With the most Michelin stars of any city in the world, Tokyo is a foodie paradise that offers not only some of the best food in the world, but the chance to try it on a budget.
While fine-dining courses at prestigious restaurants in London or Paris can cost you a not-so-small fortune, the Tokyo Michelin star restaurant scene has an affordable flavor that stays true to the world’s most trusted food guide. Created in 1900 by the Michelin brothers (yes, the ones from the tire company) to encourage more road users in France, the restaurant and hotel guide was supposed to highlight locations that would encourage people to take more trips—and thus wear down their tires. Initially focused on France and then Europe, Tokyo was added in 2007 and has stormed the scene, becoming the most-starred city in the world with 234 places listed as of 2018.
How Michelin works
The system has four levels: Originally, one star meant worth a stop on your travels, two stars were worth a detour and three stars were worth a journey of their own. While it has become a little more serious than a quick detour for most cities, in Tokyo you can pretty much make a last-minute decision if you don’t mind waiting in line, as there are some places which won’t even take reservations.
The fourth category is called Bib Gourmand and was created to recognize restaurants that serve “exceptionally good food at moderate prices”. While this might be the best a cheapo could hope for in most places, in Tokyo you can go straight to the stars with a single 1,000-yen note and no regrets.
Tokyo as the Michelin capital of the world
Today, Tokyo has more stars than any other city, including 12 three-star restaurants, 56 two-star and 166 one-star places to choose from. Add to that the 278 Bib Gourmand listings and you’ll never be short of places to eat again! The cuisine is mainly Japanese, but the list features plenty of international spots too. The city has a real variety of prices, styles, cuisines and venues to try and is a fantastic place to treat your taste buds.
There are some unique Tokyo elements which make it the most accessible city too, mainly thanks to its affordability. Firstly, places do not get too caught up in it; for example, small eight-seater ramen shops refuse to expand and still cost under ¥1,000.
Secondly, while some places are generally cheap, like the two ramen joints awarded stars, many of the higher-end options offer reasonable lunch sets. Opting for lunch is the standard golden cheapo rule, but here it is worth its weight in the stuff as you can do fine dining for a fraction of the usual cost.
While you’re here, eating Japanese food is no doubt high on your list, but you can also have some of the best French and Italian food in the world for less than it might cost at home! We’ve kept the list down to the most-budget friendly options and have only included restaurants with one or more stars—feel free to check out the Bib Gourmand list though for some extra spots to check out.
While lunch sets are often the best way to go, be aware that you won’t always be getting the same level of food as will be served at dinner—sometimes it is a taster, sometimes it is a different menu. When it comes to dishes like ramen and tonkatsu, this isn’t so much of an issue, but keep it in mind if the price at lunch looks too good to be true!
Michelin-star sushi is probably the hardest of the foods to try in Japan—not due to quantity, but thanks to their preference for a limited customer base (read: not foreigners—unless you’re David Beckham). While not all go as far as having an outright ban like some (Sushi Mizutani we’re looking at you), there are a lot of rejections that come your way when you try to book, plus they are often very small counter restaurants, which obviously doesn’t help. You can still enjoy it though, as we have some affordable and foreigner-tolerating options.
Sushi Iwa | 1 star | ¥5,000 | Lunch | Ginza
One of the most respected and affordable Sushi joints in Tokyo, Sushi Iwa is also one of the most accessible as it uses an online booking service (but requires a card for cancelation fees).
Headed by Kanesaka-trained Hisayoshi Iwa, who is relatively young in the field, they serve deftly sliced fish brought from all corners of Japan (literally flown from Hokkaido) to ensure your meal is the best it could possibly be. The 5,000-yen set includes 10 pieces and you can bump it up to 15 for a couple of extra thousand yen.
Ginza Sushi Kanesaka | 1 star | ¥5,000 | Lunch | Ginza
Bookable if you have a hotel-concierge, Sushi Kanesaka offers a very affordable 5,000-yen lunch set and focuses on the traditional Edomae sushi style with a few modern twists. Ingredients are the star of the show, as tradition requires, and your counter-based seat allows for a view of the chefs at work.
They have a second branch at Palace Hotel, but prices are higher there so be sure to book the Ginza restaurant.
Sushiya Ichinagaya | 1 star | ¥5,000 | Lunch | Ginza
Another small counter sushi restaurant in Ginza, the head chef at Sushiya Ichinagaya started learning the arts at the tender age of 19 at Kanesaka and has developed his own style based on Edomae over the years.
Only recently awarded a star, they have been serving some of the best-quality fish in the city, served with impeccable skill and attention to flavor. They accept reservations over the phone although Japanese is preferred.
