Tokyo for Food Lovers
There are two types of travellers: those who travel to eat, and everybody else.
Ask any dedicated globe-trotting foodie to list his or her favourite cities to eat in, and 9 times out of 10 (we just made that statistic up), Tokyo will be at the top of the list. But in a city so massive, so busy, and so full of choice at every turn, it can seem almost overwhelming to know what to sink your teeth into first.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered with a guide to can’t-be-missed Japanese eats, for every first-time visitor to Tokyo, to introduce you to the vibrant tastes of Japan’s capital city.
Ramen comes in many varieties – from the oldest, traditional broth made with shio (meaning salt) which is light and clear, to the darker, sweeter shoyu (soy sauce) broth, and ramen made with miso paste – which means there’s a hot, delicious bowl of this comfort food to suit any taste preference.
This ramen differs from the others since the broth is made by grinding up pork bones and boiling for several hours, resulting in a rich, opaque broth with a complex, wonderful flavour.
The Japanese were doing deconstructed before deconstructed was cool, and the proof of this can be seen in Tsukemen, a ramen dish in which the noodles are served separately then dipped into the broth before eating. The noodles are thicker than traditional ramen, the portions are bigger, and Tsukemen ramen can be enjoyed more slowly, because the noodles aren’t sitting in the broth so there’s no race against the clock to finish before they absorb too much liquid and become soggy. When every last noodle has been devoured and you’re left with a bit of broth too thick to drink, add some hot water with bonito flakes before sipping it all down.
Where to try it: YASUBEE
Abura Soba, which translates into “oil noodles” is a brothless ramen served in a bowl with toppings that range from soy sauce, fried garlic, and vinegar to chillis, poached eggs, and roasted pork. Mix it all up and discover a totally different but still irresistibly tasty take on this beloved Japanese dish.
Where to try it: YAMATOTEN
Did you know sushi is all about the rice? Although many think about the freshness and quality of the fish as being the most important component of good sushi (and it is important!), the specially prepared vinegar rice, which is then served with any variety of fish or vegetables, is actually the thing that goes into making the best sushi in the world. So for those who maybe have stayed away from sushi in the past because either you don’t eat fish, or the idea of uncooked fish isn’t for you, you’ll be happy to know you can still sample a variety of sushi made with vegetables, and that pillowy soft, delicately flavoured sushi rice.
Whether you’re navigating the sushi waters for the first time or you consider it to be a recommended food group, a Kaiten Sushi restaurant is an excellent way to taste many types of sushi to figure out what you like best, or simply to eat as much sushi as possible. This conveyor belt-style restaurant is fun for groups and families, and allows you to see what each item looks like before trying. Price is determined by the colour of the plate the sushi is served on, the hot green tea is always free, and anything can be made fresh to order.
Where to go: GINZA NUMAZUKO
Pricier than a Kaiten Sushi restaurant, eating at a sushi counter is more traditional. Sitting at the counter, watching as the chef prepares your sushi fresh before your eyes, is mesmerizing. The menus can be more limited, and the items available will depend on what fish the chef was able to get fresh that morning, but if you’re looking to for an authentic, higher quality sushi experience, as well as the opportunity to possibly talk to the chef and ask questions and learn, then it’s completely worth it.
Where to go: GINZA MIDORI ZUSHI
Yakiniku is Japanese BBQ, and great for groups and families. With the grill built right into the middle of the table, this is DIY grilling! Order up whatever variety of meat and vegetables you want, they’re brought over raw and cut up into small pieces, and you cook everything up on the grill. Dip your sizzling meat and veg in one of the sauces they serve, known as tare, and enjoy!
Where to try it: USHI NO KURA
Like sushi, tempura is eaten at a counter, but like yakiniku, you select the ingredients you want cooked. Tempura is a method of battering and deep frying food, that leaves you with a delightfully light, crispy coating. Choose from a variety of fish and veggies, and watch the chef make your tempura right in front of you. Tempura restaurants will often source their produce from organic farms, so the vegetables available will be of a great quality, and also change with the seasons.
Where to try it: TUNAHACHI