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Feb 2, 2009 05:02 PM

lunch or dinner for quality and value?

Researching the places i want to eat at in Tokyo, ive seen that the lunch menu in many of the restaurants is often cheaper than the dinner menu. I'm heading over in a few weeks and the strength of the yen is killing me (and my budget more specifically)!! So i"m considering changing some of my dinner bookings to lunches. Will i get the same quality? Will we have as many courses? Is there a downside to the lunch compared to dinner?

Also, do you have any advice for good value restaurants/izakaya?? I'm staying at Cerulean Tower in Shibuya but am happy to travel around for good food. Any help is much appreciated. thanks

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  1. A few places with good value in Shibuya:

    Toriyoshi (yakitori): and one other branch
    Ten-ichi (tempura):
    Kyushu (regional cuisine from Kyushu):
    Horaitei (tonkatsu): and one other branch

    Generally lunch is a good deal in Tokyo, because of the intense competition. I would avoid going to izakaya at lunchtime, since they usually have a rather boring budget meal (donburi or teishoku), but specialty places like tonkatsu or tempura are okay.

    And French and Italian and other international restaurants are especially good value. You might get fewer courses and/or smaller portions, but it's usually quite enough to eat. You can also get by without ordering a bottle of wine, which can save a significant amount of money.

    1. Yes, lunch is much cheaper. No, you won't have as many courses. I am also curious to know if the quality is the same for lunch and dinner in most restaurants. The only high end place that I have been to for both the lunch and dinner is Sukiyabashi Jiro at Roppongi Hill; the chef insisted that the quality is the same, but I thought I enjoyed my dinner meal more than the lunch. But you will also soon notice that many restaurants (especially izakaya) only open in the evening, so for restaurants that opened for lunch and dinner, I tend to go there for lunch so as to save money and to reserve the dinner for those that only open in the evening.

      I am not too familiar with the dining scene in Shibuya. Kaikaya seems to be the favorite in Chowhound for that area but I am not such a huge fan. (in English language) provides an excellent dining guide for Shibuya area, you should definitely review if before your trip and especially take note of those with stars :

      4 Replies
      1. re: FourSeasons

        Thanks, i had similar thoughts. I might try and get lunch reservations in the more $$$ places ie mizutani etc and then stick to the izakaya for dinner. CH and bento have been my main resources and ive found them to be much better than anything else. (i wish my kanji knowledge were better, it makes it impossible to read the japanese sites.) Thanks for the value tips Robb, with so, so, so many options, your shortlist is a huge help!

        1. re: brunelleschi

          Keep in mind some of the top places don't have a special lunch menu. I believe Mizutani is one of them, so you'll end up dropping 20,000 yen lunch or dinner, no difference.

          Lunch in general is a baagain in Japan. I've been to places where one could pay 10x the amount at dinner for (maybe) twice the food at the same quality.

          1. re: Uncle Yabai

            Uncle Yabai is right. Mizutani does not have special lunch menu. I had lunch there, I paid Yen 17,000 per person for 18 sushi. I think Sushi Saitou has a lunch set at just below Yen 10,000 but please check again if you made the reservation.

            If you like oden, maybe you can try otako, price is very reasonable.

            1. re: Uncle Yabai

              If you are looking for some lunch recommendations, check the link below. I am Pickles in that thread, and all the regular posters on that thread know each other and get together for mabodofu once a month.


        2. If you have some spare time, I recommend that you look through the Potatomato blog. She has over 100 reviews just in the Shibuya/Aoyama/Daikanyama area, and most of them are for lunch. Lots of excellent photos as well.

          1. I think a lot of the mid-range or casual places won't be worthwhile at lunch - the menus are much, much smaller and simpler. (I saw a place yesterday that's a wine-oriented restaurant for dinner, but just serves four kinds of curry at lunch!).

            If you're looking only at Michelin-type places, the lunches are certainly cheaper. This goes for foreign food as well as Japanese, but I guess less for sushi as others have said.

            Two worthwhile French 1-star discount lunches in Roppongi (not too far from Shibuya) are l'Auberge de l'ill (about Y5000 on weekdays, Y8000 weekends, but Y15,000+(?) for dinner) and Ohara et CIE (Y3500 vs. Y10,000).

            I've blogged about tons of Roppongi lunch places, but there aren't that many that would interest you if you're on a food tour as opposed to working there every day!