Sushi Tokami | One star | ¥5,000 | Lunch | Ginza
Offering a great deal for ¥5,000, Tokami’s lunch set includes 10 pieces of sushi, an appetizer, tuna tossaki hand roll and soup—so you won’t be left hungry.
With an English website and plenty of photos, they are definitely foreigner friendly, and reservations are not required for the regular courses, only the Chef’s Selection course. Ingredients are selected from Tsukiji by head chef Shota Oda who trained under the original owner after working in an Edomae restaurant in Tokyo and abroad in Singapore.
Soba is a great dish for affordability, as it is one of the simplest, but most refined arts. While plenty of places have impressively high prices, there are some great options where you can try a range of dishes without being confined to a specific lunch-set menu. One of our favorite Bib-Goourmand options is Kyourakutei!
Sasuga | 1 Star | ¥1,000 | Lunch | Ginza
Keeping things simple, the owner of Sasuga created a friendly, no smoking (more unusual than you might think in Japan) restaurant with good wines and even better soba. Making super-fine juwari soba using only buckwheat flour, the name means “pure” and includes not using machines. The whole menu is pretty affordable, ranging from ¥1,000 to ¥2,600 with plenty of mid-range options too and course menus available for [pricea mount=2000] at lunch and ¥7,000 at dinner.
Tamawarai | 1 star | ¥1,000 | Lunch | Omotesando
Using buckwheat grown in its own fields in Tochigi, Tamawarai takes the menu from seed to plate and ensures it is perfected every step of the way. One of their most popular dishes is Atsumori seiro: a bowl of hot broth mixed with beaten egg and served with noodles.
The servings here are sized so as to go well with traditional appetizers like herring (simmered for 6 days), grilled miso or sobagaki which is a buckwheat mash.
Edo Soba Hosokawa | 1 star | ¥1,000 | Lunch | Ryogoku
Head chef Takashi Hosokawa uses only 100% buckwheat flour for Edo Soba Hosokawa’s handmade soba, selected especially from Ibaraki and Shikoku. Its seasonal specials are the highlight of the menu, with bamboo soba in spring, kaki soba in summer and warm soba in autumn. There are some excellent tempura items to try, but they can be the same price as your soba for a single piece, so you’ll have to savor it!
Ramen hardly needs an introduction, but it has only recently made its way onto the Michelin list—often left on the Bib Gourmand level due to its affordability and fast-food reputation—but not anymore.
Tsuta | 1 star | ¥1,000 | Lunch & Dinner | Sugamo
Tsuta was the first ever ramen joint to receive a Michelin star and was later followed by Nakiryu. Their ramen is light, clear and delicious and is actually soba—but don’t let that put you off. The queue system is a little complicated but worth the wait when you’re seated in front of a steaming bowl of the WORLD’S BEST RAMEN.
Nakiryu | 1 star | ¥850 | Lunch & Dinner | Otsuka
Only a few streets from Tsuta, Nakiryu is a tantanmen hotspot known for its quality and in 2017, rewarded with the second ever ramen Michelin star. They serve refined shoyu and shio ramen as well as cold noodles and tantanmen (as well as an extra spicey and a sour option) so dig in!
Lightly fried fish and vegetables in crispy batter, tempura was originally a Chinese dish, and although it can be an oily nightmare if done badly, when done well it is one of the nation’s best dishes.
Kyobashi Tempura Fukamachi | 1 star | ¥3,000 | Lunch | Kyobashi
By far the most affordable one-star spot on the list, Fukamachi offers incredible attention to detail and dedication to bringing out the best of the ingredients. Using two fryers at different temperatures—one for veg and one for seafood—head chef uses sesame oil to ensure a light yet crunchy coating on the seasonal delicacies it encases.
Tempura Kondo | 2 stars | ¥7,000 | Lunch | Ginza
We know ¥7,000 isn’t exactly a cheap lunch, but for a 2-star Michelin meal that’s pretty damn impressive (many one-star places are twice that price). Located in Ginza, the head chef personally selects the vegetables from their supply farms and focuses on Edomae tempura which uses high-quality seafood. The tempura is exceptionally light as it is fried in sesame oil and the cylindrically sliced vegetables are a menu favorite.
The classic Japanese set meal, teishoku includes a main (often fish), rice, soup and pickles, all served at the same time and in specific positions on your tray. This is similar to traditional home cooking, but of a very high quality.
