Welcome to the culinary paradise that is Tokyo, where food is not just sustenance – it’s a passion. In this Tokyo Food Guide, we will explore some of the best dishes you must try, and restaurants you shouldn’t miss. From street-side yakitori to the finest sushi, Tokyo has a wide range of culinary offerings that will surely excite your taste buds. So, let’s dive in!
Sushi in Tokyo: More than just a dish, it’s an art form
If there’s one dish that represents Japan, it’s sushi. Made with vinegared rice accompanied by a variety of ingredients, sushi is a gastronomical experience you shouldn’t miss in Tokyo. When it comes to sushi, places like Sukiyabashi Jiro and Sushi Saito are often touted as the best in the city. Don’t forget to try sushi rice and conveyor belt sushi when you’re in town.
Related: Best Foods in Tokyo
Ramen: Japan’s Soul Food
Ramen, the soul food of Japan, has a cult following in Tokyo. The city offers a wide variety of ramen, from the soy-based Shoyu to the pork-based Tonkotsu. When in Tokyo, be sure to try the ramen egg and char siu pork. For an authentic ramen experience, head over to Tokyo Ramen Street where some of the best ramen joints are located.
Related: The history of ramen
Tempura: The Art of Deep Frying
Tempura, a dish of deep-fried seafood or vegetables, is another must-try in Tokyo. The best tempura is light, crispy, and never greasy. You can enjoy tempura as a main dish, an appetizer, or even as a topping on noodle dishes. When in Tokyo, don’t miss out on trying deep-fried shrimp at top tempura restaurants like Tempura Tsunahachi and Tempura Fukamachi.
Yakitori: Char-Grilled Perfection
Yakitori, skewered chicken grilled over charcoal, is a quintessential Tokyo street food that you shouldn’t miss. Whether it’s thigh, breast, or even chicken skin, there’s a yakitori to cater to your preference. Some top yakitori restaurants in Tokyo include Torishiki and Bird Land Ginza.
Related: Guide to Yakitori
Japanese Curry: Comfort in a Bowl
Japanese Curry, a dish borrowed and remodeled from Indian curry, has become a staple in Japanese cuisine. Typically served with rice or udon, and a side of pickled vegetables, Japanese curry is a hearty meal for any time of the day. Try curry rice or Katsu Kare at Coco Ichibanya, a famous chain that serves a wide variety of Japanese curry dishes.
Related: Japanese Curry vs Indian Curry
Soba: The Versatile Buckwheat Noodle
Soba, thin buckwheat noodles, are enjoyed in a variety of ways in Japan – hot with a soy-based soup or chilled with a dipping sauce. For a refreshing summer meal, try chilled soba at Sarashina Horii, one of the oldest soba shops in Tokyo.
Related: History of Soba
Tonkatsu and Gyukatsu: The Delight of Breaded Cutlets
Tonkatsu, deep-fried pork cutlet, and Gyukatsu, breaded and deep-fried beef cutlet, are popular dishes in Tokyo. While you can enjoy Tonkatsu at various Tonkatsu Restaurants, Gyukatsu-Motomura is a Tokyo staple for trying the best beef katsu.
Related: How to make Tonkatsu at home
Sukiyaki: A Delicious Hotpot
Sukiyaki, a hotpot dish cooked in a sweet soy sauce-based broth, is perfect for sharing among friends or family. The ingredients, usually thinly sliced beef, tofu, and vegetables, are cooked table-side and eaten with a raw beaten egg. For the best sukiyaki experience, head to Imahan or Yoshihashi.
Related: Sukiyaki recipe
Udon: Chewy Wheat Noodles to Soothe the Soul
Udon, thick wheat noodles, served in a hot soup or with a dipping sauce, is a comforting dish. Whether you prefer it plain, topped with green onions and tempura, or in a carbonara style, there’s an udon dish for you. Check out Udon Shin for some of the best udon in Tokyo.
Related: Guide to Udon
Yakiniku: The Japanese BBQ
Last but not least, Yakiniku, or Japanese BBQ, is a favorite pastime for many Tokyo locals. With Yakiniku, you can grill your own meat right at your table, usually with a selection of vegetables and dipping sauces. For a mouth-watering Yakiniku experience, try places like Yoroniku or Sumibi Yakiniku Nakahara.
Related: Etiquette of Yakiniku
The beautiful city of Tokyo not only offers spectacular sights but also a culinary experience that is a feast for your taste buds. Whether you’re a fan of noodles, seafood, or meat, Tokyo’s food scene has something to offer for everyone. So go ahead, and embark on this exciting food journey in Tokyo. You won’t be disappointed.
