Tokyo food guide

A Tokyo Food Guide – 15 foods to try

By Sarah Chin A Sen

One of the things that the Japanese capital is known for is its incredible food scene. As the city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants, Tokyo has a lot to offer to the foodies of this world. You’ll find places for every budget and for every taste. From marbled meat to fresh fish, from fried food to light, sweet pastries, the Japanese cuisine knows no boundaries and you probably won’t get to taste it all in one trip. So, here are a few Tokyo food items that will give you a good glimpse of the Japanese food culture. We also give our suggestions for where to find them.

 

Sushi & Sashimi

Let’s start our Tokyo food list with the obvious — sushi! This dish is a staple of Japanese cuisine. Vinegared rice with (raw) seafood and vegetables, most often eaten with wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce… this dish needs no introduction. The Japanese capital has some of the best places for delicious sushi.

Uoriki Kaisen Sushi in Shibuya
Go through the traditional Japanese curtains (also known as noren) of Uoriki Kaisen Sushi for affordable, high-quality sushi! It’s quite a small place for such a popular restaurant, but it keeps a cozy and intimate atmosphere, and you’ll feel like a true local in there! The food is amazing, and the fish melts in your mouth.

 

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Tsukiji Fish Market
The Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the largest wholesale fish and seafood markets in the world. It has countless shops and restaurants spread across several alleyways. It’s great for Japanese sushi as the seafood there is really fresh! The restaurants are open early in the morning until the early afternoon, so you can easily grab a sushi breakfast or lunch.

 

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Yakitori

These Japanese skewers are made of meat from different parts of the chicken: breast, wings, liver. There’s also a vegetarian version of it, with mushrooms for instance, as well as the less traditional beef or pork skewers. They are grilled over a charcoal fire and served with delicious beer. It’s a very popular dish in Japan and abroad, but still remains an amazing Tokyo food to try out!

Tokoshima
Near the Shibuya train station, this small place has gained a reputation for being an excellent yakitori restaurant. The chicken is carefully prepared and skillfully cooked on a charcoal fire. The natural taste of the meat is highlighted with simple seasonings, and every part of the animal is used (including the heart, ovaries, intestine cartilage, and so on).

 

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Torisawa
Every dish served at Torisawa is cooked to perfection. The chef takes you on a journey of culinary discovery. In addition to the yakitori dishes, you can also order other Japanese dishes such as the traditional tamago gohan (rice with raw eggs), which is way more exciting (and tasty) than it sounds!

 

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Ramen

Ramen can be found everywhere in Tokyo. With different soup bases, the ramen noodles are the real stars of the dish. Every ramen chef has his own version and secret recipe that make their ramen dishes unique. The thickness, the shape, the doneness and the chewiness are all essential characteristics of the noodles that greatly vary from one ramen creator to the other.

Tokyo Station Ramen Street
Ever heard of the Tokyo Ramen Street? If you’re looking for a good ramen, this is THE Tokyo food district to visit. Located next to Tokyo Station, it has 8 ramen restaurants, and you can’t go wrong with whichever one you choose to try out.

 

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Konjiki Hototogisu
While Konjiki Hototogisu is one of the few ramen restaurants that has a Michelin star, their excellent ramen options still remain very affordable. Hidden in the narrow alleyways of Shinjuku, this small place can get quite busy, so be prepared to queue before getting a table.

 

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Okonomiyaki

Anyone fancy a delicious okonomiyaki? This Japanese savory pancake is an explosion of flavors. There are also so many options to choose from in terms of ingredients, including vegetables, shrimp, meat, octopus, and green onions. Just choose your toppings and get your pancake on the grill! Although Osaka is especially famous for its okonomiyaki, Tokyo has great places to taste this incredible dish as well.

Sometarō
One of the best places to taste this typical Japanese dish is Sometarō in Tokyo. This little restaurant in an old wooden shack has an amazing, authentic atmosphere. It might get a little hot during summer, as heat spreads out from the hot iron plates that are constantly on, but the food is completely worth it!

 

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Sakura Tei
In the Harajuku area of Tokyo, Sakura Tei is an artistic and colorful okonomiyaki restaurant. The walls are covered in paintings, creating this artsy, out of this world atmosphere. And the food is delicious! Choose your okonomiyaki from their menu. Or you can pick your toppings and create your own dish!

 

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Soba noodles

Soba are these delicious buckwheat noodles that look a lot like spaghetti. Although they can be eaten either hot or cold, soba noodles are most often served cold and dipped in soya sauce. The less popular hot soba dishes are often not available all year long. If you do taste the hot version, don’t hesitate to slurp loudly, as is customary, because it helps cool them down and enhances their flavors!

Kanda Yabu Soba
After a destructive fire, this popular soba restaurant rose from the ashes. Since then, the establishment has continued to satisfy its customers with their delicious buckwheat noodles. The whole place is as charming as before, with an added modern touch. Their expertise in soba noodles really shows, as each dish is as delicious as the next.