Ginza Ibuki | 1 star | ¥3,500 | Lunch Set | Ginza
The key to enjoying your meal at Ibuki is to lay all of your trust with the chef and order the Omakase set, which comes with two price options: ¥3,500 or ¥5,000. This is far cheaper than the evening options of the same two courses and will be a surprise of flavors—and textures all presented beautifully. They have a great sake list and will happily make suggestions about pairings—but beware those prices as you’ll soon be shelling out more than the price of your meal!
Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima | 1 star | ¥800 | Lunch set | Shinjuku
While a dinner here can set you back nearly ¥15,000, you can scoop up a lunch set for a mere ¥800! Showcasing sardines, Nakajima offers them four ways for the lunch sets: deep fried, as sashimi, in yanagawa nabe or simmered in shoyu stock. All come with rice, pickles, soup and the slight feeling you’ve cheated someone somehow.
Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course meal which focuses on a balance of the taste, texture, appearance and color of food. It is often served at special occasions such as New Year and almost always has a seasonal theme.
Kien | 1 star | ¥1,700 or ¥6,300 | Lunch | Akasaka
With two options for lunch, Kien offers the chance to try the traditional kaiseki meal that it’s famous for or you can go for the simple lunch set for a budget-glimpse of what they have to offer. Reservations are required for the kaiseki option which costs ¥6,300 or ¥8,900 (the second option has a couple of high-end versions of dishes included in the first).
Akasaka Totoya Uoshin | 1 star | ¥1,800+ | Lunch | Akasaka
Creating beautiful kaiseki meals at surprisingly reasonable prices, Uoshin focuses on seasonal fish and has a great sake menu to go with it. Using a selection of the catch of the day, you can choose from a simple fish lunch for ¥1,800, or two box sets starting at ¥2,500. The official kaiseki meals are either ¥5,000 or ¥7,000—although the box lunches look equally delicious!
Seisoka | 2 stars | ¥6,000 | Lunch | Hiroo
One of the quietest Michelin-star spots in the city, Seisoka offers a small and delicious haven near Tengenji temple. Serving traditional Japanese-style dishes focused on seasonal ingredients, they have the best items shipped from across Japan including Ise ebi (Japanese spiny lobster) and abalone.
Seizan Mita | 2 stars | ¥5,800 | Lunch | Minato
A small and intimate restaurant with counter seats and private rooms, Seizan offers an unbeatable lunch for under ¥6,000. Dashi is the star of the show here and appears in the soups and sukiyaki—offering a meticulously balanced blend of flavors. Seasonal evening courses will set you back ¥15,000 to ¥25,000, so if you really enjoy lunch you might want to save up and come back!
A traditional Buddhist cooking style, shojin ryouri is a specialized vegetarian cuisine enjoyed by monks in Kyoto which subsequently grew in popularity as Zen Buddhism spread across Japan. It features seasonal, local vegetables prepared to create beautiful dishes using light cooking and preserving techniques.
Itosho | 1 star | ¥6,480 | Lunch | Vegetarian | Azabu-Juban
A great chance to try some of the best shojin ryouri in Tokyo, the lunch set at Itosho is definitely a special-occasion kind of treat rather than a casual lunch, but is one you won’t forget. Serving the specialty for over 40 years, chef Hiroharu Ito is known for his simple approach to the often over-complicated dishes and serves a fantastic seasonal selection.
A golden, deep-fried pork cutlet, tonkatsu may not spring to mind when you think of fancy Michelin-star food, but good food doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be hearty too!
Katsuzen | 1 star | ¥3,950 | Lunch | Ginza
The only Michelin-star tonkatsu restaurant in Tokyo, Katsuzen is a family-run restaurant in high-end Ginza, serving the most succulent pork covered in the lightest coating. The lunch set starts with seasonal vegetables before your made-to-order main arrives, perfected over Etsuo Nagai’s 50-year career.
A dish you might not have had too much opportunity to try, chazuke involves pouring green tea over steamed rice and is a popular comfort dish, especially in winter. For a more casual opportunity to try it, head to Chazuke-En.
Ginza Uchimaya | 1 tar | ¥1,500 | Lunch | Ginza
Specializing in sea bream chazuke and karasumi, Uchimaya offers three lunch options which are well under ¥5,000 (which is the starting price for dinner).
Although the evening meals are more of a kaiseki menu, lunch is a relaxed and tasty affair which will be the best introduction to chazuke you can find in Tokyo.
Yakitori, affectionally known as meat-on-a-stick to many, is a simple meal favored by izakayas and salarymen late at night, but occasionally it is lifted to a new level of culinary heights by a dedicated chef.
