With over 1,60,000 restaurants around the city, Tokyo’s gastronomic scene spoils you for choice. Being an avid lover of Japanese cuisine, I was thrilled to be in the land from where it all originated. What’s interesting is while I got a glimpse of traditional Tokyo-style eateries, I also experienced versatile facets of the evolving food scene here. From contemporary restaurants that are modernising Japanese dishes to hole-in-the-wall sake bars that surprise you with the most avant garde spirits, Tokyo has it all. Not to mention restaurants serving international cuisines ranging from Italian and Spanish, to even Indian are not very hard to find. Interestingly, the Michelin Guide has awarded Tokyo by far the most Michelin stars than any other city in the world. To complement that, there are a number of budget eateries that serve varied cuisines round
English menus are not common in traditional Japanese outlets, however restaurants that serve you via a vending machine make it slightly easier with visual descriptions. Whether it’s udon noodles you’re looking for or traditional sashimi, yakitori (meat/vegetables on skewers) or some good old pasta, chances of you being disappointed are close to minimal. Here are some of the restaurants and bars that are worth a visit on your first timeto Tokyo.
Conrad Tokyo’s Japanese fine dining restaurant presents traditional dishes with a contemporary twist. Set on the 28th floor, panoramic views that overlook Tokyo Bay, further elevate this dining experience. Here you can pick between sushi, Kaiseki (multi-course Japanese meals) and Teppanyaki dining menus. Its à la carte menu has an array of seasonal delicacies, appetisers, soups, sashimi, grilled and simmered preparations. Some of its seasonal dishes are a hot pot of Japanese Wagyu beef and charcoal-grilled Japanese Wagyu beef with foamed soya sauce. Its fish delicacies include the likes of codfish, longtooth grouper and yellowtail. The brown sugar pudding with walnut shouldn’t be missed.
Price range: ₹₹₹₹; open daily 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-9pm; Conrad Tokyo, 1-9-1 Higashi Shinbashi, Minato-ku; tel: +81 3 63888745. conradtokyo.com
The Restaurant by Aman Tokyo
On the 33rd floor of Aman Tokyo is its fine dining Italian restaurant that’s known for its inventive cooking techniques and usage of simple ingredients. It is the brain child of executive chefs Stefano Artosin and Andrea Torre who have created interesting dishes that are anything but run-of-the-mill Italian. Japanese Chef Hiraki marries his signature domestic cooking style with traditional Italian flavours. Its à la carte menu has a range of antipasti, salads, pastas, sharing plates and main dishes. You can devour some high quality meats such as grilled Wagyu sirloin and braised Sagamihara pork. Those interested in Japanese fish preparations will find the sautéed golden thread-fin bream and flounder mains a sumptuous choice. I quite enjoyed the wild boar ragout and truffle pappardelle, which ended on a sweet note with its tiramisu that’s prepared with Domori chocolate.
Price range: ₹₹₹₹; open daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-11pm; Aman Tokyo, The Otemachi Tower, 1-5-6 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku; tel: +81 3 52243339. aman.com
Located on the 38th floor of Mandarin Oriental, this eight-seater sushi bar offers a traditional Japanese dining experience in a fine dining setting. Views of the TOKYO SKYTREE and Tokyo’s cityscape add to the glamour of it all. Since the restaurant only serves eight patrons, reservation is essential. On the other side of the bar, two chefs interact with you while preparing and plating the dishes. Sushi Sora prides itself on using only the freshest ingredients that are sourced daily from Tsukiji market and the fish is picked and served as per the time of the year. In the lunch menu, you are served blanched vegetables, seven kinds of sushi, chef’s seasonal recommendation, clear soup and seasonal dessert.
Price range: ₹₹₹₹; open daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10pm; Mandarin Oriental, 2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku; tel: +81 3 32708188. mandarinoriental.com
“Tsuru” is the sound of slurping noodles, “ton” is the sound of kneading and shaping udon, and “tan” is the sound of cutting udon. Embodying these sounds, TsuruTonTan is known for its fine, handmade udon preparations that are served in its signature artisanal big bowls. The first TsuruTonTan opened in 1989. Since then, it has expanded into a multi-chain brand. Its chefs use bonito flakes, fresh fish, locally grown vegetables and premium quality meats to prepare the noodle dishes. Along with the basic chicken, beef and shrimp tempura udon, TsuruTonTan also serves curry udon, katsu curry and sizzling shrimp mushroom udon. The restaurant has a separate sashimi and sushi menu as well. Its range of sake, cocktails and shōchū (a traditional Japanese spirit) is impressive.
