Where to Eat, Drink & Shop in Tokyo
This amazing soba joint with a little rock garden in front is a favorite of Opening Ceremony founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. They love the cold buckwheat noodles with citrus on top, served with a bowl of salt, grated wasabi and sliced green onions. 3-19-8 Aobadai, Meguro-ku; dosanjin.co.jp.
Omakase: Jimbocho Den
One of the best, most playful meals in Tokyo, if you can score a place at the small counter. Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa serves set menus that include a fried then grilled tempura-crusted chicken wing, stuffed with sticky rice and presented in a fast-food-style paper box adorned with an illustration of the chef’s face. His signature 20-ingredient salad (pictured) is tossed with seaweed dressing and served with a square of dashi gelée, on top of which sits a single ant. 2-2-32 Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku; jimbochoden.com.
Ramen Adventures blogger Brian MacDuckston describes Tsuta’s ramen as “the stuff shoyu dreams are made of.” The slightly sweet, complex broth blends three meticulously sourced soy sauces from small distilleries across Japan. 1-14-1 Sugamo, Toshima-ku; facebook.com/jsn.tsuta.
In the labyrinthine basement of Tokyo Station, signs point the way to Tokyo Ramen Street. One of the best noodle spots, and the one with a long line, is Rokurinsha. The specialty is tsukemen, dippable noodles served with a bowl of flavorful broth and extras like shredded pork. 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku; rokurinsha.com.
Ramen: Menya Shono
The tonkotsu gyokai ramen—pork soup laced with smoky fish and homemade noodles—is beloved by famed Manhattan ramen chef Ivan Orkin (who has his own flagship counter in Setagaya); the shop also serves unorthodox specials like foie gras tsukemen. Multiple locations; menya-shono.com.
The sign outside this eight-seat ramen spot says soba. But Kagari, in an alley near crowded Ginza boulevard, doesn’t serve soba. Instead, it specializes in ramen—namely one with a rich, creamy chicken broth called paitan, slices of breast meat and firm wheat noodles. What makes this ramen exceptional is the chunk of garlic fried in butter you can order alongside. 4-4-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku.
Tokyo expert and food-tour guide Yukari Sakamoto is obsessed with the incredibly light, delicately fried tempura at this old wooden geisha house lined with tatami mats. Tenko serves fish and seasonal vegetables, from tender squid and shrimp to lotus root and spicy fresh ginger. 3-1 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku.
Sushi: Sushi Iwa
Hisayoshi Iwa is “perhaps the next great sushi chef of Japan,” says René Redzepi, who spent months in Tokyo preparing for his pop-up Noma at the Mandarin Oriental (see p. 140). Iwa is known for exceptionally tender abalone and sea urchin that's flown in from Hokkaido. “Everyone loves this place,” adds Redzepi. “And the prices aren’t too high.” 8-5-25 Ginza, Chuo-ku; sushiiwa.co.jp.
Near the shopping complex Omotesando Hills in Shibuya, Maisen is a restaurant dedicated to, and renowned for, its tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets). The pork comes from special regional breeds from Okinawa; fatty kurobuta loin, the house specialty, is thick and juicy with a wonderfully crisp (and not greasy) panko coating. 4-8-5 Jingu-Mae, Shibuya-ku; mai-sen.com.
Meats: Jumbo Hanare
Japanese-food expert and Marvel comics talent scout C.B. Cebulski describes eating at the counter in this temple of grilled meat as an education in butchery and flavor: “Each meat is treated like sushi, grilled a different way with a different sauce or seasoning, depending on what they get that day.” 3-27-9 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku; yakiniku-jambo.com.
For the meat served at what Momofuku’s David Chang calls Tokyo’s best steakhouse, chef Oshima Manabu personally selects each animal. He grills the well-marbled beef—either sirloin or tenderloin—so it’s buttery and crusty. Two more reasons Chang likes Shima: It’s not impossible to get into, nor is it outrageously expensive. 3-5-12 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku.
Meats: Mos Burger
“Tokyo isn’t only a mecca for four-figure sushi and Kobe steak,” says Questlove of The Roots. “On the other end of the spectrum are affordable foods that are just as awesome. Mos Burger is a prime definition of ambrosia for the fast-food set.” Mos sells standard burgers, as well as the Wagyu Burger Demiglace, Teriyaki Burger and Yakiniku Rice Burger. Multiple locations; mos.jp.
Tea and Pastries: Higashiya
Everything about this tea salon set in a Ginza office building is exquisite, from the tea service for sale at the entrance, to the Japanese pastry counter with colorful confections under glass, to the dining room in the back. The menu offers 30 types of tea, including seasonal blends and exemplary matcha, and special-edition sweets like tender, chewy mochi with strawberries and cream. 1-7-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku; higashiya.com.
