Tokyo – Great places to eat and drink

Tokyo – Introduction

Tokyo wasn’t on our radar for the first twenty or so years that we travelled the world being foodtourists. However, let us give you a warning! If you go to Tokyo once you will get so entranced you will want to return time and time and time again.

There are just so many interesting places to eat and drink. Whether it is small stalls in markets that do one thing exceptionally well, or upmarket sushi and sashimi specialists or places focussing on interesting cocktails, coffee places that search out the most interesting coffee beans or chefs producing some of the best pizzas we have ever eaten, you will find it all in this great, sprawling city.

The thing that is common to most of the interesting places is the obsessive and highly disciplined search for perfection.

Another area of commonality is the dedication to purity. The fish is the freshest and most perfect you will find. The vegetables have been tended with care and attention and, in the places we favour, grown organically or biodynamically. The same extends to wine and sake which is made from grapes and grains that have never been subjected to systemic sprays or artificial fertilisers.

This story is an attempt to provide you with a starting point in the search for interesting places to eat and drink.

Tokyo – Winestand Waltz

A tiny bar called Winestand Waltz which sits at the end of a long path which winds through a pleasant garden is emblematic of what you might find. It is a “standing bar” with only enough room for about eight customers. Here you will find a limited food offering and a great range of natural sakes and natural wines from Europe and Japan.

On the turntable you will find interesting music – maybe a Stan Getz album. While the owner is also very keen on Bach he may also play the music of some local heroes such as Nobuyuki Nakajima or Umitaro Abe. It is well-worth a visit. Ebisu 4-24-3, Shimada Building 1F.

You can see more about this lovely place on their Instagram feed.

Tokyo bar Winestand Waltz
Winestand Waltz Tokyo

Tokyo – Shimada

Shimada is a “standing bar” on the edge of the Ginza area of Tokyo where you eat excellent food and drink sake or beer at a tiny bar that caters for about eight people plus four at the end table where seating is available.
You place your trust in chef Tomoya Araikawa and engaging front-of-house Masahiro Shimizu who speaks some English, however the menu is only in Japanese. It is chalked on a blackboard and as the ingredients run out they are scrubbed from the board.

Dishes to seek out are the Shirako (very creamy sperm sack of sea bass) and the iconic cold soba noodles topped with shavings of house cured mullet roe. Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-2-8, Takasaka Bldg 1F.

Tokyo – Sushi Ya

We have retained this story about Sushi Ya even though we believe that chef Takao Ishiyama has his own restaurant. It is called Sushi Ishiyama. From what we have read about his new restaurant you can expect to be served very similar dishes to those described here.

Sushi ya is one of our favourite sushi restaurants in the city of Tokyo. The young chef (sushi itamae), Takao Ishiyama, is an expert in choosing the very freshest seafood and his knife skills and hand techniques are exemplary.

With at least 26 individual morsels, each absolutely delicious, it’s hard to choose what to write about. Of course everything was meticulous but it was exciting as well, completely unexpected at times, extremes of textures and a rollercoaster of subtle to intense seasoning.

Highlights of our meal were, the flesh of tiny, tiny shrimp which held together as a single piece, topped with raw fish liver, baby squid which had been dried and lacquered so as to be chewy and slightly sweet, a beautiful puck of monkfish liver which was served cold, grilled anago (salt-water eel) drenched with impeccably cut chives, grated daikon with a touch of chilli (the seasoning was perfect), the finest Hokkaido uni (sea urchin) was rich, flavoursome and completely delicious and, at the finish of many tastes, a piece of perfect tamago (Japanese omelette).

You can find more details on our story about Sushi ya on this site.

Tokyo – Kabi

Our meal at Kabi in Tokyo was one of the most satisfying and enjoyable meals we’ve had for a long time.
A talented, focussed young team, a beautiful restaurant (even the toilet) respectful to the building which houses it and delicious food which, while unique, is firmly rooted in the place where it is and the time of year.

And it fits all the things we talked about in the introduction. Purity in the ingredients with a very talented vegetable supplier and only the very best fish being served. The also only serve pure, natural wines and sake. 4 Chome-10-8, Meguro.

