Location: Tokyo, Japan
Editor’s note: SandyL is a trained chef, and a self-confessed foodie. On a recent (June 2015) re-visit to Tokyo with her teenage daughter, she had a clear mission: EAT! Here’s her list of 8 places to eat in Tokyo – from street snacks to heritage restaurants, and a fave fast food joint.
Our first visit back to Tokyo after five years. On our itinerary: FOOD!
There are old faves my daughter and I plan to revisit, and some heritage restaurants I wanted to try. Some of the more memorable meals and snacks we had over our eight days in Tokyo…
These three “heritage” restaurants have close to 500 years of operation between them. Including my “must-try”…
Address: 12, 2Kanda ogawacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Nearby landmark: No clear land mark, this map was useful for us
One of the specific eateries on my itinerary was Sasamaki Kenuki Sushi ( (笹巻けぬきすし) . This is the oldest sushi shop in Tokyo, with some 300 years history. It has been in business since 1702. Sasamaki Kenuki Sushi is located in Kando, a five-minute walk from Ogawacho station (Toei subway line).
We decided to eat in the shop, though the norm here is to takeaway their exquisitely prepared bento boxes.
The chef here still uses the very old, traditional way of preparing sushi. The style of sushi popular today (the nigiri sushi) was developed in the early 1800s. Until then a key concern for sushi preparation was preservation. The ingredients are typically salted, then pickled in vinegar – a time-consuming way of preparation. The look and taste is different from that of present day sushi too. The taste is a lot more sour and salty. The sushi are also wrapped in bamboo leave, which supposedly further preserves the sushi.
It was a fantastic experience, a trip back in time for a living slice of history. Well worth the detour.
Address: 2-2-2 Nishiasakusa, Taito, Tokyo 〒111-0035, Japan
Nearby landmark: Asakusa Senso-ji temple
Another old school delight. Sometaro is a DIY okonomiyaki and yakisoba restaurant, very popular with locals. This has been around since 1937 – the décor, both the exterior and interior, is delightfully antique, or as my daughter says “very cute traditional shop”.
We removed our shoes on entering the restaurant, and were lead to a table next to the window. It’s tatami seating here. It was a chilly spring day when we visited, and with the warm hot plate, it was so comfortable.
We were hungry and ordered up a feast! Mushroom and squid platter, a Yaki soba set and a oknomiyaki set. Add a Ramune drink complete with a marble in the bottle. All for 3,100 yen. A lot of fun, and so yummy too. Simply the best okonomiyaki restaurant.
No aircon here, be prepared to smell like your meal after lunch ☺
Address: 386 Naka-machi, Narita, Chiba Prefecture
Nearby landmark: down the road from Narita San temple
This is a famous unagi restaurant, popular amongst Japanese patron as it had been featured on many TV programs and magazine. It is in Narita city, down the road from Narita San (a famous temple).
Misen place right at the front of the shop – the chefs prepare their eels in full view of customers, at the front of the shop, carving up the fish and preparing them for the grill. Traditionally, the fish would have come from a nearby river. Unagi Kawatoyo has been around since 1925. The shop retains an old world charm, with its three storey wooden frontage.
The chefs serves up fresh, juicy grilled eel daily; to order, you join the (usually) long queue, order, pay and will be shown to you seat. A wait staff will serve your bowl to you when it’s ready, collecting your receipt stub as “proof” that the right order is served. All very orderly.
Freshly grilled unagi served on a bed of rice, with koi miso soup. Wow, amazing.
Not cheap but for the quality, worth it. Check their website for the menu.
You see them everywhere, and we made sure there’s one within walking distance from our hostel…
Address: Multiple locations all over the city; you can’t miss them.
Matsuya is our favourite fast food joint in Tokyo. It feels like there’s one everywhere you turn. For us, it is comfort food at it’s best. There’s a Matsuya just near our hostel (Spacehostel, near Iriya station) and that became our default breakfast and supper venue.
You place your order with the vending machine – insert some yen, the machine lights up, press the meal button and take your change. Go up to the counter, give the cook your ticket, and they bring you your food. The obasans never get the order wrong.
