Expert recommendations for the best places to eat in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)
Don’t laugh. Japanese convenience stores (Family Mart, Lawson, 7-11) are cheap, quick, and ubiquitous, with surprisingly decent food. Staples include onigiri (triangles of cooked rice filled with a dollop of salmon, kelp, and such) and a dizzying variety of bentos.
Mini-chain serving bowls of ramen in flavorful pork-based broth. Assari broth is thinner; kotteri is thicker and great on cold days. Don’t forget to slurp. Locations include 1-13-21 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; tel. 81 3 3404 5572.
Third-generation chef-owner returned home after running the restaurant’s New York branch; soba (buckwheat noodles) made on-site; recently renovated interior and menu; seasonally flavored noodles like yuzu (citron peel) in winter and shiso (Japanese basil) in summer. 7-14-18 Roppongi, Minato-ku; tel. 81 3 5772 6657.
This renowned noodle shop makes its own soba; housed in one of the few remaining 1920s buildings in the city; includes a small garden. Open for lunch through early dinner. 2-10 Awajicho Kanda, Chiyoda-ku; tel. 81 3 3251 0287.
Japanese confectionery shop and tea room (SABO); elegant and artful sweets, traditional kaiseki lunch in a delicate bento-style box; ultramodern design. 1F 3-16-28 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku; tel. 81 3 5786 0024.
Sushi in Tsukiji Fish Market
Begin the day with a traditional Tokyo breakfast—sushi. World’s largest fish market features dozens of sushi counters; longtime favorites include Daiwa (5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; 81 3 3547 6807), and Edogin (4-5-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; tel. 81 3 3543 4401).
“Since it serves a wide variety of Japanese specialties, everyone will have fun.”—Wendy Yanagihara, author, Lonely Planet’s Tokyo Encounter guidebook. Accomplished at just about everything: handmade soba noodles, sushi, and grilled chicken, beef, and tuna dishes; elaborate interior—wraparound balcony, two-story interior courtyard—worthy of a movie set. Open 11:30 a.m.-5 a.m. 1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku; tel. 81 3 5771 0170. www.gonpachi.jp/en/nishi_azabu/home/location
“The entire menu is based around a humble little (delicious) river fish.”—Wendy Yanagihara. Featured fish is freshwater dojo (loach); cooked on a charcoal burner at your table; diners can sit on straw mats and eat in traditional style (off long tables, little more than planks on the floor). 1-7-12 Komagata, Taito-ku; tel. 81 3 3842 4001.
Who knew that tofu could be so dazzling? Order a set menu, with a dozen preparations, for the full effect. Housed in a former sake distillery transported from northern Japan to the shadow of Tokyo Tower; gardens and bridges link individual tatami (bamboo mat) dining rooms. 4-4-13 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku; tel. 81 3 3436 1028.
Located in the center of the sumo world and founded by the sport’s legendary yokozuna (Grand Champion); specializes in wrestlers’ traditional dish, chanko-nabe, a hearty stew of fresh fish, vegetables, noodles, and broth; cooked in an earthenware chanko pot on a tabletop burner; sumo memorabilia and banners on walls. 2-17-6 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku; tel. 81 3 3632 5600.
On chilly winter nights, nothing satisfies like a pot of sukiyaki (hearty, tangy stew of meat and vegetables) or shabu-shabu (beef sliced paper-thin, which you swirl in boiling water); prepared at the table. Renowned local chain has been around for generations. Locations include TBS Garden Building, 5-1-3 Akasaka, Minato-ku; tel. 81 3 3582 6841.
Arguably one of the most famous—and pricey—sushi shops in Japan; established in 1936; inventors of gunkan-maki (seaweed wrap) technique; imperious sushi chef; open for lunch but dinner delivers ultimate, fine sushi experience; expert preparation, superior ingredients, and personal attention from second-generation owner Yosuke Imada. 8-7-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku; tel. 81 3 3571 6523.
Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred restaurant; located atop the Chanel building; seasonal French cuisine in a minimalist setting with tweed accents; upscale clientele includes senior businessmen, ladies who lunch in tailor-made European suits, and well-heeled visitors; staff speaks English, French, and Japanese. 3-5-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku; tel. 81 3 5159 5500. www.beige-tokyo.com
Specializes in world-famous aka wagyu (Kobe-style beef); tiny, flock-wallpaper shop is one of the city’s finest; dinner runs upwards of $375 per person (before wine), while “executive lunch” is about $120. Nagai Building, 8-18-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku; tel. 81 3 3543 7214.
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