There are many reasons to go to Tokyo. For me, the food and the restaurants in Tokyo are the main reason! I love the Japanese cuisine which I can find in Stockholm, but the real deal is of course found in Tokyo with flavors that are both simple and complex.
Many traditional restaurants use super fresh ingredients including seafood which the restaurants owners buy from the fish market the same morning. Chefs take every detail seriously – from perfectly cooked rice to cutting identical cucumber cubes. From small street food stalls to Michelin restaurants, you’ll find customer service and food that is excellent everywhere.
There are restaurants at all price levels in Japan, so you can live on a budget and find really good value for money. You can also find restaurants that are some of the best in the world if you want to spoil yourself. Here’s an insider tip… tasting menus are often half price or less during lunch time.
Sushi in Tokyo
The history of sushi in Japan goes back to the 8th century. Back then, sushi was first developed as a means of preserving fish in fermented rice. Later, people began to eat the rice as well as the fish. The dish developed over time and vinegar was used rather than lacto-fermentation to sour the rice.
Today, sushi is one of the dishes most associated with the Japanese cuisine, and it can be both a quick lunch as well as part of a tasting omakase menu. Omakasé is the Japanese word for a tasting menu where the chef decides what the customer will get. Often, you sit around the kitchen counter in an L or U-shape and are served the dishes directly from the chef who is in the middle.
It takes several years to learn how to cook sushi rice to perfection and sushi chefs in Japan take this seriously. While sushi in Tokyo is technically great, I recommend trying sushi with tuna with different fatness qualities – something I have not found back home in Stockholm yet.
The fattiest parts of tuna really melt in the mouth, which is quite different from the texture of “regular” tuna. Just don’t go for 12 pieces of fatty tuna, which is the most expensive tuna sushi. You don’t need more than three pieces of this type.
You can find Sushi in Tokyo that fits all budgets. Just follow the lines around lunchtime to find the most popular places, or choose one of these three sushi restaurants:
Sushi in Tokyo – Budget, Midrange and Luxury Options
You will find that budget restaurants in Tokyo often are chains that focus on one particular type of Japanese food. One of them that focuses on sushi is Ganso Zushi, a budget sushi chain with branches all over Tokyo. You take the pieces you like one by one from a conveyor belt and pay afterward. Affordable, tasty and interesting experience.
Uogashi Nihon-Ichi is also a chain, but a step up from the conveyor belt restaurants with excellent value for its great sushi!
If you want to get a sushi experience out of the ordinary, book a spot because there are only eight seats at the three-star Michelin restaurant Sushi Saito. Meals start at around 140 Yen per person and up.
Ramen in Tokyo
Ramen is a Japanese version of a Chinese dish with wheat noodles and was first introduced to Japan by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century. Ramen is perfect, especially for colder days, and is made from a hot broth, noodles (that are cooked exactly as you want them), vegetables and meat. It is eaten all day and is a popular lunch dish as well as a light nighttime snack.
There are said to be over 50,000 ramen restaurants in Tokyo alone, from small holes in the wall to Michelin-awarded ramen restaurants.
Many people find it a bit difficult to eat ramen without spilling broth over their shirts, so here is the correct way to eat it:
- Pull a small amount of noodles from the bowl with the chopsticks.
- Make sure you separate the noodles from the rest, and then dip them again in the broth.
- Slurp up the noodles with the broth. Take some of the pork or egg and then repeat again with some noodles.
- When you are finished with everything in the bowl but the broth, bring the bowl to your mouth and finish the rest.
Ramen Restaurants in Tokyo – Budget, Midrange and Luxury options
With over 330 branches all over the Kanto region, Hidakaya is one of the best known budget ramen restaurant chains.
Ginza Kagari Otemachi is also mentioned in the Michelin guide, and is a midrange option with just a 15-minute wait in line.
If you want to taste the best ramen in Tokyo – try to get a seat at the restaurant called Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta. Be prepared to start lining up at 08.00 am in the morning, as it is really popular and the waiting times around lunchtime can be several hours.
Tempura in Tokyo
This Japanese way of dipping vegetables and seafood in batter and then deep frying goes back to the mid 16-century, when it was brought by the Portuguese along with Catholicism. The word “Tempura” is derived from the Latin word of “Tempora,” which refers to “The Ember Days (quattuor anni tempora), when Catholics refrain from eating meat.
It is an art to make the perfect tempura, and it involves not only using the right flour for the batter, but also the best oil. The vegetables have to be cut in exactly the same size so they are evenly cooked.
Nowadays, seafood such as shrimp is also part of the tempura serving. It is often served with a spicy dipping sauce or just with seasoned salt.
I love to have tempura served in a traditional Japanese way, where it is distributed piece by piece to the guests around a U-shaped bar.
Three Places for Great Tempura in Tokyo
Tempura Tendon Tenya is a fast food chain that serves tempura for a bargain.
Tempura Kondo in Ginza is a very popular spot so booking in advance is recommended!
Tempura Fukamachi offers fine dining with specialty tempuras such as fresh sea urchin.
Gyoza in Tokyo
Gyoza is a direct descendant of the Chinese dumpling. It is a truly excellent, cheap comfort food. During wars between Japan and China, the Japanese got to try these dumplings and adjusted the Chinese dish to their taste.
Gyoza is made of wrappers that are thinner, smaller, and more delicate than traditional dumplings, and the filling is more finely textured. They come pan-fried, boiled or deep-fried. The filling often includes spring onion, cabbage, mushrooms and pork or chicken. Gyoza is served with dipping sauces that taste of ponzu, dried fruits or soy sauce.
The restaurants that specialize in gyoza are often quite simple, and on their small menus, they usually only sell gyoza, along with rice, some small sides and beer.
Three Gyoza Restaurants in Tokyo
Gyoza No Fukuho Yoyogi Hachiman is a favorite among locals. It is a chain, so it has many small outlets spread around Tokyo.
Kanda Gyoza is also a chain and their gyoza is very popular. Shibuya Gyoza caters to a young crowd and serves great gyozas.
There are not really any luxury restaurants that specialize in only gyoza in Tokyo, but if you want to line up for the best gyoza, Harajuku Gyozalo is one of the highly recommended ones.
Teppanyaki in Tokyo
Teppanyaki is not as traditional as one might think. This way of cooking food on an iron plate in front of the customers was invented in the 1940s for American tourists. Today, Teppanyaki is well known around the world and chefs behind these large hot iron plates are as good entertainers as they are in cooking. Typical dishes served from the Teppanyaki stove are shrimp, beef, fried vegetables and fried rice. The most common spices used are usually garlic and soy sauce.
In terms of entertainment, teppanyaki chefs use ingredients in a fun way. They juggle with eggs and often land one of the eggs on their hat. They make flowers on the frying board with egg-white. They also make a snake of an omelette that “speaks” with the guests. These are just a few of the various ways eating teppanyaki in Tokyo, which is clearly an all-around entertaining affair beyond dining.
Three Places to Have Teppanyaki in Tokyo.
Teppanyaki Grow Ueno provides good value for money and good entertainment.
Teppanyaki Ten is a Teppanyaki restaurant with a focus on seafood.
Hakushu Teppanyaki is one of the top Teppanyaki restaurants in Tokyo where you can order Kobe beef.
These are just a few of my must-try dishes and restaurants in Tokyo, and I find the restaurants here so interesting. Remember that there are a lot of foodies in Tokyo and the most popular restaurants can have lines several hours long, so plan your restaurant visits well.
And if you want to pay for your food in Japanese Yen and earn EuroBonus points at the same time, use the SAS Travel Wallet. This digital wallet helps you get there, then go further.