Eat your way around Asia: Tokyo

Time Out Tokyo's tour of the city's best dining experiences

Tokyo is heaven on Earth for gourmands – as long as you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Cheap eat


How long would you wait for a good bowl of topped rice? An hour? More? At Kaneko Hannosuke you might find yourself waiting an hour and a half (even on a Monday lunchtime) in a queue that trails out of this humble tendon (tempura on rice) specialist, a symbol of the Tokyo food scene’s lasting qualities. The reason for the almost-holy devotion is clear once your tempura (pictured above) arrives: it’s perfection. Light batter, golden and crisp, encases perfectly-cooked seafood: two shrimp, diced squid, a remarkably large white fish and a square of nori, all dressed with a moreish tentsuyu sauce just before serving.
Meal for two, 2,000JPY


SIT HERE Try and nab one of the six counter seats on the ground floor facing the chefs at work.

Casual dining

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Tokyo has been going crazy for all things new York since 2015. One of the top representatives of this trend is Italian restaurant Rosemary’s, which brings the West Village to a Shinjuku rooftop. A vast terrace sits smartly amongst the lush surrounds and guests are free to wander up the stairs to the rooftop garden, where a variety of vegetables and herbs are grown for the kitchen, while also providing an urban farm education programme for local school children. The signature Salsiccia Orecchiette combines home-made pork sausage from Fujiyama-raised pigs, broccoli and semi-dried tomatoes with perfectly al dente house-made orecchiette pasta. It’s home-style Italian cooking at its best.
Meal for two, 7,000JPY


COME FOR The lunch deal. Choose between the focaccia or pasta lunch sets for a full Rosemary’s experience with a smaller price tag (1,300JPY weekdays or 1,800JPY at weekends).

Fine dining

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Japanese cuisine, or washoku, was recognised by UNESCO as an element of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013 – a decision that cast an even stronger spotlight on this country’s endlessly diverse culinary culture. For a one-meal introduction to the tastes and traditions of Japan, there’s no going wrong at Roppongi’s Ryugin. Experimental chef Seiji Yamamoto is hailed as Japan’s leading molecular gastronomist and applies cutting-edge technology to the tradition of kaiseki ryori, which involves a theatrical series of small courses. His creations are dazzling and inventive, but never gimmicky – he always shows the utmost respect for culinary heritage. The menu changes daily, depending on what the team find at the morning markets, making every meal here a unique experience. Along with a few other champions, Ryugin sits at the very summit of Tokyo’s food scene and deserves to be mentioned among the very best restaurants in the world.
Meal for two, 50,000JPY


INSIDER TIP While you might get lucky enough to nab a table on the day, reservations are pretty much a must, and can be made up to a month in advance.
  • 4 out of 5 stars