Tokyo – Butagumi

Butagumi is an excellent place to try tonkatsu cuisine in Tokyo. The pork here is chosen with care, the coating of the pork products is exceptionally crisp and perfectly cooked and the accompanying rice is the best Koshihikari available from the Niigata prefecture. 2-24-9 Nishi-Azabu, Minato.

You can read more about Butagumi in our story here.

Tokyo – Ahiru Store

Ahiru Store is one of the hottest bars in Tokyo. They serve natural wines from France and other parts of Europe and even have a few Japanese natural wines. The rillettes that they serve have become famous. If you want to experience this place make sure that you arrive early and be prepared to queue. 1-19-4 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku.

Ahiru sign – photo by foodtourist

Tokyo – Path

Path is a small, yet inviting, restaurant in the Shibuya district of Tokyo that serves the most amazing pastries and coffee in the mornings along with more substantial fare so that you can have a satisfying breakfast, lunch or dinner here.
The croissants and pain au chocolat are next level and are constantly being cooked during the morning in the oven so you might have to wait a few minutes but then the pastries are served directly from the oven to your plate. Extraordinary!

Don’t leave without trying the Dutch “pancake” made with choux pastry. 1-44-2 Tomigaya, Shibuya.

Tokyo – Bunon

Bunon is a lively restaurant and wine bar in the Nishi-Azabu district of Tokyo serving excellent food where the fish is brought in fresh from the daily markets and many of the vegetables are grown on their own farm.
They not only serve great food here, but they are open quite late for people wanting to enjoy the excellent range of natural wines (from Japan, Europe and Australia) and one of the best sake selections in town. Minato-ku, Nishi-Azabu 4-2-14.

Tokyo – Le Cabaret

Le Cabaret is a pleasant restaurant in the Shibuya district of Tokyo serving very tasty food and a great collection of natural wines overseen by talented sommelier Yasuhiro Tsubota. The food has a French influence (rillettes of pork and duck, marinated sardines teamed with cold potatoes, snappingly-fresh oysters opened to order or steak frites for two) and the sommelier will always choose the right wine to match the food you are eating.

On our recent visit we enjoyed the sardines with a glass of the Partida Creus Vinel-lo from Spain. This is an excellent example of a vibrant living wine with no additives including no added sulphites. 8-8 Motoyoyogicho, Shibuya.

Tokyo – Gen Yamamoto

No trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to Gen Yamamoto. We have alluded to the search for excellence in Japan with people doing one thing to perfection – well at Gen Yamamoto you will find cocktails made to perfection with the very best seasonal ingredients. Only 8 people can fit around the amazing bench here so you need to book, but it is certainly one of the most iconic food and drink experiences in the city. 1-6-4 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku.

Tokyo – Nata de Cristiano

If we told you to look for the best pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tarts) you might rightly head to Portugal. However, never underestimate the Japanese for their obsession for perfection and at Nata de Cristiano the egg tarts are simply superb. It is well-worth dropping in here (just opposite Yoyogi Park) and experiencing the way they present the pastry, the custard and the “burned” tops. Just right! Tomigaya, 1 Chome−14−16, Shibuya.

Tokyo – Rokurinsha Ramen

Rokurinsha at Tokyo Station (underground near the Yaesu South entrance) has queues lining up prior to opening time for a reason – the tsukemen is some of the best in town. Beautiful, chewy noodles served with sliced pork, deeply-flavourful stock and a topping of bonito power makes for a very satisfying lunch.

Get there before 11am to ensure a good place in the queue. When the doors open and you enter the small space there is a ticket machine just inside the door where you make your selection. We ordered the tsukemen with extra egg (tomago). The egg was cooked to the soft-boiled stage with the yolk still runny – perfect!

But it was the quality of the noodles that impressed us the most. They were firm and chewy – just like they should be. The broth was complex with a slightly gelatinous texture that allowed it to coat the noodles and cling to them. Tokyo Station.

Tags: , , , , , , ,