I have worked in Tokyo over a combined period of 1 year on 2 separate stints, and with the help of my kind local colleagues and friends, I have discovered a number of great food places.
Locals and tourists love these places. I will know, I have brought friends to these spots and they loved it too.
Before I share these spots, I just want to point that that food in Tokyo is generally good. They have high standards when it comes to food, they don’t mess around. So if you are hungry, just pop into any shop that has a decent size crowd. You won’t go wrong. Even food from convenience store taste great. Give it a try.
And in Tokyo, you can pretty much get by without Japanese. Be polite and humble, smile, use a combination English and sign language, and you won’t go hungry.
Some restaurants only take cash, so be sure to have some around.
Generally, just like any other countries, if the restaurant only takes cash, doesn’t speak English and doesn’t have English menu, it is usually an awesome place. Just point to something that someone else is having and give it a go.
And now, back to the recos. Don’t worry, all the spots below have English menu and the staff speaks decent English, so you are good.
Are you a fan of tonkatsu / pork cutlet. If so, you are in for a treat. This shop is located within Roppongi subway station. There are 2 outlets in Roppongi, I recommend the shop in the subway station. Their tonkatsu are crispy, juicy and fatty. It is epic. I eat there once every 2 weeks whenever I can. And it is affordable. Lunch is at 1000JPY, dinner is at 1300JPY.
Expect some queue at mealtimes.
Just get the normal meat. I have tried the premium version, and it doesn’t taste as good.
Ask for the English menu, look for the item which costs 1000 at noon or 1300 in the evening, and order it. You can go for bigger size if you are hungry.
Get a seat at the counter if possible, and watch them marinate the meat, fry it and cut it. See how crispy it is when they cut this.
Man I wanna eat that as I am typing this. And I really did went out for food before continuing to the next section. Lol.
Rice, soup and the cabbage are free-flow.
Try the Tonkatsu with the sauce, as well as the salt. Don’t use the wrong sauce. Once sauce is for the cabbage, the other thicker sauce is for the meat. It should be pretty obvious, but thought I should point it out.
They will give you a nice little cork for you to bring to the cashier for payment at the end of the meal.
Amazing Yakiniku – Korean-style BBQ. They have many branches with different dining concept, and this is again in Roppongi. In fact, most of my favourite places are in Roppongi because that was where I used to stay.
Lunch sets are reasonably priced at 1300 – 1800JPY. Dinners are way more expensive. A 2 person meal will set you back maybe around 8000JPY. It is still a must-go if you are a tourist visiting Tokyo.
Try the beef tongue, beef sushi, and other stuff from the recommendation section. Some items from the menu are not available at lunchtime.
I also like their Aomori apple juice. Its not fresh apple juice but I like to get it as alcohol isn’t really my thing.
You can’t go to Japan and not eat Ramen. But regular ramen are too normal and probably not insta-worthy enough.
Enter burnt ramen.
The soup is black in colour. It has a stronger taste. Give it a try. Again, this is in the Roppongi area. You might have to walk a little from the station. Be sure to check their operation hours before you take the walk. It is away from the usual busy area, which is nice for you to experience another side of Roppongi.
Most tourists and locals like this ramen place so check it out. Its probably too touristy, and there are usually long queues, but taste is decent and worth a try. There are multiple outlets.
If you can’t get enough of it, you can buy back the ramen with the soup powder from the store, or Don Quijote, the huge discount store scattered all over Tokyo.
Uogashi Standing Sushi Bar
Similar to ramen, you can’t go to Japan and not eat sushi too. Sushi shops are everywhere. I particularly like this place in Shibuya. As the name suggests, you stand to order and eat sushi.
Locals and tourists love this place, so there might be a queue during dinner time. The queue moves quite fast, as people eats and leave pretty quickly since they have to stand. Probably a good business strategy.
Ask for the English menu. They will probably hand it to your straight if you obviously don’t look Japanese. Ask for it if they don’t pass it to you.
Avoid getting the sets. That’s the easy way out, and you don’t get to try the cooler stuff. Order individual items. At dinnertime, every order comes as 2 pieces, at twice the price stated, so take note.
My favourite is the salmon sushi, with mayo on it, and flame grilled till the mayo is slightly burnt. I usually get 4-6 of it each visit. It may not be on the menu but just ask for it. They will have the torch on hand to flame-grill any item you want.
If you are a tuna fan, get the Otoro, which is the best and fattest portion. I think its around 600JPY per piece, which is a bit expensive, but you are travelling, so yea.
The miso soup is nice too. They have 3 options for you to choose from.
Green tea is free and refillable. Just get a cup, put the powder it, and add hot water using the tap near to you.
After trying out the sushi here, go around and shop till you drop. You are in Shibuya.
Han no Daidokoro Kadochika
This is also in Shibuya, and is a Yakiniku place. If you only have time and budget for one Yakiniku meal, I will recommend Kintan over this place, but if you are in Shibuya and is craving for Yakiniku, this is a good option. They are very tourist friendly, everyone speaks English, and they will chat with you as well. They are also very good at marketing, rising to the top of TripAdvisor for Yakiniku restaurants in Shibuya, and I will say they deserve top spot for the food quality and service level.
Prices are around 2500-4000JPY per person, depending on how crazy you go.
Take note that this place is right smack in the middle of the more ‘interesting’ part of Shibuya. It is safe, don’t worry, just don’t get too surprised when you see the other shop fronts.
Kyushu Jangara Ramen Harajuku
Another ramen place that I like. They have different types of soup, and you can choose your toppings. To keep things simple, just go with everything, unless there is something that you really really dislike.
Like most ramen places, this is pretty affordable at 1100 – 1400 JPY.
When you are done, there is a hedgehog cafe just beside the shop. Use the elevator beside it.
You can also visit the huge Nike store (closes at 8pm) that is just 2-3 minutes walk down the street.
Another option is to visit the beautiful rooftop Starbucks at Tokyu Plaza, which is also a few minutes walk away.
To feel more cultural, visit the Meiji Jingu shrine (closes at 5pm) at the back of the Harajuku station.
Omotesando Ukai Tei
Feeling rich? Try this Teppanyaki place. You will be seated around the chef, and behind you is a nice, bright view of Harajuku.
After the meal, there is also of free-flow of snacks and sweets in another room.
Cost is around 10000 – 12000 JPY per person, which I guess is standard Teppanyaki price. The food and experience was really great. Go for lunch. Dinner will be much more expensive.
Tokyo is a food paradise. Almost every restaurant with a decent size crowd will taste good. Thanks to all my Japanese friends for showing me these places. This post makes me so hungry.
Enjoy your feast!