Over the summer, I was lucky enough to travel to Tokyo, Japan. I love sushi and Japanese food in general, so it was an incredible and eye opening experience for me to go to Japan and sample authentic Japanese cuisine. Set forth below is a description of my favorite dishes and restaurants in Tokyo.
Sushi Mizutani was my favorite restaurant in Tokyo. I had the sashimi and sushi option, which ended up being a flawless meal. I even liked the rice at Sushi Mizutani, which has the perfect acidity and texture. From a great selection of the freshest fish, like the perfectly not-at-all-chewy squid, to the delicate sweet cake-like Tamago (egg omelet); Sushi Mizutani served the greatest sushi and one of the best meals overall that I’ve had in my life. Mizutani was trained by the famous Jiro Ono. He cooks his rice differently, but uses creativity to make his food stunningly great!
For those of you who have seen Jiro Ono’s movie, you understand that this is certainly a chef who is dedicated to making the best sushi possible. Jiro is almost 90 years old, and is well renowned to be the “Master of Sushi.” But the myths are true, at Sukiyabashi Jiro, Jiro is making some of the best sushi around. My favorites were the super creamy uni and the nicely salty kohada (gizzard shad). Although the meal is only about twenty minutes long and is quite expensive, it is well worth a visit if you are a true sushi lover.
Sushi Ikkyu is a sushi restaurant located on the fourth floor of Barney’s in the Ginza area of Tokyo. It is a very small restaurant, similar to Sushi Mizutani and Sukiyabashi Jiro. Within the less famous restaurant, the sushi chefs are making incredible sushi in a much friendlier atmosphere. The rice is perfect and the fish is very fresh. The chefs are super nice and skilled, as they craft a very diverse sushi meal. My favorites were the chirasahi ebi (tiny shrimp pressed together, that flavorfully explode in your mouth,) and the soy marinated tuna which had a ton of flavor and just melted in my mouth. A great, well-paced sushi experience!
Sushisho Saito was another one of my favorite sushi restaurants in Tokyo. At Sushi ShoSaito, you remove your shoes, get comfortable, and then have a first row seat to observe Chef Saito, who was trained by the chef at Sushi Sho. The ikura (salmon roe) was served over warm rice, and the flavor from the tiny firm fish eggs exploded, creating a perfect salty blend of tasty flavors.
Best Udon Noodles
Hashida Honten has the greatest udon noodle soup that I have ever had. I had the perfect salty chicken broth and fluffy light soft udon noodles, which forever transformed my view on the American comfort food, chicken noodle soup.
Yakitori consists of a variety of grilled skewers. It is a really fun experience as the chefs craft a tasty meal out of skewers of different parts of a chicken and various vegetables and meats. The chicken and scallion was my favorite skewer and the Yakitori at Birdland Ginza is definitely worth trying.
–Hirugao on Tokyo Ramen Street
My favorite ramen in Tokyo was on Ramen Street in Tokyo Station (the central train station). At Hirugao, although there may be very long lines, it is well worth the wait. You order what you want from a vending machine, and then they make you some of the most flavorful ramen ever. The pork at Hirugao is truly special and the steaming bowl of ramen is nothing less than amazing!
–Akasaka Sunaba Soba My favorite soba in Tokyo is located at Akasaka Sunaba. The two different types of soba (either regular or buckwheat noodles) are available hot or cold. All of the soba noodles are thinly cut and cooked to soft, aldente perfection. I loved the delicious sauce or “soba soup” that came with the cold soba noodles, which was similar to a sweeter version of soy sauce. Whether hot or cold, Akasaka Sunaba serves fantastic soba noodles. This restaurant can have really long lines, so getting there early (around 11am) helps guarantee a spot for lunch.
After going to Tempura Kondo and eating the tempura, I could never view tempura the same way. They make every piece in front of your eyes, and the lightness and thinness of the batter is mind boggling. My favorite pieces were the asparagus, the shrimp head (this was the first shrimp head I have ever eaten, and I was shocked by how good it was—particularly its juiciness and complexity of flavor) and the pumpkin (which is seasonal and you must order ahead).
I tried a few different Kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo and Ryugin was my favorite by far. Kaiseki is basically a traditional Japanese multi-coursed meal of the highest and finest haute cuisine. I loved the abstractness of the dishes, and I found myself excited to try the next course. Ryugin had some of the coolest and most creative dishes I have ever tasted. My favorite was the ayu fish, which was served whole and had the perfect crispiness (you actually are supposed to eat the head and tail, which are surprisingly crispy and tasty and not a bit gross). It was an awesome experience!
The crab at Kanidouraku was extremely tasty and fresh. There are tanks of live crabs as you walk in, and this all-crab-restaurant serves some delicious crab, with some dishes that you can even cook at your table.
Best Chinese Food
–Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung is a Chinese restaurant chain from Taiwan that is also in the US. It has some incredibly thin-wrappered, great soup dumplings that are perfect if you are craving Chinese food in Toyo.
Best Japanese Restaurant Overall
Overall, the most perfect Japanese meal (other than the sushi meals) that I have had in my life was at Narisawa. Every course there was both highly interesting and delicious. From the clam with something similar to chowder inside of it, to the langoustine to the “bread of the forest,” that is cooked at your table; the variety of flavors and creativity of the dishes made for one unbelievable meal. My absolute favorite dish was the wagyu beef, which cut easily like butter and had a very nice mixture of seasoning around it.
Sadaharu Aoki makes some excellent French pastries in Tokyo, many delicately and beautifully flavored. For example, the Matcha croissant had many layers and was soft, light, buttery, and flakey. It is a very good pasty shop!
In the comment section below, tell us: What are your favorite places to eat in Tokyo?
David Pines is currently a 10th grader at the Collegiate School in New York City where he serves on the student government and is a member of the Tennis team. David has been writing about food for over five years and is the author of two editions of the award-winning “Pines Picks: A Kid’s Guide to the Best Things to Eat and Drink in New York City.” His blog can be found at www.pinespicks.com.