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Apr 2, 2008 10:17 PM

Intro to Tokyo food scene

I'm heading to Tokyo next week and will be bringing my family along (parents in early 60s and siblings in late 20s). Most of them have not been to Tokyo before and I've only been there a few times in recent years. They are all chowhounds and food obsessed like I am and I'd like to give them a good introduction to the local food scene in the five days we will be there.

Here's a working list of places I'm thinking of taking them to:

Gonpachi for Izakaya - I've been there once before, fun place, pretty good eats, is this the top choice?

Maisen for Tonkatsu - Been there twice, seems like a can't miss institution

Zakuro (or Seryna) for Shabu Shabu - Really enjoyed my one visit there

Tsukiji for Sushi - Don't have the patience for Daiwa, ate at some other place in the area and loved it, especially the incredible Anago

New York Grill - The setting, the vibe and the food were excellent the two times I visited

Most of the above are for dinner, except lunch at Maisen and Tsukiji. Lunches will be more random based on which neighborhoods are being explored.

I know there are many amazing Western restaurants in Tokyo, and I was thinking of throwing one in there. But with only three dinners, it's tough to fit one in. New York Grill can be considered Western I suppose, although it's pretty much a Wagyu joint.

Tokyo-ites, please let me know what you think of this list and if you have any suggestions. Thanks everyone. This site is a real gem.

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  1. I think it's a good list overall.

    Gonpachi is always fun to take visitors and tourists and the food is pretty good.

    Tsukiji is perfect as well, don't feel like you have to wait in line for Dai or Daiwa although I think that's part of the charm of the visit.

    For a different dinner, I'd try a non-chain upscale izakaya as well. Something like Kaikaya in Shibuya is fun.
    Of course, I'm a huge supporter of Fuku in Yoyogi-uehara and I always recommend it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lost squirrel

      Thanks for the reply lost squirrel.

      How would Kaikaya and Fuku be different from a place like Gonpachi?

      1. re: chutster

        Gonpachi's menu is more on yakitori; Kaikaya is on seafood. Both try to have fun atmosphere;both are crowded with many western expats and tourists.

    2. Gonpachi is filled with expats and tourists. Not really my cup of tea.

      Seryna is very good for Shabu shabu, but very expensive too. I also had the best sukiyaki meal ever in Seryna a few years back.

      If you are willing to splurge on sushi, 2 legendary names are Kyubei and Sukiyabashi Jiro but be prepared to spend like 15-20k per person. Personally I prefer Jiro. I am now in Tokyo and just tried Sushi Kanesaka in Ginza; it is just awesome, owner chef Shinji is friendly, able to speak in English, and in my opinion, the sushi is even better than Kyubei and on par with Jiro. Just had one of my best sushi experience a few days ago. And I am a sushi fanatic so I know what I am talking about.

      Regarding western dish, I just came back from Argento ASO, a well known Italian restaurant with heavy Japanese ingredients and influence. Food and service are excellent; I highly recommend this place too.

      I just went to Kaikaya too. If you liked Gonpachi, then this place is ok. Filled with expatriates too, I can hear American accent English everywhere. A seafood specialist with heavy western influence, a bit like Nobu style, fish carpaccio with olive oil, fried prawns with mayonese sauce etc etc. Not really traditional Japanese seafood (with heavy emphasis on seasonal freshness) that I am crazy about; I much prefer my old favorite Nabura. Stuffs are friendly. So if you like such atmosphere, then it is the right place for you. But not for me.

      4 Replies
      1. re: FourSeasons

        Kaikaya is very seafood-centric, a plus in my book.
        It's a lively atmosphere, being in my late 20s as well I appreciate the fun factor. FourSeasons is correct, it's not very traditional but I think it's delicious and fun and it has a good sake menu as well.

        Fuku is a yakitori joint, mostly chicken. It's a more upscale yakitori place. The salmon and smoked cheese are wonderful. I recommend the tanuki - mushrooms stuffed with chicken meatballs as well as the cheese stuffed peppers wrapped in bacon and just about everything else. They carry some local sakes as well, I prefer the mugi shochu. I think it's about 2700 for a bottle and very smooth.

        Gonpachi is a yakitori-centric izakaya. They do have homemade soba as well as some other dishes but I can't really remember ever eating them.

        Tokyo has lots of fun yakiniku restaurants as well. Does your family like Korean?

        1. re: lost squirrel

          Thank you FourSeasons and lost squirrel for the intriguing recommendations. Will definitely consider them on the (much too short!) itinerary.

          Lost squirrel, yes my family LOVES Korean. Do tell...

          1. re: chutster

            Regarding Korea cuisine, I just tried Jap Cho Ok, recommended by another Chow, Robb S, the editor of , an established food guide to Japanese dining. I really enjoyed this place, highly recommend it and wrote a brief review :

            1. re: chutster

              Tokyo has a bunch of Korean barbecue places, some japan-ized and some more Korean in nautre. Honestly, I haven't tried any of the nicer ones, although I really want to get to Jap Cho Ok sometime soon.

              There is a section of Tokyo called Shin-Okubo that is sometimes referred to as KoreaTown. It's full of yakiniku (bbq) places.

        2. Which parts of town are you planning to explore? You're just getting the same touristy places that are constantly being recommended here...And do you like seafood?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Silverjay

            Will be based in Tokyo Midtown for the duration of the stay, and plan to explore Ginza, Marunouchi, Aoyama, Daikanyama, Naka Meguro. Open to exploring other areas that are worth checking out as well.

            Yes we like seafood very much.