Tea and Pastries: Kuriya Kashi Kurogi
Pastry genius Dominique Ansel—who has been eating sweets across Tokyo before he opens his own store in Shibuya, where he will sell his Cronuts—adores the traditional desserts here, made with mochi and soybean jam. “Even to watch them make the desserts is beautiful,” he says. Many tea salons are tucked inside buildings; Kurogi’s alfresco dining room is set on the grounds of the University of Tokyo, right next to a garden. 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku; wagashi-kurogi.co.jp.
Coffee: Omotesando Koffee
This minimalist kiosk is set in an old wooden house, fronted by a small courtyard. It consists of a square counter decorated by a red La Cimbali espresso machine. Owner Eiichi Kunitomo explains the design: “Our ‘cube’ concept comes from a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The customer and the barista face each other in a small, extraordinary space.” His smooth espresso is made from single-origin beans sourced primarily from a Kyoto roaster. 4-15-3 Jingu-Mae, Shibuya-ku; ooo-koffee.com.
Cocktails: Gen Yamamoto
Zen enough to be a yoga studio, this eight-seat bar specializes in gorgeous, seasonal cocktails. Using native Japanese spirits and fresh produce, mixologist Gen Yamamoto creates drinks like one made with Pink Lady apple, Yamazaki whiskey and cinnamon, served with a small apple blossom sprig. 1-6-4 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku; genyamamoto.jp.
Cocktails: Ginza Tender
In bartending circles, Ginza Tender’s Kazuo Uyeda is famous as the creator of the “hard shake” (a complex and much-copied way of shaking a cocktail). All the barmen here employ the technique to produce the signature gimlet. 6-5-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku.
Seafood: Tsukiji Fish Market
The world’s largest fish market will relocate in 2016 to a new facility outside the city; before then, go see it in its current gritty location for predawn sushi, live tuna auctions (open to the public on many days) and the most beautiful seafood in the universe. 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; tsukiji-market.or.jp.
Food and Style: Isetan Shinjuku
Like the basements of all Tokyo department stores, Isetan’s is a mini village of food counters; if it’s not the best, most extensive selection, it certainly seems that way. For instance, there’s a farmers’ market with hundred-dollar boxes of webbed melons; rice dishes from all over Asia; desserts from big-deal French bakers like Pierre Hermé and Charpentier; and a wine department with no fewer than 140 sparkling varieties. 3-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku; isetan.co.jp.
Food and Style: Palace Hotel Tokyo
The rebuilt and renovated hotel has a basement lined with exceptional shops. Among them: Masters Craft, a ceramics boutique with minimalist teapots and cups; Hasegawa Saketen, which has a counter for sake flights, as well as hard-to-find bottles and beautiful little glasses; and the hotel’s pastry shop, which sells a rainbow of macarons and flaky pistachio mille-feuilles. 1-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku; palacehoteltokyo.com.
Food and Style: Doinel
This shop has a spectacularly curated selection of unique housewares, from vintage Swedish wineglasses, copper teakettles and woodblock-printed linens by artist Makoto Kagoshima (a favorite of food stylist Susan Spungen) to an excellent selection of French wines. 3-2-9 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku; doinel.net.
Food and Style: Kohoro
“The cutest gallery and store for housewares you can imagine,” says Robin Standefer, who, with Stephen Alesch, makes up the all-star design team at New York City–based Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors. There are exquisite glasses and delicate handmade ceramics, as well as products like bamboo baskets, based on traditional ones used for transporting bean curd. 3-12-11 Tamagawa, Setagaya-ku; kohoro.jp.
Art: 21_21 Design Sight
This experimental, design-centric art museum in Roppongi is a collaboration between fashion designer Issey Miyake and architect Tadao Ando. The low-rise building has a slanted steel roof inspired by Miyake’s Piece of Cloth concept. The “Fab Mind” exhibit recently chronicled regular household activities like bread making and featured an array of sourdough starters. 9-7-6 Akasaka, Minato-ku; 2121designsight.jp.
Art: Mori Art Museum
On the 52nd and 53rd floors of the Mori Tower, this dramatic gallery space focuses on contemporary international visual arts, architecture and design. It’s a favorite of renowned art collector Dennis Scholl, who appreciates the range of artists shown here, from up-and-comers to superstar painter Murakami Takashi. His recent paintings and sculptures will go on display at Mori this fall. 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku; mori.art.museum.