Related: What to see in Tokyo
Izakaya: Experience Japanese Gastropubs
An Izakaya is a type of informal Japanese bar that serves alcoholic drinks and small dishes to accompany the drinks, much like Spanish tapas. Izakaya dishes often include yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), sashimi, edamame, and various other Japanese appetizers. Some well-known izakayas in Tokyo include Gonpachi, often referred to as the “Kill Bill Restaurant” due to its resemblance to a set from the film, and Andy’s Shin Hinomoto, a popular spot among locals and tourists alike.
Related: Guide to Izakaya Culture
Onigiri: Japan’s Ultimate Comfort Food
Onigiri, also known as a rice ball, is a simple yet delicious Japanese comfort food made from white rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed). Traditional fillings include pickled ume (umeboshi), salted salmon, katsuobushi, or any other salty or sour ingredient. Onigiri can be found at all convenience stores, but for a more artisanal experience, try Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku, Tokyo’s oldest onigiri restaurant.
Related: Onigiri Recipes
Mochi: Sweet or Savory, Always Delicious
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into a circular shape. In Japan, mochi is often consumed during the New Year’s holidays and other special occasions. For a unique mochi experience, head over to Gekko, a Tokyo dessert shop known for its beautiful mochi creations.
Related: The Making of Mochi
Matcha: More Than Just a Tea
Finally, no food tour in Tokyo would be complete without trying matcha, a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. You can enjoy matcha in various forms, from a simple tea ceremony to desserts like matcha ice cream, matcha mochi, and matcha cakes. Visit the traditional Higashiya Ginza teahouse for a beautiful matcha experience.
Related: The Art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony
In Tokyo, every street, every corner tells a culinary story. Explore, taste, and relish each delicacy Tokyo has to offer. Enjoy your journey in the world’s most Michelin-starred city.
Related: What to see in Tokyo
Street Food: Snacking on the Go
No Tokyo food guide would be complete without a mention of its vibrant street food culture. Tokyo street food is a must-try for food lovers, featuring a plethora of options from Takoyaki (octopus balls) to Taiyaki (fish-shaped cake filled with sweet red bean paste) and Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). For a comprehensive street food experience, visit Nakamise Shopping Street in Asakusa or Takeshita Street in Harajuku.
Related: Best Street Foods in Tokyo
Tofu: Simplicity at Its Finest
Japanese cuisine is not all about meat and seafood; it also shines in its preparation of vegetarian dishes. Tofu, for instance, plays a significant role in Japanese cuisine. Silken tofu served cold with grated ginger and spring onions, or Yudofu — tofu simmered in a hot pot — are just a few ways the Japanese enjoy this versatile ingredient. For a beautiful tofu dining experience, head over to Tofuya Ukai.
Related: Guide to Japanese Tofu
Japanese Bakeries: A Fusion of East and West
Japanese bakeries are an amalgamation of Western and Japanese traditions. From Melon Pan, a sweet bun covered in a thin layer of crispy cookie dough, to Curry Pan, a deep-fried bread filled with Japanese curry, the bakeries in Tokyo offer a vast selection of delicious and unique products. One such place to enjoy these treats is Kimuraya, an old bakery in Ginza.
Related: Japan’s Delicious Bread Culture
Drinks: Beyond Sake
When you think of Japanese drinks, sake is likely the first thing that comes to mind. However, Japan boasts a range of other beverages like shochu, a distilled spirit, Umeshu, a sweet plum wine, and even a thriving whisky industry. Tokyo has numerous bars specializing in these drinks, such as the Bar BenFiddich for whisky lovers.
Related: Guide to Japanese Alcoholic Drinks
Tea Houses and Cafes: A Serene Break
Tokyo’s teahouses and cafes offer a break from the bustling city life. Matcha, a powdered green tea, is a staple of Japanese tea culture and is often enjoyed with traditional sweets. Higashiya Ginza is an excellent place to enjoy matcha tea, known for its contemporary yet traditional ambiance. Besides matcha, trendy coffee culture has also flourished in Tokyo. Blue Bottle Coffee is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike.
Seasonal and Regional Specialities
Japan’s culinary tradition is deeply tied to seasons and regional diversity. In summer, Kakigori (shaved ice dessert) stalls pop up throughout Tokyo, and you can enjoy warm Oden, a type of Japanese hot pot during winter. Don’t miss out on Tokyo’s regional specialty, Edomae sushi, which utilizes local fish from Tokyo Bay. The Edo-style sushi is less about extravagant toppings and more about the quality of the fish and rice.
Izakaya: Dining Like a Local
Izakayas are Japanese-style pubs where people go for after-work drinking and eating. They offer a variety of small plates, from sashimi to tempura to grilled items. An Izakaya experience is not just about the food, but also about the atmosphere – the buzz of conversation, clinking glasses, and shared laughter. An Izakaya like Gonpachi in Roppongi, made famous by the film ‘Kill Bill’, offers a quintessential Tokyo food experience.
