Tokyo Cuisine

Original open uri20160815 3469 1maez2f?1471295465?ixlib=rails 0.3
Tokyo Cuisine
Tokyo’s decadent multi-course feasts, exceptional tofu, and desserts made with sweet red bean paste prove that Japanese cuisine is far more diverse than just sushi and tempura.
By Erin Bogar, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Shan Shan
  • 1 / 9
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1maez2f?1471295465?ixlib=rails 0.3
    The Sushi Scene
    While sushi has gained popularity worldwide, the sushi in Tokyo still reigns supreme. At kaitenzushi, conveyor belt sushi bars, guests grab small plates of sushi as they glide past. Tokyo has kaitenzushi ranging from 100-yen-per-plate to high-end establishments like Roppongi’s Pintokona. For the freshest catch of the day, Japan’s largest fish market, Tsukiji, has shops that open early for a sushi breakfast. (Or try Nakaya for a donburi rice bowl.) Affordable lunch sets at Itamae Sushi, in Ginza and Roppongi, include nigiri and sashimi served with green tea and miso soup.
    Photo by Shan Shan
  • 2 / 9
    Original open uri20160815 3469 8c19xr?1471295470?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Culinary Markets—Windows into History
    The Ameyokocho and Tsukiji markets are windows into Tokyo’s fascinating history. Arrive at Tsukiji before 4 a.m. for the best chance of being one of the 120 people allowed into the predawn tuna auction. During the auction, hundreds of fish are inspected by wholesale and restaurant buyers before being sold at a premium. Walking through the market is dangerously interesting—the men driving electric carts buzz past and barely tolerate tourists. Ameyokocho Market, next to Ueno Station, became Tokyo’s black market after World War II. Today, the crowded street still has an old-time feel, with stalls selling fish, freeze-dried fruit, and Tokyo T-shirts. Vendors are tightly packed, patient with tourists, and sometimes willing to bargain.
    Photo by Jeff Jones/age fotostock
  • 3 / 9
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1lqtvqi?1471295475?ixlib=rails 0.3
    All about Noodles
    Menrui (noodles) are a staple of the Japanese diet. Even though ramen originated in China, the Japanese have crafted as many different ramen styles as there are distinct regions of Japan. Among the most popular are shoyu ramen, a soy sauce broth; miso ramen, a soy paste broth; and tonkotsu ramen, a pork bone broth. Sample a rich and delicious tonkotsu ramen at Shiba-daimon's Fukki ramen shop and try white-, black-, or red-broth ramen at Shinjuku’s Menya Musashi. Enjoy udon, Japan’s fat, round wheat noodles, at Nanakura near Shinbashi Station. Soba noodles are made of buckwheat and are commonly served hot or cold with dipping sauce. Try some of the city’s best soba at Honmura An in Roppongi.
    Photo by Jon Sheer
  • 4 / 9
    Original open uri20160815 3469 n6ye0b?1471295479?ixlib=rails 0.3
    The Izakaya Experience: Japanese Bars
    After work and on weekends people frequent izakaya (Japanese pubs). Izakaya are lively establishments that traditionally serve Japanese lagers alongside bar snacks like gyoza (dumplings), yakitori (chicken skewers), and horumon (offal). Many izakaya offer all-you-can-drink deals, where, for a fixed price, you can settle in for the evening. Roppongi’s Warayaki-ya is an open-air, polished izakaya usually packed with businessmen unwinding from work. Yurakucho, the train stop between Tokyo Station and Ginza, has streets lined with reasonably priced izakaya. Try Shin Hinomoto, tucked beneath the JR train tracks near Yurakucho Station, for a cheerful environment and enjoyable meal.
    Photo by Marie Takahashi
  • 5 / 9
    Original open uri20160815 3469 12t3omm?1471295485?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Noteworthy Festival Food
    During festivals, food stalls line the streets and sell a diverse assortment of traditional and unique Japanese treats. During Sanja Matsuri in mid-May you will find okonomiyaki (a pancake including meat or seafood and vegetables), takoyaki (fried octopus dough balls), and karaage (fried chicken bites) as well as sweet treats like dorayaki (sponge cake filled with sweet red bean paste) and mochi (rice paste cake). During Ganjitsu, locals celebrate New Year with osechi-ryori, ornately prepared dishes symbolic of wealth, happiness, and longevity. When festivals are not taking place, food stalls can be found in Ueno Koen near Benzaiten shrine and around Senso-ji temple.
    Photo by Rafael Alba
  • 6 / 9
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1ociulv?1471295490?ixlib=rails 0.3
    The Finest of Fine Dining
    Michelin testers came to Tokyo for the first time in 2007. Despite the refusal of some Japanese chefs to participate, Tokyo received more than 300 Michelin stars in 2016—more than any other city in the world. Narisawa, owned by chef Yoshihiro Narisawa, was rated the eighth best restaurant in the world in 2015 and 2016. The restaurant's French nature-themed dishes are created with artistic precision. Shinjuku’s three-star Ishikawa, run by chef Hideki Ishikawa, serves elegant kaiseki, a multi-course Japanese dinner. Ishikawa’s traditional Japanese aesthetic is reflected in the cuisine, the interior décor, and the servers' kimonos. Tokyo chefs continue to astound culinary critics with their inventive dishes and meticulous service.
    Photo by Jon Sheer
  • 7 / 9
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1nw3zai?1471295494?ixlib=rails 0.3
    The Traditional Tea Ceremony
    While tea was first brought to Japan from China in the eighth century, the tradition of the tea ceremony began in the 15th century as a spiritual practice of Zen Buddhism. The ceremony embraces the principles of wabi (the inner experience of quiet refinement) and sabi (the outer experience of embracing imperfection). The ceremony is a graceful and relaxing ritual that eases participants into inward reflection. The preparation of matcha (powdered green tea) is an elegant and slow process. Enjoy a quiet break from sightseeing at a tea ceremony in Hotel Okura, located near the U.S. Embassy, or attend a traditional tea ceremony at Tokyo’s Rikugien Garden and enjoy your matcha while surrounded by a poetic landscape.
    Photo by Martin Hladik/age fotostock
  • 8 / 9
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1cvqcof?1471295498?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Eat like a Local
    Follow the locals to their favorite spots to make your decision about where to dine easier. For a delicious, quick, and simple lunch, grab a bowl of gyudon (beef rice bowl) from the Yoshinoya or Sukiya chains. Japanese curry is milder than its Southeast Asian counterparts; choose your own spice level at Curry House CoCo Ichibanya or Roppongi Hill’s 37 Curry. In the cooler months, the Japanese enjoy nabe (a Japanese hot pot) and oden (ingredients include boiled eggs and fish cakes stewed in soy-flavored dashi). Depachika, the basements of department stores, are food wonderlands that sell everything from traditional sweets to fresh squid. Eating like a local is a great way to discover the city.
    Photo by Jon Sheer
  • 9 / 9
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1ij7y4a?1471295503?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Tokyo’s Varied Café Culture
    Tokyo cafés range from ornate establishments to laid-back artist hangouts. In a city that caters to all fantasies and hobbies, cat cafés and rabbit cafés are not unusual. Felines roam free in cat cafés, and customers pay an entry fee that includes a drink and “cat time.” Daikanyama, a quaint neighborhood of rolling hills filled with cafés, is a refreshing change from its high-energy neighbor, Shibuya. Check out Caffè Michelangelo, a refined Italian café, and the American export Saturdays NYC: a chill surfer shop complete with outdoor patio, cappuccinos, and Mast Brothers chocolate.
    Photo by Marie Takahashi