 

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Kyourakutei Soba
Kyourakutei is quite well-known by soba noodle lovers! With an affordable menu, the chefs excel in their technique and food preparation. I can promise that you’ll leave the place full and satisfied. Truly an address to add to your try-outs on TWISPER!

 

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Tempura

The Japanese have managed to create light fried food. Tempura – deep fried seafood and vegetables – can be served as a main dish or as a side dish accompanying soba or rice bowls (called tendon).

Tempura Shinjuku Tsunahachi Ginza
In Shinjuku, Tsunahachi is a tempura institution on the Tokyo food scene. You might have to line up to enter the restaurant, but the line disappears quickly. It is quite a pricy option, and you’ll find many cheaper dishes elsewhere, but the food is truly amazing there! I recommend sitting at the counter to be able to witness the skills of the chefs.

 

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Fukamachi
Considered by some as the best tempura restaurant in Tokyo, Fukamachi attracts many locals and tourists. Fried food has never been lighter. The very thin batter perfectly highlights the fresh ingredients and gives it a delightful crunchiness. The experience at this restaurant is truly out of this world.

 

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Japanese pancakes

The fluffy Japanese version of pancakes has been all over the internet for the past few years! This Tokyo food trend is a real treat, and Tokyo has great spots for you to taste those jiggling, luscious pancakes. The batter is aerated, which gives them a “soufflé” look, and they are often cooked in ring molds to give them their perfectly round shape.

Flipper’s
Flipper’s is a very popular Japanese pancake café with several branches in the country. In Tokyo, a queue often lines up in front of the place, but trust me, the food there is worth the wait. The pancakes are the fluffiest I’ve ever tasted. It’s like biting into a cloud.

 

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Burn Side St Café
Another pancake hotspot in the Japanese capital, Burn Side St Café serves exquisite soufflé pancakes! Like Flipper’s, it’s a really popular place, so expect a bit of a line that stretches outside the café entrance. But it’s a great place for brunch or an afternoon break. You can also get French toast, smoothies, sandwiches, etc.

Japanese tea

Tea lover or not, when in Japan, you need to visit one of the country’s many tea houses. Tea is an important part of the Japanese food culture. Green tea, in particular, is the most commonly drunk beverage. Formerly a luxury product enjoyed by the wealthiest in very small amounts, it has grown in popularity. Nowadays, people still have tea ceremonies to enjoy an intimate, calm and spiritual moment.
If you prefer cold over hot, the Japanese have even incorporated their green tea in their famous matcha ice cream. You’ll find small shops and convenience stores selling it all over Tokyo!

Kosoan
Kosoan is one of the best places you can go to for the authentic Japanese tea experience!
The tea house is surrounded by a beautiful Japanese garden and offers a calming shelter from the hustle and bustle of the Japanese capital. Take your shoes off, enter the haven that is Kosoan, and sit in the traditional seiya style (on your knees). Have a tea with a small sweet pastry like the Japanese do, and enjoy the relaxing experience.

 

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Maikoya
Wanna feel like a true Japanese person for a few minutes? Head to Maikoya for an authentic green tea ceremony in a tatami room, as you wear a traditional Japanese kimono. It’s a great way to experience the Japanese culture from within. Highly recommended!

 

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Takoyaki

Originally from Osaka, takoyaki are very popular in Tokyo as well! The batter is mainly filled with octopus, along with spices and spring onions. It is then cooked in a ball shape, and toppings such as Japanese mayonnaise and bonito flakes are added to finish off the dish. Many creative cooks do not hesitate to stray from the popular original octopus filling and adapt the recipe to their tastes.

8864
In Shinbashi, 8864 is a takoyaki bar where locals come to have a short lunch break or a small snack after work. They have great beers to accompany your dish. The place is quite small but cozy. It kind of reminds me of a tapas place, but Japanese-style!

 

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Gindaco
Even though takoyaki is a street food, it is considered rude in Japan to eat while walking. At Gindaco, the stand-up bar allows you to eat your takoyaki in the true Japanese street food fashion. They also serve really good variations on the original octopus recipe.

 

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Wagyu & Kobe beef

Kobe beef is the most famous variety of wagyu beef (meat from cattle carefully reared in Japan). The cattle are rumored to be massaged by the herders, and their food consists of a special blend. The marbling of the meat is the result of long periods of fattening and makes the beef taste better due to the unsaturated fat giving it a buttery flavor. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? 🤩

Hakushu Teppanyaki
If you’re looking for an amazing beef teppanyaki experience, Hakushu has you covered! It is one of the best places to try Kobe beef. And you can watch the cook perform! During a Teppanyaki dinner, the food is prepared in front of you on a hot metal plate, offering a real show combining flames and dexterity. Make sure you book your table in advance!

