Courtesy of Bryant Ng

The chef behind Cassia in Santa Monica, California, shares his favorite spots during a recent trip to Japan.

Elyse Inamine
November 08, 2017

Leave it to Best New Chef alum Bryant Ng to find hidden gems in a culinary mecca.

The chef behind Cassia in Santa Monica, California, shares his favorite spots during a recent trip to Tokyo.

Butagumi

“This is the best tonkatsu on the planet. This iconic spot in Roppongi is revered for its juicy iberico pork and fatty, yet sweet minami no shima pork, which is beautifully cooked and seasoned with a feathery panko made in-house.”

Rick Poon

Lawson

“This is a Japanese convenience store, and oddly enough, the grab-and-go food is pretty amazing. I bought some local beers, an egg salad sandwich, chicken legs, chips and chocolates. It’s junk food—but with a Japanese sensibility.”

Abura Soba

“This restaurant in the Shinjuku neighborhood specializes in a soupless ramen. It comes with char siu, bamboo, scallions, chile and vinegar. It’s savory, acidic and spicy.”

Courtesy of Bryant Ng

Hirugao

“Inside Tokyo Station, you’ll find this spot along Ramen Street, a collection of well-known ramen-yas. I order the kizo ramen, which has beef tongue, and the shio ramen, which is made with chicken, dried fish and dried scallops. The latter I ordered tsukemen style, where you dip the noodles in a more concentrated broth.”

Bar Gen Yamamato

“This Roppongi bar bears very little resemblance to a western bar. In fact, it looks more like a sushi bar, only instead of raw fish you get a cocktail tasting. The proprietor Gen Yamamoto serves one of the most unique and fun cocktail tastings I’ve ever had. You can choose between four or six drinks, and they’re all extremely well balanced and made with only about three ingredients per drink.”

Courtesy of Bryant Ng

Mitoya

“This two-person operation out of the Suginami area only serves spaghetti Bolognese. The noodles are made in-house and the Bolognese is rich. What I love so much about eating in Tokyo is that you an find these small restaurants that take so much pride in what they do.”

Ekiben

“Ekiben is essentially a bento box (pre-made meal) sold in train stations throughout Japan. Each region has its own specialties and seasons, and you can taste that pride in these ekiben. I was amazed by how delicious this simple box could be. Tokyo Station sells a huge variety of ekiben from different train stations in Japan.”

Courtesy of Bryant Ng

Kagari

“Somehow, the broth is both bold and light at the same time at this tiny shop in Ginza. It specializes in a creamy chicken dashi ramen, which can be served traditionally or tsukemen style.”

Centre the Bakery

“The bakery in Ginza specializes in toast, and at different times of the day, they focus on different types of flour for their Pullman loaves. For example, bread made at 10 a.m. is made with Japanese flour, whereas as the one at 11 a.m. is produced with North American flour. One thing to note when you visit: It’s a very intense experience—I stepped out of line for a second and got yelled at by an employee. But the bread was very good.”

Rokurinsha Ramen

“To me, this is the best ramen on the planet. This spot in Tokyo Station is famed for their tsukemen-style ramen—and there is usually an hour-long wait.”