If I had to pick my favorite city in the entire world (excluding Bangkok,) Tokyo is definitely on the top of my list with Paris being a close second. I could go on and on for hours about all the great things about the city-its beautiful buildings, great variety of shopping, amazing cleanliness, interesting mix of traditions and technology, extremely polite people-the list is virtually endless. But the only reason why it’s at the very top of my list is the FOOD, the amazing oh-I-could-just-live-here-and-become-happily-obese-because-they-look-too-yummy food.
Just in case some of you might be wondering why a non-swimming-animals-eater like me loves a city that, virtually, runs on seafood so much, it’s because of two reasons:
- It’s all bout variety – you could find, literally, anything and everything there.
- It’s all about specialties – I think Tokyo is like New York City with OCD. People here take what they do VERY seriously, they are very particular and very detail-oriented. Unlike in other places in the world, you would not find a “Japanese restaurant” in Japan that sells virtually world-famous “Japanese dishes” such as California Rolls, tempura, and tonkatsu all at the same place. If you want tonkatsu, you go to a tonkatsu place and if you want tempura, you go to a place specializing in tempura etc. Often than not you would find restaurants that have been doing the same thing for hundreds of years. They take pride in what they do and preserve their traditions by passing it on from generations to generations. I find this very commendable and charming.
The following list is not at all comprehensive. It’s merely my personal opinions about the places that I’ve been to and fallen in love with. Most of the Tokyo guides out there focus on seafood, so it took me a long time to come up with a list for myself. And after several trips to my beloved city, these places have remained on my “must eat” list: So I’m hoping that this list could help my fellow non-swimming-animals-eater out there =)
- Ippudo Ramen – my absolute favorite ramen. I have intense cravings for their ramen every so often, I had to visit it twice during my short stay in Tokyo, which should have been a big no no considering all the other restaurants waiting for me to try out, and I still get haunted in my dreams by the fragrant creamy deliciousness of the soup.
Ippudo is a Hakata-style ramen, which means it has a thick tonkotsu (pork bone) soup and a thin white, Shiomaru, noodle instead of the typical yellow type. Although there’s a branch in New York, I dare to say that the original is much better. Maybe I’ll blog about their differences later.
Address: 1-3-12 Hiroo, Sibuya-ku, Tokyo (and many other branches)
- New York Grill – it might be a little ironic for someone from New York to go to the New York Grill every time I visit Tokyo. Although the food is great, I have to admit that I go there for the amazing view at this restaurant which is on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt.
There’s something so memorable and breathtaking about eating among the twinkling lights of the Tokyo skyscrapers with a live jazz band playing in the background, that I’ve had my birthday dinner there three years in a row already. It is also a big plus that the servers are very attentive and not snobbish (and there’s one who is very cute who happened to be taking care of my table every single time too!) It is the perfect spot for any special occasion, especially if you are trying to wow someone, a love interest, perhaps? Make sure you make reservation and ask to sit next to the floor-to-ceiling glass window!
If you do not want to eat Western food during your limited time in Tokyo, please do visit The Peak Lounge couple of floors below since the view is equally amazing.
Address: 3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku, Tel: +81 3 5322 1234
- Imahan – very famous for their shabu-shabu and sukiyaki. The server will make the sukiyaki/shabu for you table side. The price Ranges from Dinner at Y3800 and Lunch is around Y2300-2500.
Address: 14F Takashimaya Times Square
- Takashimaya and Isetan food floor – supermarkets in Japan is certainly a foodie heaven. Rows and rows of yummy-looking goodies from Japanese mocha to Pierre Herme macarons can be found within the same vicinity. Make sure you go hungry since you would be overwhelmed by the varieties. I think the first time I saw all the dessert displays, I hyperventilated.
- Ladurée – this patisserie is the love of my life. Their macorons, especially the rose, vanilla, and caramel-flavored ones, are my absolute favorite thing to eat. And considering that Paris is a little too far, Laduree has to make it onto my Tokyo list. (Just a quick heads up that they do not let you take pictures in their “salon” but I did anyways. Ha ha)
Address: Ladurée Ginza Mitsukoshi, 4-6-16 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo 104 – 8212
- Jean-Paul Hévin – interestingly, I do not like the chocolate macarons at Ladurée as much as their other flavors. Much to my delight, I discovered Jean-Paul Hévin at the chic department store, Omotesando Hills. As a world famous chocolatier, it’s not surprising that his store focuses mainly on chocolates. I let out a soft squeak of happiness when I saw that the store offered different varieties of chocolate macarons, and much to my delight, they all tasted like a piece of “hevin.”
Address: Omotesando Hills – Tokyo. 1F 4-12-10 Jingu-Mae Shibuya-Ku
- Café opposite Kiddy Land– bread in Japan is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I absolutely love the feeling of waking up in the morning and venturing out to find a new place to have breakfast every morning. The variety is endless, you could find anything from sweet potato crossaint to curry-filled doughnuts in a typical “Western-style” bakeries in Japan. But I fell in love with this little café opposite Kiddy Land, the 7-floor toy store in Omotesando. I wish I had a name for it but sadly I was too excited about the bread I did not remember to look. I do not even remember the name of the breads, I only have their pictures:
- Maisen – one of tokyo’s most famous tonkatsu restaurant. I don’t think i need to go into details about what’s so great about the flaky crispiness on the outside and the juicy tenderness of the inside of a piece of tonkatsu. So let me just say that Maisen makes a VERY good version of what’s already a good dish. I can’t seem to find any pictures though, sorry!
Address: Jingumae 4-8-5. Open 11am-10pm
- Katsukura – for an easier to find place for Tonkatsu. Katsukura serves a very decent one, it’s easily located at Takashimaya.
Address: 1-13-21 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
I have so many other restaurants I want to add but this entry is getting too long and I’m ready for my lunch so I’ll save it for next time.