of this restaurant worked as a chef in Hong Kong’s famous MIST, a shop specialising in Ramen that earned a Michelin star in 2011. The menu here includes dishes like Tantanmen and hot-and-sour soup, Shoyu ramen and Shio ramen, Tsukemen like Tantan Tsukemen and Shoyu Tsukemen.
They also provide a La Carte menu in the evening. Additionally, all of these dishes here are highly rated and have won prizes, like winning the first position in Ramen TRY. The tantanmen is made of thin home-made noodles at its base and an original “triple soup”.
The decoration of this restaurant is very simple. The dining room and kitchen are covered with white walls and exposed pipes and lights and have a modern, industrial, warm and welcoming atmosphere. The staff are highly professional and greet their guests with warm and polite behaviour. In fact, international visitors make up a lot of their clientele.
Address- 2-34-10, Minamiotsuka, Toshima-ku, Tokyo, 1700005, Japan. It is located at 5 minutes walking distance from Otsuka Station.
Timings- Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and Dinner form 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Cuisine- Japanese and Asian.
Also Read: Japan’s Obsession with Robots and Automation.
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Rituparna Ghosh is a contributor to The Strong Traveller and holds a post-graduation degree on English Literature. She is a movie enthusiast, loves travelling, reading books and cooking different dishes, and wants to use her knowledge and skills to promote a good cause to the society.