Our guide to Tokyo (and beyond)
There’s nothing worse than coming back home from your holiday slightly frustrated from your food experience. It happens to all of us. Either you didn’t have the time to do some proper research or, when the language is foreign and you’re not familiar with the local food lingo, you end up eating the same thing over and over. The good thing is, this won’t happen in Japan. The Japanese food culture is a never-ending discovery.
That being said, you should always do your homework before travelling and here is something to start with.
Please note that this a starting point, as it’s a very limited list of restaurants and we intend to expand it with time. Thank you for your comprehension.
Tsujiki Fish market
Photo credit: japan-guide.com
Tokyo’s fish market sounds like an obvious choice but it’s a solid one too. If today, the inner market (and subsequently the tuna auctions) is closed to the public, the outer market stays open and is a very exciting place to wander around.
Made of narrow lanes, which are packed with restaurants, serving all sorts of fish, the market is open from 5am until early afternoon. For some excellent sushi, we recommend Tsukiji Itadori Bekkan, where the friendly sushi chefs serve you the freshest nigiris at the counter and, honestly, the best fatty tuna we’ve ever had.
For something a bit different and also cheaper, you should try chirashizushi (raw seafood over a bowl of rice), at Tsukiji Itadori Uogashi Senro. There, you can get the signature Ganso Kaisen Hitsumabushi, a mixed bowl filled with tuna, salmon roe and uni (sea urchin) which you will have to eat in a 3-step process. First, put most of the uni to the side and eat the rest of the seafood in the bowl with the rice. Then, mix the uni into the remaining rice and fish. To finish it off, a waiter will appear with a kettle of dashi to pour into your bowl, turning it into ochazuke, a traditional rice soup.
This place is a popular gyoza spot in Harajuku, which only serves gyoza either steamed or pan fried. On the counter, you’ll find three different sauces to mix in your sauce cup: soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli oil. After carefully observing our neighbour, we learnt that you can also pour extra rice vinegar on top of the gyozas for that extra kick.
Sweet tip: For dessert, head next door to Mizuho, an old-fashioned store that specialises in mamedaifuku – mochi stuffed with sweet red bean paste. They do tend to sell out early afternoon so hurry up!
Photo credit: Time Out
Photo credit: Tokyo Food Life
We have to admit that the Japanese really know how make good fried chicken – and especially Torikatsu Chicken in Shibuya. You have to look for this place as you wouldn’t just walk past it, but once you find it it’ll totally be worth it (after queuing for a bit – sorry!). Their menu is pretty simple: two, three or four pieces of katsu (fried cutlet) served with shredded cabbage, miso soup and rice. Take your pick from torikatsu (chicken), tonkatsu (pork), kani-furai (crab), aji-furai (mackerel), ika-furai (squid), kaki-furai (oyster), nasu (aubergine), tamanegi (onion and egg).
The chicken is exactly how you would want it to be and even better: super juicy in the inside and extra crispy on the outside. We would recommend that you order at least two pieces of chicken with your set menu.
Dinner – we strongly advise that you book before going to the restaurants below
We tried Oden for the first time and we loved it. This one pot dish boils different ingredients – like fish cake, radish and eggs – in a light soy sauce and dashi broth. For those who don’t know Dashi (we didn’t), it is stewed seaweed and dried bonito. Oden Ore-no in Ginza serves a gourmet Oden made by talented chefs. We wondered how the egg yolk was still runny when we opened it, even though it had been in the dashi for quite some time. It was like magic.
While Oden is delicious, it’s a rather light dish so you’ll probably have room for dessert. Their sweet menu changes seasonally but they usually serve delicious homemade ice creams.
When we called to book a table, the man on the phone told us that they only offered a set menu. We realised afterwards that they actually serve set menus to foreigners because they don’t have any English menus.
It honestly didn’t matter as everything was exquisite. The friendly waiter still tried to describe the dishes to us (with the help of Google translate). We discovered yuba, tofu skin – which had an incredible texture. They also have a good saké selection, so ask the waiter for a tasting!
A day-trip in Kamakura
Just an hour away from Tokyo, Kamakura makes a great day trip at the beach. It’s also known for its Soba: buckwheat noodles.
This Michelin-starred restaurant is a must if you ever visit Kamakura. The very humble chef suggested we order his signature kamo seiro (cold soba served next to a dipping broth with wild French duck). The sobas are fresh and handmade, and the duck is perfectly cooked. Since there’s a no waste policy in his restaurant, he then brings the water in which the soba noodles were cooked to pour into what’s left of your dipping broth. The result is soft and milky.
This shop only uses natural ingredients from local farms to make donuts. The outcome is light and not too sweet, which makes you want to eat until you can no longer walk. Japan is also known for its more modern and quirky looking dishes and Floresta has definitely followed this trend with its animal shaped donuts.