Amongst our favourites: the grilled beef set, the burger demi glace set, the grilled pork with ginger and onion set. All good value, and very decent quality ingredients used for the dishes. A meal here for two rarely goes beyond JPY1,500, or S$15, including ocha or water… Dining here constantly makes me think Singapore is just too expensive!
We tried loads, from pancakes to sake ice cream, to mochi and Takoyaki. Here are two we would want to have again and again…
Nearby landmark: Ikebukuro Station
I had my first bakudanyaki many years back (10+ year?). My favourite shop was this little stand near Ikebukuro, in a busy area, called Bakudanyaki Honpo. My daughter and I have fond memories of this awesome snack and this was something we really wanted to eat in Tokyo
A bakudanyaki is like a takoyaki, only much bigger. The ones at Bakudanyaki have a diameter of 8cm, almost a fist- size. It’s crispy on the outside, creamy and delicious inside, and the “original” flavour was the main seller then.
Fast forward and I found out that BakudanYaki Honpo has expanded throughout Japan. It now offers a selection of ten flavours on it’s menu, and there are stands in all the popular spots now.
But we still made the trip back to Ikebukuro for the original store, getting lost along the way (again). My daughter managed to navigate us back to the shop, from her memory on our previous trip. We had an Ogishio and an Original flavour (again) – still soooo good after all these years. Packed full with over ten ingredients, smothered with yummy sauces. Kawaii, and delicious snack.
Address: 2-3-3 Asakusa Taito-ku Tokyo
Nearby landmark: Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa
A new snack I discovered on this trip – this juicy beef crouquette, called a “menchi katus”, from Asakusa.
Curious with the long queue I came across after visiting the famous Asakusa Shrine, and enticed by the aroma, I joined the queue (yes, I am as Singaporean as we can get). Am I glad I did – the “menchi katsu” was juicy, tender and bursting with flavours.
This is basically a deep-fried “hamburger” patter. Minced meat, beef and pork, mixed with vegetables, breaded with panko, and then deep-fried – done with finesse. Definitely worth the wait – fresh from the deep-fryer, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Editor’s note: Katsu-don is another deep-fried meat fave amongst family diners. KrystalK has a recommendation for our readers here – for a generous potion of the popular dish, check out Tonkatsu Shotaro.
Address: 18-15, 2 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Nearby landmark: In front of Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo
Another long-established outlet, a traditional store founded in 1846. Amanoya is a teahouse and specialty shop in Kando, selling fermented foods.
We got lost trying to locate the shop. Luckily we managed to get there by 4.30pm, as this shop closes early, by 6pm in the evening.
Amanoya is famous for their traditionally made Amazake, a drink made from fermenting kome koji, which is steamed rice that has been left to grow the mold Aspergillus oryzae, and water.
Amazake is the new “health drink”, as it aids poor digestion and is full of active enzymes that break down proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates. I have been experimenting with making this drink back home, so Amanoya was a must-visit for me.
My daughter and I shared a hot amazake, which was served with a dish of radish. On a rainy day and after searching for so long, this was rewarding – hot, creamy with a natural sweetness. Don’t miss too the kuzu mochi, so delicious too.
Amanoya only has a Japanese menu. With their history, there are no shortage of customers… I dabao-ed some fresh koji – hopefully it will survive the long commute home.
Address: 5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045
Nearby landmark: THIS is the Landmark!
Tsukiji needs no introduction. Famous for the tuna auctions held every morning – I couldn’t resist a shot with the tuna head, way bigger than mine
The wholesale fish market was our first stop on our first morning in Tokyo. Instead of the touristy sushi shops, we headed straight into the market place for fresh snacks. My grilled scallop was sweet. The fresh oysters, so yummy and so big, I took 4 to 5 bites to finish one. So creamy and sweet….. sorry if you have to drool looking at the picture ☺
And of course we have to get a slice of the Tamago – the ultimate test of any Japanese chef’s skill. This was from one of the specialty Tamago shop lining the market. It tastes So Good.
I bought some Japanese staples for my pantry… Sakura pickled flowers and leaves, Kuzuku ginger, black fig (so sweet), smoked cuttlefish. As the Tsukiji Market is moving soon, this is probably the last time I will be visiting in its current location. I will miss this place when it is gone.
Editor’s note: Where’s your favourite spot to eat in Toyko? Share with us in the comments below, or drop us a review here – you know we’d love to hear from you.
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