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Tokyo Restaurant Guide – Top 8 Spots to Eat Like a Local


Hello from Tokyo! We are Frazer and Emily, two British travellers with a passion for food. Whilst Emily has Japanese heritage and was raised on Japanese cuisine, this is Frazer’s first trip to Japan. Emily’s knowledge of Japan paired with Frazer’s love of trying new dishes, make us a formidable foodie-force!
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We have recently moved to Japan to spend the next year travelling around this amazing country, learning all about the regional dishes and culture. For the past month, we have been immersing ourselves in Japanese culture and seeking out the best restaurants in Tokyo. Below are our favourite places serving up food loved by the Tokyo locals. This selection has recommendations and hot-spots the locals love but have English menus to hand (phew!). Fancy reading up on some of the other famous food and drink Japan has to offer? Have a look at our guide.

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1. Yukari

Address: 4-14-1, Akihabara Ichi 3F, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Cuisine: Okonomiyaki
Pricing: ¥ ¥

Reservation advised after 7pm

Established in Osaka in 1953, Yukari have successfully transported their quintessentially Kansai flavours to the heart of Tokyo. Okonomiyaki is a staple Japanese dish, and literally means ‘grill as-you-like’ so all tables come equipped with inbuilt hotplates. Trying a new cuisine is always a daunting prospect, especially when you are expected to cook it yourself. For a relaxed experience, Yukari should be your first port of call. Renowned for using the freshest ingredients, Yukari’s dishes are not only carefully prepared but also expertly cooked before being transferred to your hotplate. Yukari’s speciality is Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, a popular style distinguished by the addition of noodles, and our favourite style by far. Located in the modern and spacious food court of Akihabara-ichi, a large helping of okonomiyaki is the ideal antidote to a busy day of shopping in Electric Town.

Frazer recommends: Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki – ¥1650

As a newcomer to Japanese cuisine, I opted for Yukari’s signature dish. A thick blanket of fried egg crowns a mixture of crisp Japanese cabbage, pork, squid and prawns; all of which rest on a layer of steamy noodles. Outside the fresh seafood (which is easy to get used to in Tokyo!) the standout feature here is the sauce. The okonomiyaki sauce is sweet yet tangy and the ‘magic five’ mayonnaise not only gives the dish the instantly recognisable lines but mellows the strong flavours, resulting in a truly moreish dish.

Emily recommends: Yakisoba – ¥880

The yakisoba at Yukari is Japanese street food dish cooked to perfection. Yakisoba is classic matsuri fare, go to any festival and chances are you will find numerous yakisoba stalls serving up this Japanese classic. Yukari serves this comforting mix of fried wheat noodles, crunchy vegetables, thinly sliced pork, seafood and piquant oyster sauce with bright-pink pickled ginger. As far as yakisoba is concerned, this is as authentic as you can get in modern Tokyo. Although the food is traditional, the sleek and roomy space at Yukari is a welcome respite from the crowded streets of Akihabara.

2. Sushidokoro Yachiyo 鮨處八千代築地場外店

Address: 4-13-18 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo

Cuisine: Sushi
Pricing: ¥

After the hustle and bustle of Tsukiji fish market, Yachiyo is an oasis of calm. One of many sushi shops in the outer market area, Yachiyo is signposted only in Japanese ( 八千代 ) making this restaurant difficult to find. However it’s worth the challenge, as Yachiyo is the place to go for a comprehensive introduction to Japan’s most famous cuisine. Even a seasoned sushi-lover would appreciate the discipline of these chefs and the pride they take in their craft. At Yachiyo, the kitchen counter takes centre stage. A brightly lit, low-level counter ensures that all ingredients are on show and the careful preparation and shaping of each item of sushi is visible to all. We recommend ordering the 10 piece set and supplementing this with personal favourites. When visiting Tsukiji, bear in mind that the earlier you arrive, the fresher the fish!

Frazer recommends: 10-piece sushi set – ¥1000

The 10 piece set is a showcase of the freshest seafood from Tsukiji fish market for a truly incredible price. A colourful array of classic sashimi including prawn, squid, roe and shellfish are shaped into perfectly bitesize pieces. The standout item for me was the aji (horse mackerel) which, despite its delicate appearance, is pleasantly meaty. I found the chefs’ dedication to their profession inspiring – I could not help but notice the way they subtly assessed your reactions to the sushi as if to grade themselves on their creations.

