Higa's Go to Tokyo Eats

My fave Tokyo foodie places.
  1. 1.
    Sushi Isano
    My current #1 sushi in the world. Forget Jiro’s, go here. Duck through the unmarked door and step into a sushi private oasis. Just one tiny counter and the full attention of the chef. Say ‘omakase’ and add on an order of the tomatoes. I know, tomatoes at a sushi place. Trust me on this one.
  2. 2.
    Jiro
    I'm mentioning Jiro only because I get asked all the time. I LOVE the documentary about the pure pursuit of craft but Jiro doesn't make my sushi rankings. Been there twice, just to be sure it wasn't an off day. Not blown away. It's fine but Tokyo has so much more to offer.
  3. 3.
    Ryugin
    I'm usually wary of recommending the too precious Michelin 3 star, whisper during dinner experiences. Ryugin is an exception. The precision of the service here will blow you away. As well as the inventiveness of the food. Chef Yamamoto is leading the push to a new modern kaiseki meal. Don't be surprised to find deep fried uni or sake soufflé on the menu for the night. It's a splurge for sure but it'll be a once in a lifetime meal. 〒1060032 東京都港区 六本木7丁目17−24 eisu bldg.1階
  4. 4.
    Chatei Hato
    You’d never see this place and decide to walk in but it’s THE prototypical ‘kissaten’ coffee house in Japan. In fact, this is the mecca of coffee for James Freeman of Blue Bottle. He was inspired and learned about coffee culture in Japan. Listen to this SoundCloud bit as James describes the coffee experience here and you too will be making the pilgrimage. http://bit.ly/1ShGibk
  5. 5.
    Waketokuyama
    A breakout ‘Kappo’ style restaurant. Look for the distinctive concrete block exterior designed by architect Kengo Kuma. Enjoy a leisurely kaiseki course in an ultra modern yet traditional setting. The abalone with seaweed and the rice cooked in clay pot are the two signature dishes here. And you get to take the rice balls home with you.
  6. 6.
    Sushi Maru
    Right inside the Tsukiji Fish Market. Opens around 4AM and shuts down at 1PM. Just one counter and the fish mongers chowing down. The interior is nothing special but you can’t get fish any fresher. The omakase at around 4,000yen is a steal. But the clock is ticking as Tsukiji will be torn down and moved to a new location this November.
  7. 7.
    Yamashokudo & Blue Bottle Kiyosumi
    My choice for 'eat like a local'. This unassuming establishment in off the beaten path Kiyosumi will charm it's way into your heart and stomach. They serve up 'teishoku' meal sets. It might be three small plates of fresh seasonal fare with rice and soup. Or even some Indian dhal on occasion. Simple and pure and satisfying. And afterwards, you can walk over to the Blue Bottle roastery for a cuppa. Doesn't get much better. 〒135-0022 Koto, Miyoshi, 2 Chome−11−6, 桜ビル 1F
  8. 8.
    Bar Gen Yamamoto
    The perfect zen bar. Gen Yamamoto would be equally at home in a monk's outfit. This is handmade mixology taken to an art form. Go with the 6 course cocktail menu and you'll get everything from seasonal fruits and vegetables to vodka made from whey or rare sakes. I had a single malt whiskey with hand ground apple juice from the cold climes of Mt. Fuji, heated gently in a double boil technique that won't be forgotten. Reservations in advance are must. 〒106-0045 港区Azabujuban, 1−6−4 アニバーサリービル
  9. 9.
    Tori Sanwa
    Can't do much better than a nice 'oyako don', chicken & rice bowl, for lunch. There's many branches of Tori Sanwa but I like the basement of the Roppongi Midtown complex. It looks more like a take out counter with a few tables behind on the inside and is located along kind of a food alley there. That runny egg yoke sweetness coating the tender chicken pieces that really hits the spot. 9 Chome-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 107-0052
  10. 10.
    Komen
    Slurpy ramen noodles in a savory broth. There’s a branch near the Harajuku intersection. Get the ‘zenbu’ order shown in the picture where the toppings come separately.
  11. 11.
    Kyubei
    A high end old school sushi restaurant. It’s been at the top of the lists for decades. It maybe traditional but flash and fusion is overrated. Kyubei seems to be coming more into its own as the decades roll by. I used to have the anago at the Hotel Okura branch pretty much every time we were in Tokyo. This is the Ginza flagship. Be sure to reserve the counter on the first floor. That’s where the best chef’s are. Don't go if they book you upstairs.
  12. 12.
    Honmura An
    Yes, there is a Michelin starred soba joint. Most people go for the plain zaru soba for lunch here but go the road less traveled and try their tasting menu for dinner. It features courses of seasonally fresh non-noodle dishes and tops it off at the end with the famous soba. But, here’s the best hack. Replace the soba in the tasting menu with ‘uni soba’. It’ll cost a lot more but really sublime.
  13. 13.
    Inakaya
    A dining experience extravaganza. There’s yelling, gigantic paddles, and organized chaos involved but at the end of the day, it’s about first rate fresh food simply grilled. Some of the best asparagus, onion, or potato you’ll ever have. Just point at the food you want, the chefs will grill it up, and hand it to you on gigantic paddles.
  14. 14.
    Yamazato tempura
    Though this venerable Japanese restaurant might be more well known forever it's 'kaiseki' meals, traditional breakfasts, or the power meetings in private rooms, I'm partial to their tempura counter. Crispy, airy, ethereal, batter like you just can't find Stateside. The chef will serve it to you one piece at a time, piping hot. Go for the 'kakiage' over rice at the end. Now located in the Hotel Okura tower while the main building is rebuilt.
  15. 15.
    Seiyuzan
    A Korean BBQ favorite that’s got both killer food and killer views. See if you can reserve the corner glass room that has the best panoramic views. Korean BBQ is typically a meat fest but the vegetables to grill, chicken, pancakes, and rice means plenty of choice for all. It’s a bit tricky to find the sky elevator that goes to the top floors where the restaurants are. Find the express elevator that goes to the 41F and its off in the corner.
  16. 16.
    Rengatei
    Rengatei has served up 'yoshoku', literally means 'Western food' since 1895. They upended the status quo by serving rice on a plate for god's sake. Pork cutlets are a classic as you can get. The runny egg omelette rice with catsup is right up there. It maybe more nostalgia vs foodie in truth. When I went away to college from Okinawa to California, I had to stay overnight in Tokyo. I was taken here for my meal in the big City. It will always be one my comfort of comfort foods.
  17. 17.
    Maisen
    Maisen is a chain with a lot of outlets that can have variable quality. But, the original store in an Aoyama is worth seeking out. It's in a converted bath house. Be sure to get a table in the back room with the high ceilings, not the counter in the front of the house. The Black (Kurobuta) katsudon bowl is a thick piece of juicy pork katsu in a savory sweet egg sauce over rice that just hits the spot.
  18. 18.
    Chez Matsuo
    Ok, ok. It's a sentimental favorite for two reasons. First, it was the first restaurant to open my eyes to a Japanese chef just killing French food. There's a wabi/sabi delicacy to the flavoring and the plating that is unique to Tokyo. Second, this is where my wedding reception lunch was so there you go. And let's not forget the appeal of the secret hidden away world that opens up to you behind the facade of yet another home along a totally residential street.
  19. 19.
    Tofuya Ukai