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High ceilings, incredible decor, world class wine-list and over-the-top service are, to some extent, some of the things you can enjoy in just about any city with a high-end hotel. But you aren’t in “just about any city”, are you? You are in a city of contrasts, where neon-lit signs, massive skyscrapers, owl and maid cafes, and anime shops are met with old traditional shops and neighborhoods, small restaurants, and beautiful shrines and temples. That said, you shouldn’t really be looking for just any restaurant, but that which offers the best of traditional Japanese cuisine. In absolute terms, finding a place to eat in Tokyo couldn’t be easier; at least not with the over 100,000 registered hotels. You could decide to embark on a treasure hunt and try every hotel you come across, but unless you have all the time in the world and are well-versed in Japanese characters, I guarantee you that you won’t make even the slightest scratch on the surface. The idea here is to find a reliable restaurant that offers the best of Japanese specialty and regional cuisine. In this guide, instead of focusing on the hotels and restaurants that you must check out, I will give you five of the must-try foods while in Japan, and recommend one or two restaurants that offer the cuisine at its best. Now let’s get into that, shall we? SushiAs home to the world’s largest fish market, it is only natural that Tokyo has the world’s best sushi restaurants. Being a classic dish, there is no shortage of restaurants where you can eat sushi.
The only difference is the quality of sushi you get, and how much you pay for it. If you are out for a high end hotel to enjoy your sushi, you should check out the Sukiyabashi Jiro. They serve not only amazing sushi, but also rice, eggs and nice-flavored vinegar. The restaurant is located at exit six of the Ginza Metro Station, so it is not hard to find but you have to arrive ten minutes in advance of your booking time. For their amazing meal, you will have to cough up about 40,000 yen per person.
They are open everyday between 11:30AM to 2:00PM and 5:30PM to 8:30PM. If you don’t want to break the bank to enjoy a piece of Tokyo, check out the Ginza Sushi Aoki, in Ginza. It is tucked away behind the main Ginza strip and has a small and authentic space such that you are surrounded by Japanese patrons offering a warm and personalized service. More importantly, they speak English. It is open everyday between 12:00PM – 2:00PM and 5:00PM – 10:00PM, with prices ranging around 3000 to 5000 yen. You can also try cheap but quality sushi at the Tokyo Fish Market. Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers)This traditional japanese dish is cooked over charcoal grills to make it tender inside and crispy outside. There are two ways the meat is seasoned; using salt only, or using savory tare sauce sourced from dashi broth, soy sauce, and vinegar. If you are looking for an interesting “atmosphere”, I will send you to Omoide Yokocho, popularly known as Memory Lane or Piss Alley. This tiny alley is full of closet-sized Yakitori joints (among other dishes), but its only ideal if you are okay with sitting in cramped spaces while drinking beer and yakitori with locals. Here, you’ll surely make friends despite the barrier in language. A plate goes for about 750 yen. For an entirely different Yakitori experience, I will steer you to Hajimeya in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district. It is close to red-light district, and slightly bigger than the joints in Pill Alley. You’ll find eight seats at the window facing the street and ten more at the counter. The restaurant grills their chicken over binchotan charcoal and flavor it with a tare sauce or just normal salt. You can order as much as you like, with prices ranging from 129 yen for crispy chicken skin (torikawayaki) to 302 yen for chicken wings (tebasaki). don’t forget to try out the liver (reba), neck(seseri) and the crunchy gizzard (sunagimo). It is open everyday from 5PM to 6PM. Ramen noodlesCheap, and exceptionally tasty. These are some of the reasons why there are so many restaurants in the city offering ramen. There are several types of ramen depending on the type of broth used. If you aren’t completely sure and want to try the different types of ramen, you can head to the ramen museum at Shin-Yokoham station or Tokyo ramen street at Tokyo Station.
For the best tonkotsu (pork) ramen, head over to one of the many Ichiran ramen chain, which has even appeared on forbes. They give an individual booth and serve an original Hakata-style ramen. It is open everyday from 12:00 AM to 11:59 PM and prices range from 700 to 950 yen. For a more unique experience, head over to Fu-unji. You will, however, have to be patient as it is almost always full. You choose between small, medium, and large portions, all at the same prices which are at the same range as Ichiran’s. You have the noodle soup option, but most people get the tokusei tsukemen with chewier and thicker noodles along a creamy fish and chicken double broth. It is open everyday but Sunday from 11:00AM to 3:00PM and 5:00PM to 9:00PM. Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes)Okonomiyaki is a very popular dish in Japan made of flour, pork belly slices, scallions and cabbage and served with sweet and salty sauce. There are several types of Okonomiyaki depending on the region. They include Negiyaki from Kansai, Hiroshimayaki from Hiroshima, Monjayaki from Kanto. To enjoy it best, head over to Kiji in Marunochi and Tokyo Station. It is a very popular restaurant so expect a queue during lunch hours. Each table has its own grill to keep your meal warm, and they have an English menu for tourists. Don’t forget to try the thick pieces of wonderfully cooked bacon. The restaurant has a perfect location so this can be used as you last dish in Japan — well, until next time at least. A full meal will set you back by about 1000 to 1300 yen.
In the Tsukishima, Monja street, there are more than 60 restaurants with one among them, Monja Kura, standing out for its exceptional Okonomiyaki. It is found on the main drag, halfway down to the left. Their signature dish is clam chowder monjayaki which tastes pretty good. As you get in, you are given a plastic bag to stash anything you don’t want to come out reeking of the grill. A meal for two with drinks costs around 5000 yen. ConclusionFinding the abovementioned restaurants is not easy. You can be right outside the restaurant and not see it because most of them have their names only in Japanese characters. Without data or google maps yours won’t be an easy task, not unless you ask the locals for directions. I recommend taking screenshots of the restaurants you plan on popping in before heading out. Some of them are tucked away in multistory buildings so you should keep that in mind too. You also need to keep in mind that most restaurants don’t open up until 11AM apart from a few exceptions.
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