Tokyo is the ultimate food destination in the world, and you've got questions: What should I eat in Tokyo? How much does it cost to dine out in Tokyo? Where should a foodie like me stay? These questions will be answered, along with our restaurant recommendations for the most popular types of Japanese food. Enjoy!
Tokyo is undeniably the best place in the whole world to eat. According to various sources, the city is home to somewhere around 150,000 restaurants with every type of food one could possibly desire. To put that into perspective, Tokyo has more than 3 times as many restaurants as Paris, 5 times as many as New York City, and 10 times as many as Hong Kong! While the majority of the restaurants in Tokyo are quite affordable, there are also countless high-end restaurants, including 519 Michelin-starred restaurants included in the 2019 edition of the Guide. That's far more than any other city in the World.
How much are restaurants in Tokyo?
As mentioned above, eating out in Tokyo is quite affordable, on average. Although a high-end meal at a Michelin-starred sushi or kaiseki restaurant can easily run ¥30,000, you should expect to pay between ¥1,000 to ¥3,000 for most dinners, and not more than ¥1,000 for a typical lunch. Keep in mind also that there is no tipping in Japan, so the prices shown here are the total that you'll pay.
Where do foodies stay in Tokyo?
The beautiful thing about Tokyo is that it has arguably the best train system in the world, meaning you can stay anywhere near a station on a major line and get to the restaurant of your choice quickly and easily. If you're insistent about staying within walking distance of the best restaurants in the city, however, then Ginza is where you want to look for a hotel. Ginza is home to a large number of fantastic restaurants, including the highest concentration of 3-star Michelin restaurants in the city, and is centrally located within walking distance from Tokyo Station, meaning you can get to anywhere else in the city quickly.
What food Is Tokyo famous for? What should I eat in Tokyo?
Many of the most iconic Japanese foods have their roots in Tokyo, including modern sushi, ramen, and more. With such a huge volume of restaurants in the city, you can find the very best of any genre of Japanese cuisine you'd like to eat. Following is a list of 10 genres of must-try cuisine while in Tokyo, with a recommendation for an affordable option (for those looking to save money but still enjoy a delicious meal) and a splurge option (for those looking for an unforgettable culinary experience). Enjoy!
Affordable: Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima
Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima is a Michelin-starred restaurant that offers innovative traditional Japanese cuisine. It is a few minutes from Shinjuku station and has a relaxed atmosphere, despite serving beautifully prepared kaiseki dishes. They serve traditional Japanese cuisine with a modern twist using seasonal vegetables.
Dinner requires a reservation and is a bit pricey, with courses running 15,000 yen or 18,500 yen. However, for a more affordable option, there is also a lunch service, which is walk-in only. You might have to wait in line for a bit, but it will be worth your time to enjoy Michelin-starred kaiseki cooking at a reasonable price!
Makimura is an exceptional 3-star Michelin restaurant in Shinagawa, Tokyo. The Chef Akio Makimura specializes in kaiseki dishes, where each dish is carefully prepared and served slowly. You can sit at the counter which only holds six seats. It makes for quite an intimate dining atmosphere. You can also eat in the private dining room which has eight seats. Chef Makimura and his wife operate as a pair, although they do not speak English, they go out of their way to be welcoming! The dishes served here are greatly influenced by what is available during that given season, which means more interesting dishes to discover each season! This restaurant only serves dinner, and you should expect to pay over ¥18,000 with a 10% service charge.
“Kaiten Sushi Maguro Bito” (tuna person, in Japanese) has several locations around Tokyo, and is one of the more highly-rated kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants in the city. The restaurant is inexpensive but has some attractive Japanese decorations that give it a fish-market vibe.
The restaurant is fairly large and offers touch screens at each table for ordering, meaning it's easy to get exactly the nigiri you want, even if you don't speak Japanese.
One of the most popular menu items here is three-assortment plate. The menu changes daily, and you can enjoy various types of raw and cooked fish and shellfish
Splurge: Sushi Saito
Tokyo has three restaurants with 3 Michelin stars, and this is one of them. Sushi Saito is the restaurant of a fairly young chef who apprenticed at Kanesaka, another famous Tokyo sushi restaurant. His sushi is phenomenal, and he will likely go down as one of the greatest sushi chefs of all time in the future. If you want the best of the best sushi in Tokyo, this is the place to go. Despite his incredible reputation, Chef Saito's prices are only about half as expensive as the other 3-star sushi restaurants. The Lunch nigiri is just ¥5,000, the lunch nigiri course ¥10,000, and lunch and dinner omakase course just ¥21,000 (expensive, yes, but not when compared to ¥40,000 for a similar course at Sukiyabashi Jiro).