Price range: ₹₹₹; open daily 11am-8am; 2-26-3 Kabukicho, B1F Amimoto Building, Shinjuku; tel: +81 3 52872626. tsurutontan.com
Tokyo’s Tsukiji market is well known for its 5am tuna auctions that attract tourists from the world over. Even more popular are some of the restaurants such as Sushi Dai within its building that are renowned for their fresh sushi. However, a meal at Sushi Dai requires a certain amount of dedication to sushi. This is because queues to get a place at this nine-seater restaurant may last up to four hours. Doors officially open at 5am and sushi is served on a one-to-one basis directly by the sushi chef. Some of the fish you can devour here includes horse mackerel, seasoned tuna, whitebait, sea urchin, sea bream, salmon, filefish and yellowtail. In 2014, Sushi Dai was ranked the third best restaurant in all of Japan by TripAdvisor, elaborating on its fame across the travel community.
Price range: ₹₹₹; open daily 5am-2pm; 5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chūō; tel: +81 3 35476797.
The Imperial Lounge Aqua
The Imperial Hotel was built in the late 1880s at the request of the Japanese aristocracy to cater to the rising demand of Western visitors to Japan. It is located just south of the Imperial Palace grounds, beside the previous location of the Palace moat. With views of the tree-topped expanse of Hibiya Park, its Imperial Lounge Aqua on the top floor offers dramatically different settings in the day and the evening. While an extravagant high tea is served in the afternoon, live music and dim lighting in the night transforms the ambience to a lounge. Guests can enjoy cocktails in this elegant lounge that is the work of British designer Julian Reed. It breathes an air of sophisticated luxury. The Imperial Lounge Aqua offers private salons for groups between 20 and 60 standing guests for intimate affairs as well.
Price range: ₹₹₹₹; open daily 11:30am-12:00am (closes by 10pm on holidays preceding weekdays); 1-1, Uchisaiwaicho 1-chome, Chiyoda-ku; tel: +81 3 3539 8186. imperialhotel.co.jp/e/tokyo/
A unique cocktail bar with a tasting menu just for drinks, Gen Yamamoto is for the true spirit connoisseur. Seasonal and select local fresh produce and fine liquors make up its menus that change as per the time of the year. Japanese seasonality or “shiki” plays a key role in the drinks served here. Interestingly, the menu is not set, but is curated individually for each customer. Spirits are carefully selected and then blended with juices from seasonal produce that are sourced directly from farmers by Yamamoto, the eponymous sommelier and owner himself. You will require a reservation at this eight-seater restaurant, which will be accepted by Yamamoto himself, who, dressed in a white jacket presides over his guests personally. According to the website, some of its recent cocktails include ingredients such as quince, chestnuts, citrus, kiwifruit, apple and tomato.
Price range: ₹₹₹; open daily 3pm-11pm; 1 Chome−6−4, Azabujuban, Minato; tel: +81 3 6434 0652. genyamamoto.jp
Bar High Five
Bar High Five was founded by celebrated bartender Hidetsugu Ueno, who is known for one of Ginza’s most famous high-end bars — Star Bar. What makes this bar stand out is its no drinks menu experience, where bartenders interact with guests to understand their preferences and stir up cocktails accordingly. Expect questions on your choice of alcohol, texture, flavours and smokiness. This immersive cocktail interaction is mostly handled by Ueno himself, who is assisted by fellow bartenders. He also happens to be the only bartender who can speak English at Bar High Five, making him popular amongst expats and tourists.
Some of his signature cocktails include “ceremony” with Suntory Hakushu whisky, Hermes green tea and Suntory matcha, and “full bloom” with Kinobi gin, cherry blossom flavour and Luxardo Maraschino liqueur. Reservations are not accepted, but if you call and a seat is available, it will be held for ten minutes only.
Price range:₹₹₹; open Monday-Saturday 5pm-11:30pm; 5 Chom−4−15, Efflore Ginza5 Building, Ginza, Chūō; tel: +81 3 3571 5815.
- Price range : ₹₹₹ — Expensive; ₹₹₹₹— Very Expensive