Asagaya Bird Land | 1 star | ¥3,700 + | Dinner | Asagaya
Using only okukuji shamo—a special high-quality breed of chicken raised in a stress-free environment in Ibariki—owner Keiichi Chino prepares some of the best yakitori in the city. The only approved branch of his original training restaurant Bird Land, this is a great spot to try some of the most lovingly raised and prepared chicken in Japan.
If you’re craving something more familiar or are keen to try some different cuisines with your yen, there are plenty of great international restaurants in Tokyo that carry the guide’s approval too. While mainly dominated by French cooking, there are also Korean, Spanish and Italian restaurants with either one or two stars, and Peruvian, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Thai and Indian options that have the Bib Gourmand approval.
Lugdunum Bouchon Lyonnais | French | 1 star | ¥1,850 | Shinjuku
Focusing on the delights of Lyon specialties rather than haute cuisine, head chef Christophe Pacaud wishes to inspire visitors to travel to Lyon in the future. The menu at Lugdunum Bouchon uses locally sourced, seasonal ingredients in home recipes and creates a fusion of cultures for you to enjoy as you sip on French wine and enjoy the quiet French background music.
The waiters are bilingual and will happily explain the sourcing of the ingredients and offer suggestions of paired wines, making lunch feel less like a cheap option and more like a complete steal.
Bon Chemin | French | 1 star | ¥2,400 | Lunch | Meguro
Modernizing traditional Escoffier recipes, Bon Chemin selects the best of Japan’s seasonal seafood and vegetables and elevates them to Michelin status.
The lunch menu options start from ¥2,400 for an amuse-bouche, a fish or meat main and a traditional French floating island dessert which consists of meringue on homemade creme anglaise. There are other lunch sets too, with seven to eight chef-chosen courses for ¥6,500 or a choice of two (¥3,400) or three (¥4,500) courses from a special menu.
They have a specific phone number for reservations in English, so you can call in confidence.
Le Bourguignon | French | 1 star | ¥2,500 | Lunch | Nishi Azabu
Led by head chef and owner Yoshinaru Kikuchi, Bourguignon’s dishes are based on traditional regional French cuisine with a few of his personal twists. The lunch menu has two options: for ¥2,500 you get three courses and a coffee, and for ¥4,500 you can enjoy four courses and coffee.
Dinner isn’t wholly unreasonable either though, ranging from 5,500 to 10,000 with an a la carte menu available throughout the day too.
Lature | French | 1 star | ¥2,400 | Lunch | Shibuya
Especially good if you like game, Lature uses plenty of seasonal meats including wild-caught grouse, rabbits and deer served in a whole host of traditional and imaginative ways. On weekdays you can enjoy a three-course lunch for a mere ¥2,400 or there is a ¥4,500 option if you would like to up your game a little (sorry not sorry). Dinner goes up to ¥10,000 for a seven-course meal or ¥14,000 for a special course, so not bad for the quality.
Chez Olivier | French | 1 star | ¥2,800 | Lunch | Shibuya
Producing some exquisitely beautiful dishes, Chez Olivier allows the seasons to dictate its menu. The lunch options come three ways: two-courses for ¥2,800 (weekdays only), three courses for ¥3,200 or four courses for ¥4,500. You can choose from a simplified menu, but if you feel too limited then the degustation option for ¥7,500 might give you what you’re looking for. All courses come with a baguette—very French indeed.
Esquisse | French & Japanese | 2 stars | ¥11,000 | Ginza
Having trained under three-star chef Michel Troisgros, Lionel Beccant has crafted his skills to perfection and now runs the best-rated two-star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo. Although it is pricier than our other options, for a special event or treat it is one of the best in terms of value for money if you count amazingness as a measurable element.
This restaurant makes you feel Michelin, and at lunch, you can feel that way for a little bit less. The menu spontané has options ranging from ¥11,000 to ¥19,000 all including champagne, multiple courses and a gift. Dinner dishes are also offered at lunchtime for reduced prices if you wish to go à la carte.
L’Asse | Italian | 1 star | ¥2,600 | Lunch | Meguro
Originally trained in two two-star restaurants before working at the prestigious three-star Dar Pescatore in Italy (as the only one allowed to run the restaurant in head chef Nadia Santini’s absence), Taichi Murayama leads this creative kitchen, which is plating up some of the most beautiful food in the city. For just ¥2,600 on a weekday you can enjoy a simple four-course meal with the pasta of the day, increasing to ¥3,600 if you want to add a meat or fish course. There are two more upgrade levels which allow you to try the homemade cheese ravioli, made with fresh eggs every morning.
