Eating & Drinking

Pic: Mehmet Aktugan used under CC
  • January 24, 2016
    Tempura set at Tempura Tsunahachi

    Tempura Tsunahachi: Light, Crispy and Famous

    Tempura, adopted in the 16th century and elevated to a Japanese delicacy, can be a tricky beast. Whilst the ‘deep-fried’ part can conjure images of cold, oily tempura-nightmares—done fresh and done well, it can be a delight. Although there are […]

  • January 2, 2016
    nabe restaurants tokyo

    Keeping Warm with Nabe

    Aside from oden, nabe (hot pot) is another popular winter dish in Japan. Nabe literally means “pot,” but it’s used as a generic term for soups or light stews cooked in an iron or clay pot. Made with dashi (soup […]

Eating & Drinking in Tokyo

  • Sushi

    Sushi

    You can never go wrong with sushi in Tokyo seeing as you have the best access to sushi-grade fresh fish on the planet (high-end joints in New York airfreight their fish in from Tokyo). You can literally eat sushi anywhere and it’ll be good, if not excellent. Keep it fun and cheap with one of the great budget options, or try some of our recommendations for slightly less cheapo options. NOTE: Don’t bother trying to get a reservation at Jiro, nor need you stand in line for hours at one of the overly popular Tsukiji Market eateries, it’s a city of sushi and there are countless options without a two-year waiting list.

    Photo by Alpha


  • Ramen

    Ramen

    Slurp, there it is! Ramen—a savory soup with noodles for days—is the ultimate staple in a Japanese diet. For only a few hundred yen, a bowlful is guaranteed to kill any hunger pang you might have had and leave you feeling full for about 48 hours (ok, we exaggerate but you get the idea—it’s mega filling!). Variety is the word when it comes to the different types of ramen: broth bases range from meat or fish to soybean or miso, and toppings can be whatever you like, oftentimes meat, veggies, onions and egg will join the party. Plus ramen recipes vary regionally across Japan, so there’s always opportunity to be pleasantly surprised with the end result. With all in mind you’ll be happy to know there are places where you can customize your own bowl of ramen, get some for as little as 390 yen, and even package your very own creation at the Yokohama Ramen Museum. Way cool.

    Photo by Jonathan Lin


  • Okonomiyaki

    Okonomiyaki

    Okonomiyaki is a saucy, savory pancake stuffed with an array of ingredients like meat, seafood, vegetables and even noodles. Both Osaka and Hiroshima are famed for serving up the best okonomiyaki, but lucky for us we don’t have to travel to either place to taste test—you can find both styles of okonomiyaki right here in Tokyo. For a more in depth look at the differences between to two styles and a list of restaurant recommendations, check out our guide to okonomiyaki.

    Photo by Alpha


  • Hot Pot

    Hot Pot

    If you’re looking for a soul-warming, belly-filling meal, hot pots are definitely the way to go. It’s exactly what you imagine it to be: in most cases a bubbling pot of one or more types of broth comes to your table, and you simply add ingredients—like meat, veg, tofu—to your heart’s content. Hot pots are not all created equal though—take your pick from the very delicious, but very different stylings of nabe, oden, shabu-shabu and even chanko-nabe (responsible for bulking up those sumo wrestlers), just to name a few.

    Photo by Toshihiro Oimatsu


  • Street Food

    Street Food

    There’s no Japanese equivalent to the notorious hot dog cart to be found in Tokyo, but there are some definite street treats that are just too good to pass up. Usually festivals come complete with yatai (or food stalls) serving up an array of favorites like okonomiyaki, yakisoba and takoyaki (all must-try dishes). Follow those with some sweets like chocobanana or taiyaki (the cute fish-shaped pastries). If you happen to be in Tokyo for the colder months, keep those eyes peeled for yakiimo carts selling roasted sweet potato (culture bonus: some yakiimo vendors sing a traditional song about said sweet potatoes). And if you’re in for the summer, get yourself some kakigori (shaved ice)—choose a refreshingly fruity flavor like strawberry or pineapple, or something wacky like soybean or whiskey (oh, Japan!).

