What to Eat
Tokyo Travel Blog› entry 2 of 8 › view all entries
The amount of options for Japanese food in Tokyo can be overwhelming. There has to be at least 10,000 restaurants. It's probably stupid to even throw out a made-up number like I just did because I KNOW that there's more than that. While I haven't sampled nearly enough restaurants to make valid recommendations, this is more a list of recommended Japanese dishes to try.
Ramen: Not your typical shitty cup/instant noodle ramen either. There's like 21389213874 ramen restaurants ALONE, but the thing that most share in common is the dedication of the owners to provide a quality meal-in-a-bowl. There's usually a ticket vending machine at the entrance where you choose what you want to order and then hand the ticket to the chef. There's almost never any English writing, but you really can't go wrong with anything. As a rule of thumb, the standard house bowl is usually the first item listed, so pick that and you should be safe.
Conveyor belt (kaiten) sushi: Fun, entertaining food that you can see before you "order". Some chain restaurants offer as low as 100yen (about $1.20 US) for 2 pieces. Granted, you're going to get better quality at the smaller, slightly more expensive restaurants; but if you are new to sushi and want to test the waters, the cheaper options are fine. My favorite is the one right outside Takadanobaba station- they even place a touch-screen in front of you where you place your order and a little sushi boat shoots out of the kitchen to your seat. It ranges from 120-420 yen per plate, but the fish is excellent.
Izakaya: Okay, this term actually refers to a place to get drinks and little side dishes to go along with. They're EXTREMELY popular and are found EVERYWHERE in Tokyo, ranging from big chains to small 5-seater mom and pop ones. The side dish menu will typically include traditional Japanese foods, but you can find stuff like fried chicken and pizza at the bigger chains.
Okonomiyaki: My mom always described this as the Japanese answer to pizza. While it can be seen that way since you can add virtually anything to it (the name literally means "whatever you want grilled"), it's more the consistency of a pancake. Regardless, it's AMAZINGLY good and a fun dining experience because it's typically cooked in front of you.
Curry: Curry rice made me a fat child, so I now have an aversion to it even though it's delicious. Woah.... now that I think about it, I haven't eaten it since I've been here. There's a chain called CoCo Ichibanya that most people tend to like, but if a smaller shop offers it as an option, I'd probably recommend that.
My best advice for eating well in Tokyo is to just follow your nose. And eyes. 9 times out of 10, restaurants will have little plastic replicas of their food in a display case just outside. If something looks good, try it because it probably is. I can't think of a meal I've had out in Tokyo that was sub-par. The Japanese pallete is quite subdued and doesn't really include anything overly spicy or offensive to the mouth. Just stay clear of nattou (fermented soybeans) and you will be fine.