The only downside to Saito is how difficult it is to make a reservation. If you're hoping to dine here, it's best to plan months in advance and recruit the help of someone in Japan to make a reservation for you.
Most ramen is quite affordable, and you're unlikely to spend much more than ¥1,000 anywhere you go. One of the best bowls of ramen in Tokyo can be found at a place called 'Nagi' (full name: 'Sugoi Niboshi Ramen Nagi') in Shinjuku's famous Golden Gai. The soup is made from an exquisite fish broth called Niboshi (dried sardine) that has a rich and delicious flavor, and it is paired with extra-thicky, wonderfully chewy noodles. Nagi has previously won awards including the overall #1 ramen in Tokyo by the magazine 'Tokyo Ramen of the Year.' What's great about this shop is that it's open 24 hours so you can go there for a late-night meal or even breakfast, if you so desire.
Splurge: re:Dine Ginza
Ginza's fanciest ramen can be found at re:Dine Ginza, one of the most interesting concept restaurants in Tokyo. The ramen is served with sous-vide-cooked chicken and duck chashu, plus a large piece of tender, premium wagyu. Each meat is cooked separately, to a different finishing temperature, giving each its optimal tenderness. The beautiful golden soup is made with clams, a whole chicken, dried sardines, konbu, and porcini. The finishing touch is duck oil and porcini oil, which gives it its luxurious and deep taste. The hand-made noodles are thin, yet have a nice bite to them and a lovely wheat flavor. They are the perfect carrier for the light and umami-filled broth. The ramen is ¥1,500 and is totally worth splurging on!
This tempura restaurant in Tsukiji (where the famous fish market used to be) is very particular about the freshness of their ingredients and serves one of the best affordable tempura set meals there is. A popular option is the egg yolk tempura set (¥1,300) which comes with a tendon (bowl of rice with tempura toppings) and extra tempura pieces on the side too. If you're looking for an affordable tempura meal, you can't go wrong with Tentatsu.
Splurge: Tempura Hasegawa
The tempura served by chef Hasegawa is some of the lightest and most refreshing you'll ever taste. The batter includes no eggs, and is created with the chef's secret mix of various flours. Although the chef trained for many years at Kyoto's 'Kyoboshi,' one of the most famous and highly-regarded tempura restaurants in the world, he has his own style of cooking, and isn't afraid to experiment with new and non-traditional ingredients. The chef's 'Tencha,' shown below is one of the dishes that is a particular stand-out.
Hasegawa has only been open since 2012, yet has earned quite a reputation, including a Michelin Star. The restaurant is unquestionably one of the best places to eat tempura in Tokyo, so don't miss a chance to visit if you get the chance!
Michishirube is a very popular Yakitori restaurant in the Kabukicho area 5-10 minutes walk from Shinjuku station. Its very common to see people lining up outside the restaurant at night time to get a seat inside - a true indicator of how good this place is! It's reasonably priced and great selection of dishes to keep your appetite steaming ahead. Definitely worth a look!
The Michelin-starred chef at Toriki elevates yakitori to the next level, serving customers a dinner course that features 8 types of chicken skewers, 4 seasonal vegetable skewers, and a kobachi dish. The ingredients will vary based on what is fresh, but the course always features carefully selected local chicken meat of the highest quality cooked over expensive, premium charcoal that supposedly makes the skewers extra delicious. The meal typically lasts about two and a half hours and the food is served at quite a slow pace, meaning that there is time to relax and enjoy some drinks between each delicious skewer of perfectly grilled chicken. If you don't mind a slow and slightly drawn-out meal, you will enjoy the experience of eating at Toriki!
Vegetarian / Vegan
Affordable: Sora no Iro Ramen
Soranoiro is a super popular restaurant, which has appeared in the Michelin Guide for 3 years in a row. The first restaurant was in Kojimachi, but they are now implementing restaurants at a few places in Japan, including one at Tokyo Station.
Soranoiro's menu is roughly divided into 4 kinds of ramen: veggie soba, vegan veggie soba, umami dashi soba and salt dashi soba. Not all ramen types are vegan (the picture above is the special veggie soba that comes with an egg). Soranoiro is located on the popular Ramen Street of the B1F of Tokyo Station.