    Photo by Dave Fayram


  • Izakaya

    Izakaya

    You might need to be reserved on the train (and just about everywhere else in Tokyo), but an izakaya is this place to let loose, laugh and chat as merrily as you like. This Japanese pub-like establishment is great for sharing, socialising, drinking in copious amounts, and as stated in our beginner’s guide to izakaya, it’s a quintessential Japanese experience. You can find an izakaya just about anywhere, but keep an eye out for Hanbey, a budget-friendly chain. Or try a novelty izakaya like the underworld-themed Yurei.

    Photo by Dick Thomas Johnson


  • Cafes

    Cafes

    When you think of Tokyo cafes, more than just plain ol’ java joints should come to mind. Tokyo is home to renowned craft coffee shops and green tea speciality cafes (harder to find in Tokyo than you think!). And of course there are the (in)famous themed maid or animal cafe, which are more for experience and ambiance than a place to order up a quality beverage.

    Tokyo Hipster Coffee: Tokyo (thankfully) hasn’t escaped the third wave coffee boom, here’s our top three favourites: About Life, Fuglen and Ballon D’essai.

    Photo by Zanpei


  • Sweets

    Sweets

    Sweets come in many forms in Japan. You can indulge your sweet tooth by season (shaved ice in the summer, chestnut-flavored anything in autumn) or you can try a bunch all at once at an all-you-can-desserts restaurant. You and your taste buds can also jump on trends like the Harajuku crepe or gourmet popcorn (counts as a sweet if you get the caramel-flavored kind) which were unjustifiably popular years back, but continue to attract locals and tourists alike.

    And don’t forget the elusive and alluring weird Kit Kats flavors (like wasabi or strawberry cheese cake)—the harder to find them, the sweeter they taste.

    Photo by Tomohiro Ohtake


  • International

    International

    Pining for pasta? Itching for Indian? International cuisine is a huge part of the Tokyo food scene and you can satisfy just about any foreign craving you might have here. Go right ahead and chow down on some of the most authentic pizza you’ve ever had, bite into a (non-McDonald’s) juicy burger, or feast on naan so big you can use it as a sunshade. One thing to note though is that while international options abound, and many can be as authentic tasting as they are in their respective motherland, many dishes have been adapted to Japanese taste, which isn’t a bad thing, just different—so keep an open mind!

    Photo by Nan Palmero


  • Michelin-star

    Michelin-star

    Fine dining doesn’t have to come with exorbitant price tags. Tokyo, the city with the most Michelin-star restaurants in the world, offers the best chance at eating some of the most delectable, refined food you’ve ever tasted. The trick is to visit these restaurants during lunch hours where they typically prepare the same offerings as dinner for only a fraction of the price. Follow this simple piece of advice and you could be dining pretty at places like Kyourakutei (famous for soba and tempura) or at Lugdunum Bouchon Lyonnais (our personal French fav).

    Photo by Liz Shek-Noble


  • Veggie

    Veggie

    Trying to maintain a meatless diet can be daunting in a country where there’s pork in just about everything. Luckily the cheapo team is dietarily diverse, so we’ve got the scoop on spots that are not just suitable to dine at, but ones that offer up dished so delicious you want to dine at. Honorable mentions go to the likes of Shibuya’s Nagi Shokudo or these two veg-friendly joints in neighboring Yokohama.

    Photo by Selena


  • Alcohol

    Alcohol

    This country sure does love their alcohol, and you can tell by the various ways there are to procure and enjoy it: at an izakaya, at a craft beer bar, from literally any convenience store, at festivals, and even just straight up from a vending machine on the street (or atop mountain). Too cheap to buy your own beer or sake? Get a free tour and tasting at a breweries like the Yebisu Beer Factory or the Sawanoi sake brewery.

    Photo by Toshihiro Oimatsu


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