 

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Ninja Akasaka
In addition to being a great place for wagyu beef, Ninja Akasaka, as its name suggests, is a ninja-themed restaurant. Arranged like a labyrinth, the interior design is a replica of a ninja village from the Edo era. When I entered the restaurant, it truly felt like I was in a different era. I won’t spoil the surprise any further… but really do visit the place if you’re in Tokyo!

 

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Unagi

Unagi — or “freshwater eel” in English — is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine. Fillets are most often grilled, covered in a savory sweet sauce, and served on a plate of hot white rice. It is one of my favorite Japanese dishes, and Tokyo is one of the best places to get it!

Nodaiwa Ginza
This restaurant has been around for over a century and is one of the best places in Tokyo to get an unagi dish. The atmosphere is so authentic, it takes you to another time and place. The eels that they serve are exclusively caught in the wild. Their food is perfection in a bowl…

 

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Izuei Umegawatei
In the middle of Ueno Park, Izuei Umegawatei serves high-quality unagi. The restaurant is loved by locals, and is very popular amongst tourists. You can choose to be seated at a regular table or at a low table on tatami mats. The food is tasty and rich, and although every dish is worth a try, they especially pride themselves on the quality of their unagi.

 

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Sake

Sake is the famous Japanese alcohol made from fermented rice. The drink is characterized by different levels of sweetness and can be drunk at different temperatures depending on the season and on the type of sake. You might also notice that the traditional colorful sake barrels are often displayed near Shinto shrines as decorations. This is because rice wine is often used during rites and festivals, and is considered as a way to unite the people and their gods.

Shimomiya
At Shimomiya, sake is the star. They have around 200 different varieties of sake at the bar. The lights are dimmed to create an intimate atmosphere. The restaurant is also known for their fish, which is well paired with the appropriate sake.

 

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Bar Gats
If you want to try out hot sake, Bar Gats is the best place in the city. There’s no menu there! Just sit and relax, and let the bartender choose your drink and snack of the evening. And if you speak Japanese, the staff will be happy to share history, traditions and facts about sake with you.

 

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Chanko nabe

For sumo wrestlers, the heavier you are, the greater your advantage. Therefore, they need to eat a lot, and chanko nabe does the trick. An essential part of the Sumo diet, these enormous hot pots of soup comprise the majority of their meals. While an ordinary consumer would have a bowl or two for one meal, the sumo wrestler regularly eats ten bowls of it!

Chanko Tomoegata
At Chanko Tomoegata, you won’t leave hungry. The place serves copious bowls of chanko nabe (although the portions do not match those ingested by sumo wrestlers), which will satisfy you completely. The restaurant is located in Ryōgoku, the historic center of Japanese wrestling, also called “Sumo Town”, so it’s really the best place to taste sumo food!

 

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Chanko Kuroshio
Chanko Kuroshio is owned by a former sumo star committed to providing his guests with an authentic meal for sumos! A sumo wrestler tradition is that you should only eat bipedal animals such as chicken, and therefore, that’s what you’ll find at Kuroshio. It’s a great place for an authentic experience!

 

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3D Coffee Art

The Japanese are known for taking everything over the top! And this includes latte art… In Tokyo, many cafés offer amazing 2D coffee, but some even have impressive 3D art that will make all your Instagram followers jealous! The milk foam is used to create cute mini versions of animals or other creatures such as the famous Totoro. Something not to miss while in Tokyo!

Reissue
The Reissue café in Tokyo is where all latte lovers should head to. Have your coffee topped with impressive drawings of your choice or even with 3D figures of super cute animals and creatures! The skills of the baristas are on point. It’s almost a shame to drink this beautiful coffee!

 

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Hatcoffee
Just like Reissue, Hatcoffee creates the cutest latte art with its milk foam. The owner has amazing skills and makes his drinks look delicious!

 

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Japanese beers

Although not a traditional beverage, beer has become very popular in Japan and the number of Japanese beer brands has increased tremendously. From commercial to craft beers, the Japanese have mastered the art of beer brewing. If you love a good beer, here are a few places to check out in Tokyo.

Nihonbashi Brewery
Nihonbashi Brewery has this industrial, modern, chic vibe that creates a rustic atmosphere. This brewpub gives its customers the option of cheaper and smaller glasses, which makes it a great place to try out different beers (both local and imported). They also have very good food that will accompany your drink really well.

 

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Far Yeast Brewing Company
Far Yeast Brewing Company creates beers inspired by Tokyo. The bar is very cozy and casual. It is a great place to grab a few drinks with friends, or to relax after work. The food they serve is also very good and is exactly what I would expect Japanese bar food to be like: traditional flavors with a touch of modernity!

 

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This list of Toyko foods to try out is far from being exhaustive… There are so many other dishes that I could have mentioned, but I think that these will give you a good introduction to the Japanese food scene. Don’t forget to add the places recommended to your TWISPER try-out list! I promise you won’t regret it.
And if you’re visiting Tokyo during spring, make sure to check out our map of 17 best cherry blossoms spots.

Sarah Chin A Sen
By Sarah Chin A Sen
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