If you're a vegan looking for an unforgettable meal in Tokyo, head to Mutsukari in Ginza and order the Mutsukari Vegetable Course for ¥12,000. The completely vegetable-based course features 11 dishes that showcase the best of the season's fresh vegetables, tofu, miso, mushrooms, and more. Vegan food is difficult to find in Tokyo, let alone Japanese-inspired vegan food. Don't miss the chance to try the delicious food at Mutsukari!
500 yen for unagi don definitely seems outrageously cheap. However, that's really how much the basic unagi don at Unatoto, a Tokyo unagi chain restaurant costs. It's not as large as the other unagi don and unaju dishes at other restaurants, but it's far from miniature, and has a surprisingly large piece of eel on top of the rice! Unatoto doesn't cut any corners with the preparation, either, grilling the eel over a charcoal flame and imbibing it with a lovely smoky flavor.
Unatoto has a total of 11 locations across Tokyo, any of which offer the incredibly priced unagi don. Check it out if you're trying to save a little money but still want some authentic unagi!
Splurge: Edogawa Ishibashi
Ishibashi has been open since 1910, and serves the same incredible unagi (eel) kabayaki today that it did 100 years ago. Ishibashi is one of just 3 unagi specialists in Tokyo to have earned a Michelin star, and it's obvious why once you try the beautifully fluffy and tender unagi dishes that take hours to prepare.
The restaurant itself is in a beautiful building with traditional Japanese scenery and includes private dining rooms for parties who reserve one of the course meals. The atmosphere, service, and food combine to give guests an unforgettable meal in the center of Tokyo.
Affordable: Fuji Soba
Fuji Soba is the biggest and most famous and soba chain in Tokyo. There are as many as 100 shops in Tokyo. Most of them are small but easy to access as located near stations. They also open 24 hours, it means you can enjoy a bowl of soba anytime you want. The shops are simple, cozy, and clean. Some of them are tachigui-soba style where customers eat standing by the counter table. The shops are often full of people from young to old. The best part is that all menu items are reasonably priced from around 300 yen to 500 yen.
'Homura An' was a very popular soba restaurant in Manhattan, NY, for 16 years. The owner came back to Japan to reopen a shop in Roppongi, which has continued creating outstanding and unique soba dishes.
One of the most popular and iconic menu items is the "uni (sea urchin) soba" (3000 yen~) which features a healthy portion of fresh uni atop a bowl of hand made soba noodles. It's one of the richest and most luxurious soba dishes found anywhere, and is definitely worth a try!
Yakiniku (Japanese Barbeque)
Jiromaru is a standing yakiniku bar where you can order by the slice from a large menu of various cuts and types of beef. The shop opens at 11:30 am and doesn't close until 5:00 am the next morning! Prices are very low considering the quality of the meat available! Horumon starts at just ¥30, and even the fanciest A5 wagyu pieces are still just ¥300. This is an awesome place to grab a couple of drinks while casually sampling a variety of excellent-quality Japanese beef.
Splurge: Sato Buriand
This yakiniku restaurant has some of the highest reviews on a famous Japanese restaurant-search website. You need to make a reservation as early as possible, at least one month in advance if you want to get a table.
The secret of their popularity is the "Chateaubriand" wagyu (Japanese beef) steak which is the thickest part of a fillet. You will feel you are in a dream when you see the beautiful large cut of steak which melts in your mouth as you eat it. Courses here start at around 10,000-15,000 yen, which is not cheap, but definitely worth the price!
Tonki is one of the most famous tonkatsu restaurants in Japan. Located 3 minutes walk from Meguro station, the restaurant was established in 1939 and has been serving the best tonkatsu to everyone, from young to old ever since then. Another great thing is that the delicious tonkatsu is reasonably-priced! The most popular menu item is the pork loin cutlet set meal for ¥1,900 yen. What is exciting about Tonki is there is an open kitchen and you can enjoy watching the chefs cooking the tonkatsu perfectly. They also have tables on the 2nd floor, but I recommend you to wait in a line and get the counter seats. The waiting line can be long but it is in the restaurant, so you can watch the kitchen (and people eating the tonkastu that looks so good...) while you are waiting
Affordable Splurge: Maisen
Maisen is a famous tonkatsu restaurant chain with many stores located throughout Japan. They are known for using very high-quality meat for their tonkotsu, and you can choose from various cuts of pork from different parts of Japan. Among the selections available are Tokyo pork, Okinawa kurobuta, and Crimson pork. It's this attention to detail of the meat that sets this place apart. As many of the Maisen restaurants are in popular locations with easy access, it's usually pretty easy to find one close to where you are. Check out Maisen the next time your craving some tonkatsu!