Regalo | Italian | 1 star | ¥1,600 | Lunch | Shibuya
Pairing handmade pasta with the best seasonal ingredients, Regalo has one of the best course menu options in Tokyo and is a must-add to your weekday lunch options. The three options include a two-dish course for 1,600 yen, 3 dishes for 2,600 and five dishes for 4,800 yen. They create new menus regularly and write a blog about their favorites, so there’s always something new to try!
Zuisetsu | Chinese | 1 star | ¥1,600 | Lunch | Umegaoka
In a quiet corner of Setagaya, this one-star Cantonese restaurant has a Japanese flair that sets it apart from the rest. Serving a course menu, the restaurant is renowned for its fresh fish dishes which change with the seasons. Dinner ranges upwards from ¥7,000, but lunch is a bargain, starting at ¥1,200 for a single dish and ¥1,600 for a simple set meal.
They seat 12 people at a time, so reservations are recommended and can be made online from the website. *Be aware that they do serve shark’s fin, so if you disagree with this you may want to choose somewhere else*.
Masa’s Kitchen | Chinese | 1 star | ¥1,850 | Lunch | Ebisu
A restaurant aiming for a refined Chinese menu, this place is smart and modern, but full of the best Chinese flavors. The seasonal ingredients are kept simple and can change your impression of Chinese food in no time, if you’ve only had westernized versions in the past.
The weekday lunch set menu starts from ¥1,850 for a six-part meal (going up to ¥2,000 on holidays) and single dishes are available from ¥1,500. If you want to treat yourself there are larger lunch courses that come with more appetizers, a noodle dish and dessert for ¥3,600, but you need a minimum of two people for these options.
*Be aware that they do serve shark’s fin, so if you disagree with this you may want to choose somewhere else*.
Three-star temptations for under US$200.00
Eating a three-star meal is pretty much the epitome of the treat-yo-self world for foodies, so in a city where you can do it for less than US$200.00, you might as well.
French | Quintessence | 3 stars | ¥10,500 | Lunch | Shinagawa
A seven-course lunch for ¥10,500 is pretty much the best deal you’ll get in Tokyo, and Quintessence is the place to go for it. All menus are designed by head chef Kishida on the day depending on the best ingredients available, meaning you won’t know what you’re getting, but you know it will be amazing.
Having trained at three-star L’Astrance in Paris, he is well versed in quality food and follows the three processes when cooking: respecting the ingredients, pursuing the cooking process and attention to the seasoning process. Dinner is also very reasonable, at ¥22,000 for 13 courses including dessert with a digestif.
Kaiseki | Makimura | 3 stars | ¥17,000 to ¥20,000 | Dinner | Shinagawa
Simplicity is the name of the game at Makimura, where most dishes contain no more than two elements, paired perfectly to enhance the flavors of both. The recommended dish is the tai-chazuke which is a sea-bream dish with rice and green tea.
All ingredients are handpicked fresh each morning and always seasonal, of course. Head chef and owner Akio Makimura selects the freshest, seasonal ingredients each day and when a table is reserved, it is free from opening so guests do not have to worry about being late.
French | Joël Robuchon Le Château | 3 stars | ¥12,000 | Lunch | Ebisu
A total steal with a set menu format that allows you to choose each dish from a list; you can even create a vegetarian three-star Michelin meal (basically impossible otherwise). The set menus at Joël Robuchon Le Château range from ¥12,000 to ¥30,000, with the cheapest two (¥12,000 and ¥18,000) only available at lunchtime.
The dishes change depending on the season and ingredient availability but an up-to-date menu is available online which you can select from.
Be aware that they do have a dress policy and summer clothes like T-shirts won’t be accepted, it is suggested that men wear jackets.
Sushi | Sushi Saito | 3 stars | ¥5,400 + | Lunch | Roppongi
Since this is probably the most well-respected sushi joint in all of Tokyo (and thus the world), we’ll start off with the somewhat obvious note that reservations are required, and they are pretty much impossible to get as the eight-seater restaurant books up months in advance, without a website. Just in case you have good contacts or strike lucky though, it has to be on the list, as you can eat lunch from ¥5,000. Watched by sushi master Takashi Saito, guests receive the freshest sushi at perfect intervals, all sliced and served atop his uniquely seasoned rice.
|Name:||Places mentioned in this article:|
|Location(s):||Akasaka, Asagaya, Azabu Juban, Ebisu, Ginza, Hiroo, Kyobashi, Meguro, Nishi Azabu, Omotesando, Roppongi, Ryogoku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Shinjuku, Sugamo, Umegaoka,|
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