By Andy Hayler
With more Michelin stars than any other city on earth, Tokyo is a restaurant dream. Japan has perhaps the finest ingredients in the world, and chefs who know how to put them to best use in a vast range of cooking styles. In no particular sequence, here are 19 of its finest restaurants.
Aronia de Takazawa, Tokyo, Japan
This tiny restaurant is a family affair, with Yoshiaki Takazawa behind the stoves and his wife Akiko running the service. The elaborate and inventive cooking is illustrated by a ratatouille of 15 vegetables as a little terrine. In another dish assorted vegetables are harvested from a “soil” of breadcrumbs by the diner.
Esaki, TOKYO, JAPAN
Shintaro Esaki serves traditional kaiseki cuisine in this understated basement in a residential area of the city. Ingredients follow the seasons, and the skill of the kitchen is shown in dishes such as tender Ohara lobster with sweet bell peppers. The cooking style here is subtle, its skill recognized with three Michelin stars.
Fukamachi, TOKYO, JAPAN
Behind the discreet entrance is a little L-shaped counter at which the chefs prepare light, delicate tempura using high quality ingredients. The prawn tempura combines excellent fresh seafood with the airiest coating to produce delicious tempura, and vegetables receive the same care and attention as the costlier ingredients.
Ginza Okamoto, TOKYO, JAPAN
Chef/owner Hidetsugu Okamoto prepares a slightly more modern style of kaiseki cuisine than some of his contemporaries. An example can be seen in Kanagawa pork cooked with sansho stock, the pepper flower providing a restrained but spicy kick to enliven the pork. This is high-class cooking from someone who was a three star Michelin head chef elsewhere.
Ishikawa, Tokyo, Japan
Hideki Ishikawa cooks kaiseki cuisine at his eponymous restaurant in Shinjuku. Your meal will progress through many stages of ultra-seasonal ingredients, with superb dishes such as char-grilled eel with beautiful sweet onion, or rice cooked with prized matsutake mushrooms. This restaurant thoroughly deserves its three Michelin stars.
Joel Robuchon, Tokyo, Japan
The flagship outpost of iconic French chef Joel Robuchon is located in a custom-built French chateau in the heart of Tokyo. The elaborate three star Michelin cooking relies on French technique and top Japanese ingredients, such as ravioli of lobster with Japanese radish. The trademark Robuchon dessert trolley is an indulgent way to conclude your meal.
Kadowaki, Tokyo, Japan
Toshiya Kadowaki serves two Michelin star kaiseki cooking, but allowing some French influences into this ultimately Japanese dining style. He uses only top ingredients, and you may be served snapper with spicy sansho, or white asparagus with sesame sauce and mountain vegetables. The cooking is balanced and highly skilled.
Kanda, Tokyo, Japan
Kanda serves kaiseki cuisine in a residential Roppongi apartment block. You can watch the chefs demonstrating their considerable (three star Michelin) knife skills as they prepare your meal, which might include a dish such as baby sea trout or a ball of rice wrapped with eel skin and seasoned with lime.
Kondo, Tokyo, Japan
Fumio Kondo cooks superbly light tempura for his guests in this two Michelin star 9th floor Ginza restaurant. From ultra-fresh prawns to finely julienned carrots, the ingredients are of top quality, and the great skill of the chef self-evident. This is one of Tokyo’s top tempura restaurants.