Tokyo Restaurants

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Tokyo Restaurant Reviews

Tokyo is undoubtedly one of the most exciting dining cities in the world. Seasonal ingredients reign supreme here, and there's an emphasis on freshness—not surprising given raw seafood is the cornerstone of sushi. And though Tokyoites still stubbornly resist foreign concepts in many fields, the locals have embraced outside culinary styles with gusto.

While newer restaurants targeting younger diners strive for authenticity in everything from New York–style bagels to Neapolitan pizza, it is still not uncommon to see menus offering East-meets-West concoctions such as spaghetti topped with cod roe and shredded seaweed. That said, the city’s best French and Italian establishments can hold their own on a global scale. Naturally, there's also excellent Japanese food available throughout the city, ranging from the traditional to nouveau cuisine that can be shockingly expensive.

That is not to imply that every meal in the city will drain your finances—the current rage is all about "B-class gourmet," restaurants that fill the gap between nationwide chains and fine cuisine, offering tasty Japanese and Asian food without the extra frills of tablecloths and lacquerware. All department stores and most skyscrapers have at least one floor of restaurants that are accessible, affordable, and reputable.

Asakusa is known for its tempura, and Tsukiji prides itself on its fresh sashimi, which is available in excellent quality throughout the city. Ramen is a passion for many locals, who will travel across town or stand in line for an hour in order to sit at the counter of a shop rumored to offer the perfect balance of noodles and broth. Even the neighborhood convenience stores will offer colorful salads, sandwiches, and a selection of beer and sake. There have been good and affordable Indian and Chinese restaurants in the city for decades. As a result of increased travel by the Japanese to more exotic locations, Thai, Vietnamese, and Turkish restaurants have popped up around the city. When in doubt, note that Tokyo's top-rated international hotels also have some of the city's best places to eat and drink.

Check It Out!

English OK! (www.englishok.jp) lists restaurants where English is spoken so people with limited or no Japanese can order food without worrying about the language barrier. Before heading out, check the website for maps, sample menus, and printable coupons.

Dining Planner

Dress

Dining out in Tokyo does not ordinarily demand a great deal in the way of formal attire. If you are attending a business meal with Japanese hosts or guests, dress conservatively: for men, a suit and tie; for women, a dress or suit in a basic color and minimal jewelry. On your own, follow the unspoken dress codes you'd observe at home. We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie.

For Japanese-style dining on tatami floors, keep two things in mind: wear shoes that slip on and off easily and presentable socks, and choose clothing you'll be comfortable in for a few hours with your legs gathered under you.

Etiquette

Meals and Mealtimes

Office workers eat lunch from noon to 1, so eat later or a little earlier to avoid crowds. Most restaurants have lunchtime specials, which provide an opportunity for fine dining at a considerably lower price, until around 2:30. Many restaurants close their doors between 3 and 5. Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner. For dinner at upmarket establishments ask hotel staff to make reservations—this gives the management time to locate an English menu or staff with some language skills.

Menus

Many less expensive restaurants have plastic replicas of the dishes they serve, displayed in their front windows, so you can always point to what you want to eat if the language barrier is insurmountable.

Reservations

Reservations are always a good idea: we mention them only when they're essential or not accepted. Book as far ahead as you can, and reconfirm as soon as you arrive.

Prices

Eating at hotels and famous restaurants is costly; however, you can eat well and reasonably at standard restaurants that may not have signs in English. Many less expensive restaurants display in their front windows plastic replicas of the dishes they serve, so you can always point to what you want if the language barrier is insurmountable. Many Japanese restaurants offer omakase (chef’s choice of a set of dishes) which is a convenient way to order; locals frequently order this way. Good places to look for moderately priced dining spots are in the restaurant concourses of department stores and larger office buildings, usually on the basement levels and the top floors.

All restaurants charge 5% tax, and by law, the price on the menu includes tax. Izakaya (Japanese pubs) often charge a flat table charge (around ¥500 per person), which includes the tiny appetizer that's served to all guests. Some restaurants add a service charge of 10% on large parties, which is usually indicated at the bottom of menus.

Japanese-style restaurants often serve set meals called teishoku, which may include rice, soup, and pickled vegetables in addition to the main course—this can drive up the cost. You can sometimes request the main dish without the sides, but then you'd be missing out on the beauty and harmony of a Japanese meal.

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