Michelin Starred Restaurants: The Pinnacle of Fine Dining
Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world. From sushi and tempura to French and Italian cuisine, you can enjoy a vast array of world-class dining experiences in Tokyo. Sukiyabashi Jiro, headed by sushi maestro Jiro Ono, is one of Tokyo’s most famous Michelin-starred sushi restaurants.
Related: Tokyo’s Michelin Starred Restaurants
Whether you’re a food connoisseur, a casual foodie, or someone just seeking to understand Tokyo culture through its food, there’s a culinary experience in Tokyo waiting just for you. Happy dining!
Related: What to see in Tokyo
Remember the Japanese word for thanking before a meal, “Itadakimasu”, and after finishing your meal, “Gochisousama”!
Street Food: Taste of Tokyo on the Go
Tokyo’s street food is an integral part of the city’s culinary identity. Whether it’s stalls in the busy Tsukiji Market or vendors in the narrow alleys of old neighborhoods, there’s always a quick and tasty snack waiting to be discovered.
Yakitori: These are skewers of chicken, grilled over charcoal and typically served with a sweet and savory sauce or salt. Omoide Yokocho, also known as “Memory Lane” or “Piss Alley”, is a famous yakitori alley with countless stalls. Check out Yakitori Ton Ton for a traditional yakitori experience.
Takoyaki: A popular snack made of a wheat flour-based batter filled with diced octopus, green onion, and pickled ginger, then cooked in a special molded pan. Try some takoyaki in Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s most traditional neighborhoods, at Asakusa Gindaco.
Taiyaki: This fish-shaped cake is typically filled with sweet red bean paste but can also contain custard, chocolate, or cheese. You can find it in many street food stalls, especially in areas like Ueno. Try some at Yanagiya near Ueno Station.
Okonomiyaki: Often referred to as a “Japanese pancake,” okonomiyaki is a savory dish made with batter, cabbage, and a variety of ingredients like squid, pork, and green onions, then topped with a special sauce, mayonnaise, dried seaweed, and bonito flakes. Monja Street in Tsukishima is a great place to try okonomiyaki or its Tokyo counterpart, monjayaki.
Related: Tokyo Street Food Guide
In conclusion, Tokyo is truly a food lover’s paradise. With a rich, diverse culinary scene that offers everything from exquisite sushi, hearty ramen, and delicate tempura to unique street food experiences, it’s no surprise that Tokyo holds the record for the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or a curious traveler, exploring Tokyo’s food scene is an adventure in itself. Don’t forget to check out the top food spots, unique local dishes, and bustling food markets that this vibrant city has to offer. Savor the taste of Tokyo and let it create unforgettable memories in your travel diary. Happy eating, or as the locals say, “Itadakimasu!”
Frequently Asked Questions
What food is Tokyo famous for?
Tokyo is famous for a variety of foods. These include sushi, which is perhaps one of the most internationally recognized dishes, and ramen, a popular noodle soup dish. Other notable dishes include tempura, a type of deep-fried dish often made with shrimp or vegetables, and yakitori, skewered grilled chicken. Tokyo is also known for its unique takes on dishes such as tonkatsu, a deep-fried pork cutlet, and Japanese curry.
What food do people eat in Tokyo?
The food people eat in Tokyo is incredibly diverse. You can find everything from traditional Japanese cuisine like sushi, soba, and udon, to global dishes with a Japanese twist. Tokyo is also famous for its street food culture where you can enjoy quick bites like yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), takoyaki (octopus balls), and gyukatsu (deep-fried breaded beef cutlet). Seafood, especially sushi and sashimi, is a staple in the Tokyo diet due to its coastal location.
How much does a normal meal cost in Tokyo?
The cost of a meal in Tokyo can vary greatly depending on where and what you eat. You can find affordable meals for around 500-800 yen at casual eateries and convenience stores, while mid-range restaurants typically charge around 1,500-3,000 yen per meal. Upscale dining experiences and high-end sushi establishments can cost significantly more, ranging from 10,000 yen to over 30,000 yen. Remember, these are rough estimates and prices can vary.
How good is food in Tokyo?
The food in Tokyo is renowned for its quality and variety. Tokyo holds the record for the most Michelin-starred restaurants of any city in the world, highlighting its exceptional culinary scene. Whether it’s high-end dining, everyday comfort food, or unique street snacks, Tokyo offers an array of food experiences that cater to all tastes and budgets. Even the convenience stores in Tokyo are known for offering a range of high-quality, delicious food. Rest assured, in Tokyo, good food is never far away.