Just because you’re a cheapo doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy posh grub. In fact in this respect Tokyo is perhaps one of the best cities in the world for offering the cheapo high quality dining experiences.
You perhaps already know that Tokyo has more michelin stars than Paris and New York combined (and even turns them down), and as a cheapo you can get a good taste of the quality by eating out for lunch.
A large number of excellent eateries in Tokyo have a lunch menu for ¥1000 or less, turn up for dinner and you’ll be spending at least ¥4000. And the quality is just as good, of course it is – the chef wouldn’t want to put customers off with an inferior lunch. So hunt out moderately poncey resturants for lunch – French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese dining are particularly good deals at lunchtime.
If you want to eat for ¥500 or even less then in my experience a bento/take out places are pretty good, though you can still find resturant lunch menus almost at this level. Apart from that most of the really cheap options are the same price all day and night, so keep them for dinner – remember the golden rule “posh lunch, cheap dinner”.
So for dinner, you can still eat well on a pittance. We’ll go into this in more detail in future posts but there are numerous options, especially of Japanese style. For a budget of a little over ¥500 there’s some pretty damn good chain restaurants the beef rice bowl ones (gyudon 牛丼), fish/seafood rice bowl (donburi 丼) – yoshinoya, sukiya, maguroichiba to name but a few. Other chain options, ootoya – a Japanese style chain usually costs around ¥800 and my personal favourite saizeriya an insanely cheap Italian chain.
And of course there are a plethora of independent Japanese resturants or smaller chains, which are better quality but generally cost a little more than the big chains.
Often location dictates the kind of fare and prices you’ll find. For the Cheapo, busy and untrendy is your friend. Busy places like Shinjuku or Shibuya generally cater to the masses, so you won’t have to search far before finding some cheap eats.
Of course on the flip side, for your cheapo poncey lunch you will fare well venturing into the more posh districts to pick up your ¥1000 lunch bargain – aoyama, daikanyama and nakameguro are old favourites of mine.
As a general rule of thumb I find the cool and trendy establishments hike up the prices a little for being a cool and trendy place to be, so look for the resturants without the young and fashionable clientele and fancy toilets, for the same price you’ll likely get a better meal.
On the whole weekends are more expensive, less likelyhood of a posh ¥1000 lunch – stick to your cheapo gyudon or Saizeriya for the weekend.