Emily recommends: Saba, crab, unagi & tuna sushi – ¥100-350

In addition to the 10 piece set, I would recommend ordering saba (mackerel), crab and tuna. With the Tsukiji fish market just around the corner, it is unlikely you will ever find such a wide range of fresh fish elsewhere. There are several types of tuna served here including akami (red lean meat), chutoro (fattier cut), otoro (the fattiest cut) with the fattier cuts being prized for their rich flavour. Mackerel is often overlooked yet it is one of the most flavoursome items of sushi I have ever tried! Last but by no means least, unagi (eel) is a must. Although it may not seem appetising at first, it is nothing like the jellied eels served up in London. Instead, freshwater eel is gently boiled before being marinated in a tare sauce – the result is a sweet yet delicate explosion of flavour.

Food Japan
Food Japan

3. Sajilo Cafe

Address: 1-36-8 Kichijoji-Honcho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo

Cuisine: Nepalese
Pricing: ¥ ¥

Kichijoji is a small yet dynamic neighbourhood. Stylish boutiques, coffee shops and the Studio Ghibli Museum are what put this place on the map. However, nestled away behind the central shopping district is a lesser known gem, Sajilo. With two tables and a set of counter seats (usually occupied by locals), it is a small place. The interior is stripped back yet cosy and the towering rows of spices and crockery give it a very individual atmosphere. It is clear that each ornament has been chosen to create a relaxed ambience that the staff take great pride in upholding. The chefs are always busy at work, filling the restaurant with the fragrance of crushed spices and freshly baked naans.

Frazer recommends: Mutton curry (single set) – ¥1000

The menu at Sajilo offers three different curries, of which you can either choose one large portion for ¥1000, or the set of two smaller portions for ¥1150. On arrival I eyed up the dishes and, unsure what to choose, I went adventurous with the mutton curry. It isn’t a particularly popular meat in England as it has a tendency to be tough if not well prepared, however this was not the case at Sajilo. The sauce had infused into the slow-cooked meat, causing it to fall apart in your mouth. The naan breads were some of the largest I’ve had, and as they are baked to order using an authentic tandoor they are soft, doughy and soak up the curry with ease.

Emily recommends: Daikon & pork/butter chicken (double set) – ¥1150

For the opportunity to sample two different curries, go for the larger set menu. I enjoyed the contrast of my choices – the mellow almost fruity daikon and pork curry and the creamy yet fiery butter chicken. When ordering, you can personalise the spiciness of your curry (2 was optimum for us) – err on the side of caution here as Sajilo are serious about their spice. The curry sets are all accompanied by a crisp and colourful salad, huge naan breads and a delicately blended chai tea – never has a meal been more satisfying.

4. Tsujihan

Address: 3-1-15, Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Hisae Building 1F
Cuisine: Kaisendon (sashimi rice bowl)

Pricing: ¥ ¥

Tsujihan is adored by locals who will settle for nothing less than the freshest of sashimi bowls. Squeezed onto the end of a narrow alley strung with paper lanterns, it can be another tricky place to find. The queues can also be long, but this is testament to the mastery with which Tsujihan serve their signature dish. Here, only one item is on offer – the zeitakudon (luxury bowl). This bowl is available in different grades which correlate to the quality and quantity of fish used – umetakematsu. Locals opt for the ume bowl as it is the best value – expect a bowl of rice topped with generous mounds of mixed seafood including sea bream, tuna, squid, ikura (salmon roe) and herring roe. For this, plus crab meat, opt for take and for extra sea urchin (the ultimate item in any kaisendon) upgrade to matsu.

Frazer and Emily recommend: Matsu zeitakudon – ¥1980

Tsujihan is a modest yet spacious spot, with only 12 seats lining the counter. This open preparation area is where the bowls are expertly constructed. The chefs at Tsujihan prescribe a very particular way of eating the zeitakudon and we recommend you listen to their advice! On being seated, you will be presented with 4 thick slabs of sea bream sashimi in a rich miso sauce. Although you will be tempted to eat them all, leave at least 2 slices to add to your bowl later on. The zeitakudon itself is a sight to behold – a tower of seafood of all colours, tastes and textures rise above the soft, sticky rice beneath. For best results, mix the fresh wasabi with soy sauce and distribute evenly over your dish. The sea urchin is a really defining contribution to this already outstanding bowl of food. Once you approach your last few mouthfuls, place your bowl on the counter and ask for tai dashi (sea bream stock) and add your reserved sashimi to this fragrant soup. This transforms the bowl into chazuke, which brings together all the leftover flavours, rounding off this truly special experience in an unique way.

