Before we went to Japan, we made a really methodical list of every type of food we wanted to tackle while there. It obviously included sushi, but was much broader than that, encompassing soba, ramen, tonkatsu, yakitori and other types of cuisine that we wanted to be sure to have, even if it was just for a snack.
I canvassed my friends for months before we went to Tokyo to get all of their recommendations and give myself enough time to make reservations. Here’s a list of everything that we loved, along with write ups.
The most bucket list food experience of the trip for me was eating at Sukiyabashi Jiro, which is arguably the best-known and most-renowned sushi restaurant in the world. It was immortalized by a documentary called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” about a tireless sushi master known for the best quality sushi. The omakase meal will set you back a pretty penny, but trust us when we say it is worth it. We ate at his second restaurant in Roppongi, which is run by Jiro’s son.
It is incredibly hard to even get a reservation at Jiro, so if you want one, read our post on how we were able to snag a seat for dinner here. The atmosphere at Jiro could be quite intimidating. It’s one bar populated by 6-8 people eating for dinner with Jiro and his underlings serving up delicious pieces of sushi in front of you. We sampled amazing tunas, flounder, clam, uni, you name it. We also got to have the famous egg cake at the very end.
There were some funny parts during the hour and a half meal that we still laugh about. Including my boyfriend dropping half a piece of sushi (his first piece of sushi) on his lap. Jiro’s look of dismay was pretty priceless. At the end, Jiro allowed us to take some photos with him which is a pretty cool souvenir.
We had a very elegant lunch at the Park Hyatt’s Kozue restaurant on our last day in Tokyo and it was so memorable. The Park Hyatt is a really beautiful hotel situated in the Shinjuku area of town. It towers above the city, and its restaurant Kozue is on the 40th floor. So, once you get to the tippy top of the Hyatt, you feel like you are eating a meal in the clouds with views every which way you look. (See a photo from lunch below).
Lunch at Kozue is very traditional and really sleek. The atmosphere was pretty formal but beautiful, and we were the only foreigners there during our visit. I really appreciated their wine list and settled down with a glass of Cloudy Bay once we sat at a table next to the window. We each ordered a set menu so that we could try a number of delicacies during the meal. I ordered the signature Kozue meal, which included items such as black sesame tofu, clear soup with salmon dumplings, a box of ten Japanese delicacies, steamed crab dumplings with leeks, and a number of other amazing foods.
My boyfriend ordered the Gen lunch, with started with two types of soba noodles, pickled vegetable, whiting fish and other courses. We then had massive iced coffees and dessert before wandering around the space to take in the views and snap photos of the breathtaking vistas. It was the most perfect and elegant way to end a whirlwind three-day tour of Tokyo before heading to Kyoto.
Located in the Ebisu ward of Tokyo, this restaurant specializes in pork cutlets composed of super think layers of pork, almost like a French Mille Feuille, that are then battered and fried and either crusted in a unique flavor or filled with cheese and other fillings. We started with this amazing cabbage salad with a homemade salad dressing that I couldn’t get enough of and drank lots of sake with our meal.
For our main, we had a hard time picking between the many different varieties, so decided to get a bunch to split. We ordered their classic tonkatsu, black pepper tonkatsu (my favorite), cheese tonkatsu and garlic tonkatsu. Each piece probably has about 25 layers and they are fried to perfection without being greasy. I read their reviews online before we went and was super excited to try it and the food lived up to the hype!
You would be remiss to go to Tokyo and not have some of their amazing ramen. Ramen was very high on my list of foods to try in Tokyo because I typically steer clear of carbs at home and hadn’t had “real” ramen before. My only experiences with ramen involved microwave packets.
Tokyo Station, which you may take a train in or out of if you are traveling to or from other parts of Tokyo, is famous for having what is called Ramen Street in the underground portion of the train station. This alleyway is home to a number of little ramen shops where you order your ramen dish from a vending machine of sorts. This is a great activity to do before or after a train to the station, but is also definitely worth seeking out for lunch if you don’t have trains scheduled.
There are some old stalwarts such as Ippudo and Rokurinsha, which typically have extremely long lines. We ended up eating at Soranoiro Nippon, which was really great. It’s an inexpensive but really interesting and filling lunch. In order to make it *slightly* more nutritious, my boyfriend and I had ours with hard-boiled eggs added to it. I also appreciated that it’s a quick meal, (& super cheap) so you can get back out and sightsee.