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

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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

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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

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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

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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
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