Food Japan
Food Japan

5. Borrachos

Address: 1-32-9 Sangenjaya, Setagaya, Tokyo

Cuisine: Mexican
Pricing: ¥ ¥ ¥

Borrachos is a Ryukyu Mexican (in fact, the only Okinawan style Mexican in Tokyo) located in the famous food quarter of Sangenjaya. The crossover makes sense – both Mexico and Okinawa are incredibly sunny countries famous for their distinct culinary styles. Although we were surprised to hear that a Ryukyu Mexican restaurant would be so popular amongst locals, it is not difficult to see why. On entry, you are greeted by lilting salsa music and contemporary Mexican paraphernalia that adorn every available inch of the brightly decorated interior. Crowding the bar is an impressive array of over 50 different types of tequila, starting from ¥500 each. A wide selection of cocktails and Awamori are also on the menu to quench your thirst. If you’re looking for a break from traditional Japanese, Borrachos is a must!

Frazer recommends: Okinawa Yanbaru Chicken Fajita – ¥2100

The chickens used for the fajitas at Borrachos are, as the name suggests, farmed in Yanbaru, northern Okinawa. The area is well known for producing top-quality meat, and the taste of the fajitas was truly in keeping with this ideal. The presentation was classic, with the full range of condiments – including homemade salsa, sour cream and guacamole. However, the contrast of the juicy chicken with the charred vegetables infused the wrap with serious depths of flavour.  The choice of hot sauce is dangerously tantalising, and the fact they pour tequila over and set it alight in front of you lets you see the final stages of the charring that make the taste carry so far.

Emily recommends: Beef burrito – ¥1200

The presentation and attentive service is what really stood out at Borrachos for me. Despite the laid-back atmosphere, service was friendly and efficient (a winning combination!). Even the drinks here are prepared with quality ingredients – the mango sour is the best drink I have had in Tokyo so far. Food wise, not only is the beef burrito generously portioned and smothered in tomato sauce, it is presented with a selection of black olive tapenade, sour cream and fresh pico de gallo. Borrachos also provide an array of spiced sauces so you can choose your preferred level of heat.

6. Owariya 尾張屋

Address: 1-7-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
Cuisine: Tempura
Pricing: ¥ ¥

Asakusa is renowned for its independent eateries. The fierce competition between neighbouring restaurants around Senso-ji Temple ensures that standards are kept high. Owariya is one such restaurant that strives to serve traditional Japanese tempura dishes in a traditional restaurant setting. From the delicate shoji architecture to the black and red bento boxes, it is clear that tradition is at the heart of Owariya. Founded in 1870, Owariya continue to fry their tempura in sesame oil which makes the batter exceptionally light and crispy. Paired with their freshly made buckwheat soba, this combination is second to none. Moreover, their broth is made using high quality bonito flakes lending it a deep umami flavour. An absolute must for locals and travellers alike.

Frazer recommends: Tempura soba – ¥1500

Tempura soba is one of the most traditional winter dishes in Japan and is especially prominent in the historical district of Asakusa. The elements that make up the dish are approached by chefs in a manner that is creative yet unique to each restaurant. This dedication to a particular means of making a dish results in a deep, rich flavour that changes from restaurant to restaurant – yet once you find somewhere that makes it just to your taste, you can rest easy knowing you can return to the same taste whenever you wish. Owariya is that place for me.

Emily recommends: Ten seiro – ¥1100

As a specialist restaurant, the menu here is understandably small. I opted for the ten seiro. This is a dish which would be best enjoyed in the summer but, even in February, I personally enjoyed the variety of textures and temperatures within the dish. The tempura batter was thin and crisp and the prawn was full of flavour. The contrast of the steaming tempura with the refreshing coolness of the soba noodles epitomised my view of Japanese cooking. Mixing wasabi into the dipping sauce elevates this dish to new heights. It is worth noting that prawn tempura at soba restaurants is thicker than standard tempura so that it holds up better in the broth. For those who prefer a lighter batter, Owariya is spot on.

