Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. If you want to sample authentic sushi, sashimi, tempura, maki or tofu, there is no better place to try it than in the capital city of the land where it originated. Once there, you might as well try them out in the city’s best dining places.
Here now is a list of the top 10 best restaurants in Tokyo.
10. Tofuya Ukai – 4-4-13 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku
Think of Tofuya Ukai as a restaurant that looks like a hotel. There is no central dining room, as diners are led to private chambers that have low tables and tatami mats, though there are some with chairs available as well. The emphasis is on tofu, freshly made at the restaurant’s small workshop in Tokyo. Be prepared for an overload of soy, as the tofu cubes are cooked in soya milk combined with chicken broth, before being topped off with yuba tofu skin.
9. Akasaka Kikunoi – 6-13-8 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Yoshihiro Murata owns and is the primary chef of Akasaka Kikunoi. The restaurant actually started out in Kyoto before it branched out to Tokyo. Even in the Tokyo joint, one will be transported to Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto with its simple and traditional wooden décor and bamboo-lined path lighted up by lanterns. Murata knows how to bring out the umami taste especially from the dashi soup stock that is the basis of all his dishes. Be prepared to spend about three hours for a full-course dinner.
8. Bird Land Ginza – Tsukamoto Building B1F, 4-2-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Grilling yakitori, or chicken, skewers is an old Japanese tradition. Toshihiro Wada took off from this and made it a cuisine of substance and class. Only top-of-the-line and free range shamo gamecock are used, with the meat cooked over expensive Bincho charcoal. The meals usually start with the restaurant’s liver pate before the diner moves to the sasami white meat coated with wasabi. The sansho-yaki is to die for, as the breast meat is sprinkled with Japanese pepper.
7. Narisawa – 2-6-15 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
Yoshihiro Narisawa is an eclectic chef that serves modern cuisine in this modern restaurant. The dining room is gleaming and has a view of the kitchen through huge picture windows. Some may mistake it as a French restaurant, but once tasted, everything is purely Narisawa’s Japanese magic. It starts from the herbs and edible soil and the damper-style bread, all the way to the char-cooked vegetables and succulent Wagyu beef. The restaurant also has a wine cellar with a strong collection of Burgundies. There is also a trolley that serves cheese to complement the wine.
6. Sushi Mizutani – Juno Ginza Seiwa Building 9F, 8-7-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku
This is as austere as it could get. Sushi Mizutani has no decorations whatsoever. There are no tables as well. Hand phones, cameras, and even perfumes are highly discouraged. The only thing in the restaurant is a long counter and some hushed conversations. The sushi will then arrive in a set order depending on the season, but the most desired are the bluefin and the abalone.
5. Aronia de Takazawa – Sanyo Akasaka Building 2F, 3-5-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku
If you want exclusivity, Aronia de Takazawa is the place to go. That is, if you can ever book a table. The restaurant has two tables and can serve only a maximum of eight people. The restaurant has no window and spot lighting and flawless wood paneling mark the atmosphere. Yoshiaki Takazawa prepares the food himself, while his wife Akiko serves and explains the food in English. Signature dishes include the ratatouille terrine with vegetables, carpenter’s salade nicoise with sashimi tuna, and slow-cooked seafood with bamboo shoot and seaweed.
4. Nodaiwa – 1-5-4 Higashi-Azabu, Minato-ku
Nodaiwa is the restaurant for lovers of eel, a long-time favorite of the working class. The restaurant, however, has transformed the dish into something more refined. The owner is a fifth-generation chef, so the meal’s preparation is an inherited secret. Only wild eels are used because farm-bred ones do not have the same taste and texture. The ground floor is the place for unaju, or eel fillets broiled to a golden brown while retaining its juiciness. The upper rooms are dedicated to banquets, highlighted by the shirayaki, a steamed and grilled eel topped with caviar.
3. Nihonryori Ryugin – Side Roppongi Building 1F, 7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato-ku
The Nihonryori Ryugin boasts of Seiji Yamamoto, a chef with three Michelin stars. He is widely acclaimed for his modern take on classic Japanese cuisine. He has brought out even more taste from dishes like the sakuradai snapper and hand-reared Iwate wagyu beef. The restaurant also serves the creamy an-kimo, which is actually monkfish liver that is considered the foie gras of the sea. The candy pear dessert is simply amazing, as it has been nitro-chilled to -196 degrees Celsius, then topped off with the fruit’s sauce boiled to 99 degrees Celsius.
2. Mikawa Zezankyo – 1-3-1 Fukuzumi, Koto-ku
Entering the restaurant, one would think of it as a non-traditional Japanese place, with all its European antique decorations and fedora-shaped extractor hood. Yet, there is traditional lacquer work as well. The place is not that easy to go to because it is in the residential back streets. It’s not easy to grab a chair as well, as only nine people can be served at a time. However, the tempura and vegetables are simply amazing, probably one of the best. Tetsuya Saotome, the chef, works alone and uses the Edomae style, in which except for some exceptions, only ingredients available 150 years ago are used.
1. Kozue – Park Hyatt Hotel, 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
This is Japanese kaiseki, or haute cuisine, at its best. Must-tries include the torafugu puffer fish during the winter, ayu sweetfish in the summer, and matsutake mushrooms during the fall. Premium wagyu is available all year round. All these can be consumed from the luxury of the 40th floor while taking in a view of the Mt. Fuji’s cone silhouette.
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