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By Andy Hayler | December 14 2017
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.
Many of our readers will already be aware of Japanese cuisine, with sushi becoming one of the mainstays of food around the world, but what you may not know is how Japanese food became what we know and love today.
Traditionally rice and fish have always been staples in the Japanese diet, while meat consumption was low until the end of the 19th Century. When Japan modernized and meat became more readily available across the Far East the traditional dishes of China started to become more common in Japan, with the Japanese regularly eating meat-based dishes such as tonkatsu, gyozas and ramen. Since then Japan has gone on to become a global powerhouse when it comes to fine dining. In 2011, Japan overtook France as the country with the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world, firmly cementing its place as the top destination for food lovers everywhere.
As with any city you will find a wide variety of cooking styles, flavors and styles of dining in Tokyo. In no particular sequence, here are Elite Traveler’s 19 of the best restaurants in Tokyo.
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. The interior of Aronia de Takazara is petit, with just five tables and enough space for the chefs to freshly prepare all the food.
3 Chome-5-2 Akasaka, 港区 Tokyo 107-0052, 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.
2 Chome-5-2 Kyobashi, 中央区 Tokyo 104-0031, 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.
Japan, 〒162-0825 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Kagurazaka, 5−37, 高村ビル
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.
Yebisu Garden Place, 1-13-1 Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, 153-0062, 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.
apan, 〒106-0045 Tokyo, Minato, Azabujuban, 2 Chome−7−2, ローズハウス麻布十番
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.
〒106-0046 Tokyo, 港区Motoazabu, 三六三四 カーム元麻布
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.
5 Chome-5-13 Ginza, 中央区 Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
If you have ever wondered just how good tempura cooking can really be, NanochomeKyoboshi will show you. The ingredients used are of an exceptionally high standard, the skills of the chef shown in the ultra-light batter and the simplicity of the cooking: no dipping sauces are to be found here in this three Michelin star tempura.
Ozio Bldg 6F, 5-9-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
This smart restaurant serves classical French cuisine but using the finest Japanese ingredients. An example of this is sweet sea scallop with a buckwheat crust, served with buckwheat risotto seasoned with Gironde salt. The chef, who trained at three star Michelin restaurant Astrance in Paris, now has three Michelin stars of his own.
〒140-0001 Tokyo, Shinagawa, Kitashinagawa, 6−7−29 ガーデンシティ品川 御殿山
Seiji Yamamoto’s modern cooking takes kaiseki dining and reinvents it for the modern era. There is still a focus on ultra-seasonal, high quality ingredients, but modern kitchen techniques are brought to bear too. Ryugin thoroughly deserves its three Michelin stars, and can be regarded as exemplifying the finest in modern Japanese cooking.
〒106-0032 Tokyo, Minato, Roppongi, 7 Chome−１７番地２４号
Currently in the unlikely setting of a multi-storey car park (but moving in 2014), Sushi Saito is widely acknowledged as the top sushi restaurant in Tokyo, its three Michelin stars thoroughly deserved. The standard of the fish used here, such as its tuna and squid, is exemplary, its chef/owner charming.
〒106-0032 Tokyo, 港区Roppongi, 1−4−5 アークヒルズサウスタワ
This tiny six-seat sushi restaurant serves some of the finest sushi in Tokyo, having two Michelin stars. Ex-truck driver and chef/owner Koji Sawada carefully prepares the long grain rice with white vinegar, and serves an elaborate menu of highest quality seafood, such as very tender abalone and needle fish.
〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chūō, Ginza, 5 Chome−9−19, MCビル 3F
Masahiro Yoshitake is one of Tokyo’s most respected sushi chefs, preparing his rice with red vinegar in the “Edomae” way, a style dating back to the Edo period. The fish is of exemplary standard, the chef sourcing most of it directly rather than using the main market. This is true three Michelin star sushi.
〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chūō, Ginza, ８−７−１９ すずりゅうビル
The original restaurant of a group with several branches now, it is hard to argue with the freshness of the ingredients here. Prawns are alive moments before being coated with batter and plunged into hot oil, the result delicious. The batter is particularly light, letting the excellent ingredients take the main stage.
〒104-0061 Tokyo, 中央区Ginza, 6−6−5
The chef/owner Jun Yukimura is a charismatic man, sharing jokes with his customers as he prepares their meal in front of them at the counter, and demonstrating his impressive knife skills. The kaiseki cooking here uses ultra-seasonal ingredients, such as delicate sweet fish and superbly flavoured yam, and has been awarded three Michelin stars.
〒106-0045 Tokyo, Minato, Azabujuban, 1 Chome−5−5, YUKENAZABU.10 3F
One of Tokyo’s many two Michelin star restaurants, Seizan focuses on the Japanese tradition of using only the best seasonal ingredients meaning the menu is forever changing. On top of a varied menu of traditional Japanese dishes, Seizan also offers guests the chance to try some of the finest desserts available in the capital, including the restaurant’s well-known matcha mousse.
2 Chome-17-29 Mita, Minato, Tokyo 108-0073, Japan
Set inside a beautiful four storey restaurant, Ginza Kyubey is widely regarded as one of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo, and despite their owner Imada San being well into his 70s now the restaurant is still one of the best places to visit on a trip to the Japanese capital. Especially as Steven Spielberg is apparently a massive fan.
A trip to RyuGin is like a pilgrimage to the center of the sushi world. The restaurant takes its food so seriously it advises guests to be sensible with their perfume. Inside you’ll find some of the world’s greatest food, rightfully reflected in its trio of Michelin stars.
Side Roppongi Bldg, 1F 7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato-ku
The food at L’Effervescence shows Japan’s playful side, with one of the restaurants most well known dishes being a fun take on McDonald’s apple pie made from wild boar or sage and matutake mushrooms. On top of this the restaurant has an excellent French wine list and a delicious dessert menu to boot.
L’Effervescence, 2-26-4 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo, Japan,