Where to Eat in Tokyo Now: A Star Chef's Guide
Chef Todd English is most well known for the Italian-inspired cooking he does at his national empire of restaurants, including Olives and the more casual Figs. But as an eating destination, English loves Tokyo. "There's so much crazy food there that's just so different from what we have here," he says. While filming his new public-television show, Food Trip with Todd English, he was so inspired by Japan that he shot two episodes there. Here, he tells Food & Wine his favorite food spots in Tokyo.
"This father-and-son sushi place in the Tsukiji fish market is almost a cliché now, but it's so much fun to go to. It's a scene. I've been there probably a dozen times, and the son and I have become good friends. I usually go at 7 in the morning, after walking through the market, when I'm jet-lagged and everything's lost in translation. I love it because it's all about down-home sushi. The fish is right there in the market, and they buy it fresh each day and serve it. It all makes sense. There's no regular menu—I just ask him to throw stuff at me. And, as with the market, you have to go early." (5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; 011-81-03-3547-6807)
"Nobu [Matsuhisa, of Nobu restaurants] turned me on to this crazy place. All the food is in front of you here—tuna, vegetables, more Kobe beef—and they grill it for you behind the counter. When you order, the waiter yells it out and then the rest of the staff repeats it, so there's a lot of yelling. It's great, because I don't speak much Japanese other than sushi names, so I can just point and they take care of the rest." (4-10-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku; 011-81-03-5775-1012)
"Kappa-bashi is known as the kitchen district, because the main street (of the same name) has dozens and dozens of restaurant-supply stores that sell all kinds of pots and pans and utensils that you never see here. I love the shops that sell the plastic and wax food replicas that a lot of restaurants in Tokyo put in their display windows."
"The Kobe beef in Japan is just off the charts. This restaurant is beautiful and famous for its shabu-shabu, a method of cooking meats and vegetables in broth at the table. The beef is sliced superthin, so it's only cooked for a few seconds, and it just melts in your mouth. They have a really delicious sesame dipping sauce for it, too." (3-12-2, Roppongi, Minato-ku; 011-81-03-3402-1051)
"This place has an incredible sake list, but it's really known for its Kobe tongue skewers. The restaurant is on the second floor of a building, and when you walk in, you see three glass refrigerators behind the chef at the counter with the tongues just hanging there, aging. But before eating the tongue, you start with a thinly sliced piece of Kobe liver sashimi, which is worth trying just to say you did it. Then you move on to a tartare of Kobe beef. The chef cuts the aged tongue to order, threads the pieces on skewers and grills them over charcoal. They're served with a simple yuzu dipping sauce. That's it! They're amazingly tender and so good." (New Ginza Bldg. F1; 7-3-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku; 011-81-03-3575-0477)