Food Japan
Food Japan

7. Toritake

Address: 1-6-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya

Cuisine: Yakitori

Pricing: ¥¥

No minimum orders or seating charges but there can often be a wait due to popularity

Toritake is our go-to for authentic, no-nonsense yakitori. The unassuming exterior should not be underestimated – this place is always bustling (and you’ll see why!). The constant sizzling of the open-plan kitchen and the intimacy of the close-quartered seating are typical elements of a lively street food experience. For us, the proximity to the other guests was simply a chance to preview – and chat about – what is on offer. Do not let the smokey, raucous atmosphere intimidate you, after all, this heavy footfall is exactly what enables Toritake to offer quality ingredients at a competitive price. Toritake is a no-frills establishment but their priorities are in order, food first! Whilst they may have the world’s smallest toilet, they also offer the largest steins we have seen in Tokyo. To our delight, their servings are also generous (especially for Tokyo) and packed with flavour. A healthier equivalent to fried chicken, this is hands down the best place to satisfy those late night cravings.

Frazer recommends: Oyakodon set – ¥850

We have visited Toritake a number of times since moving to Tokyo and the main focus has always been yakitori. However, last time I opted for something different, the oyakodon set; a chicken and egg rice bowl with miso soup and pickled vegetables (¥950). Oyakodon means ‘parent and child donburi’, in which chicken pieces and egg are simmered in a sweet soy-based broth with finely sliced onions. The way in which Toritake’s oyakodon manages to absorb the broth differs from conventional oyakodon and is definitely the heartier, more filling dish I was after. One of the best dishes I have tried so far.

Emily recommends: Yakitori set – ¥2000

The yakitori set is a staple for us as the chicken skewers are consistently succulent and crisp. The yakitori comes either ‘with salt’ or ‘with tare’, a soy based sauce. I love that you can personalise your skewers here but, for the most part, I find that salt and a slice of freshly squeezed lemon is the best way to enjoy yakitori. However when it comes to tsukune (chicken meatball) opt for tare for extra juiciness. In all honesty, I was hesitant about trying less conventional cuts of chicken especially bonjiri (chicken tail) but liver and ribs are now firm favourites (trust me, give them a shot!).

8. Umibuta

Address: 4-8-9 Ueno, Taito, Tokyo

Cuisine: Seafood

Pricing: ¥
Unlike many izakayas, there is no seating charge or minimum order here

The unique name (literally meaning, most charmingly, ‘sea pig’) and a familiar glow of izakaya lanterns drew us to Umibuta after an afternoon in Ueno Park. Located in the vibrant area of Ameyokocho, it is a stone throw’s away from the local seafood market and Umibuta make good use of the freshest seafood. The large menu is easy to navigate and each item arrives exactly as pictured. The drinks menu is just as extensive, full of sake, shochu and sours, but it is difficult to stray too far from draft beers poured perfectly by automated machines.To help you on your way, our personal picks include: gyoza (served Chinese-style with chilli oil), vinegared spotted sardine (classic Izakaya fare), pork skewers (our recommended cuts are rib and diaphragm), grilled shishamo (very similar to whitebait) and any fresh seafood.

Frazer recommends: Tossed mayonnaise of crab – ¥280

Despite only being a side-dish, the crab leg was huge, noticeably fresh and an absolute steal! However I must note the cucumber shirasu (¥350) which we ordered on our second visit to Umibuta; tiny sardines resting on thinly-sliced cucumber, topped off with a thick chili sauce – a delicate balance of spice offset by cool flavours. Izakayas are a good opportunity to sample a little bit of everything on offer. Here, the smaller dishes are great value and with such an extensive selection, it is easy to order a wide selection of food. There is no better way than to unwind from a busy day in Ueno than sharing fantastic little plates in a relaxed atmosphere.

Emily recommends: Tuna crown – ¥580

As a self-confessed lover of all things sashimi, I was surprised at how marbled the cut was – the raw tuna melts in the mouth – and the richness of the tuna is heightened by the acidity of the fresh wasabi, shiso and daikon garnish. The grilled shishamo and gyoza are also perfect for sharing yet could easily be enjoyed individually. At izakayas, I tend to order umeshu as I believe that it doubles as a palate cleanser in that it is sweet and sour in equal measure. The umeshu served here is particularly well-rounded. For something sweeter, to complement fried or salty food, the peach sour is my go-to.

Food Japan