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Dec 5, 2011 02:23 PM

Looking for recommendations in Tokyo

I'm planning a trip to Tokyo in late December and I'm looking for places to eat (obviously!).

I'm okay at Japanese (I took the JLPT N2 yesterday, though I probably bombed the listening section) and I can roughly read Tabelog, but I feel like it's kinda dry just going down a list and picking the one with the best rating. All of the food looks good! I also watch a lot of Japanese TV and it seems like every place is good and every place has some sort of specialty item that's super delicious. Perhaps I just watch too much TV.

So, I thought I'd ask here to see if people have personal favorites.

What I want to do is gather a list and then just plan it later... so restaurants requiring no reservation will help if I have to do it days/weeks in advance. I'm also going the week before New Year's and I expect lots of places to be closed, so I think it's better to have a giant list and not go to all of them. =)

Anyway, I'm looking for the following
-Sushi (lunch, preferably under 5000 yen)
-Wagyu Teppanyaki (planning on this being the most expensive meal; limit is probably 15000 yen. There is no necessity for A5, if it's good it's good)
-Ramen (ate at Menya Kissou last year. Wondering if I should go back again this year or try another place. Jiro is on the list but I've heard it can be cultish and people get mad if you don't follow the rules.)
-Tonkatsu (last year I ate at a chain and it thoroughly beat the pants off of anything I've had in LA. now I want to push the limits.)
-Youshoku: Hamburgers, both western-style and Japanese; hayashi rice; Japanese curry
-Random sweets

Also if there's some food that I've left out but is worth trying, please let me know! I think there are enough Izakaya and High-End sushi threads out there that I've done a fair amount of searching through.
I value personal experience more than picking off a chart, so if you can please tell me about your experience. I will also pick a fair amount off of Tabelog anyway. =)


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  1. Monja yaki - Ryogoku (the sumo area)
    Monjayaki rec:
    1-8-6 Kamezawa, Sumida-Ku, Tokyo 130-0014 Japan
    next to Ryogoku Oedo line station

    The very charming man who runs this restaurant/bar/candy store speaks excellent English so can guide you through the monjayaki process. During lunchtime this place offers 500yen deals (sometimes they have the old style Japan/West fusion foods you've said you're interested in trying). Try using translation software on the website to see what shitamachi specials are on during your visit.
    There's a recent review here by someone who's experience mirrors my own
    a few doors down the road there's also a very traditional taiyaki shop.
    Monjayaki is only served after 5pm.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MoGa

      I think I saw that restaurant on an episode of Gamecenter CX! Thanks for the rec, I'll definitely add it to the list.

      I've made it before at a restaurant here so I'm not *terrible* at making it but I'd probably need some assistance. =)

    2. Most of those have been discussed ad nauseum (tonkatsu, sushi, and ramen especially, but there are also numerous topics on sweets and teppanyaki) on this board. I'd suggest doing a search for the individual foods, narrowing down your field of restaurants, then posting your choices and asking for opinions on those. i.e. compile your own list, then ask for recommendations

      14 Replies
      1. re: prasantrin

        Most of the sushi recs here I've seen are for high end sushi or for Tsukiji, in which Sushi Dai is the main recommendation. I've read through the thread asking for cheap sushi but their price range was more around 2000-3000yen. Sushi Dai is tempting but I think that going to Tsukiji on Christmas morning will be a bad idea. 2 years ago I went to Sushi Zanmai and I thought that it was fantastic value; fish like that in LA would cost $50-$60 more.

        Searching for Tonkatsu gives me a lot of old results, specifically Tonki in Meguro. I'm wondering if anything's changed; on the LA board, what's hot in one month can be cold the next month, so reading reviews for places 11 years old.

        For ramen, I've only seen Menya Kissou recommended... though there are some others, like Ivan Ramen PLUS, or even just a general recommendation to wander through Waseda. I guess to be more specific, I'm looking for unique Tokyo ramen. Most of the ramen restaurants in LA are tonkotsu/Kyuushuu style, the lone exception being Santouka's Asahikawa-style (which still has tonkotsu).

        So far on my list I have...

        Kanemasu (grabbed from an Izayaka recommendation)

        Meat Yazawa (all the pictures looked really good

        Tonkatsu Maruichi

        Tonki, Meguro

        Smokehouse Tera (Smoked meats in Tokyo! Gotta try!

        A&G Diner


        I'm still looking at places so I'll continue to add to my list; just thought I'd ask here if there was any places that people like that aren't necessarily popular on Tabelog.

        1. re: kainzero

          i dont 'get' tonki personally, but i know tons of people (including many veterans on this board) who swear by it.

          have you tried searching for butagumi for tonkatsu?

          1. re: akated

            To me, Tonki is about atmosphere more so than the tonkatsu. It isn't bad tonkatsu in any way, but I don't find it to be great tonkatsu. I love that it's family run (it's pretty easy to see which of the staff members might be related as they look so much alike!) and it's all counter (I ate on the first floor, though, so I don't know what's on the second floor). I much prefer katsukura even though it's a chain.

            I've not been to butagumi, but it is on my list for my next visit to Tokyo. It seems that it might be a bit beyond the budget of the OP, though (although you can get cheaper meals there, but if you're going to go, you may as well go all the way).

            1. re: prasantrin

              katsukura is always on my list when i am in tokyo. heh.

              i don't remember butagumi to be that much more expensive than katsukura actually (i had lunch and not dinner there). here's the menu of butagumi's website:


              1. re: prasantrin

                Well, if you tell me Butagumi is reaaaaaaly good, I'll go. =) I don't mind paying a lot as long as I get the feeling that I'm getting my money's worth.

                Looking at the menu, I'm not sure it'd be worth it for me to splurge. Can you really tell the difference between Iberico pork and the limited Tokyo X pork? If I lived there and I could go often I'd love to compare the differences, but since I can probably only go once I'd have to take you guys up on good faith =)

                I'd like to use pictures to compare but Tonkatsu always looks the same, it just tastes different!

                1. re: kainzero

                  i would say that if you have a budget to stick to, katsukura will be a good bet for both lunch and dinner.

                  butagumi does have cheap lunch sets, so maybe only go for lunch? they are located in a charming building too, so there's that if you are into dining in a quaint setting.

                  1. re: kainzero

                    "Can you tell the difference between Iberico pork and the limited Tokyo X pork?" Can you tell a Porsche from an Aston Martin? Yes, if you're into cars! They are absolutely different, almost as if you were eating different animals.

                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                      i agree, especially if you were to eat them side by side, which butagumi gives you the chance to do!

                      1. re: akated

                        Hmm, I might do that... go with a friend and get a high quality one and a medium quality one and compare. Plus I can write a report for you guys so I don't look so selfish. =)

                        I'm sure most people can tell difference between a Porsche and an Aston Martin, but the katsu experience analogy here is me having the experience of driving an old Corolla and a not as old Camry. =)

                1. re: kamiosaki

                  I do not appreciate also the 'tonkotsu koteri' style of ramen, but i do like this 'asari(=light)' one in Akihabara (5mn walk from Akihabara JR station) :

                  AOSHIMA RAMEN (around 700yensfor a shoyu-ginger base asari type ramen) - open on Sundays, ~January 03rd 

                2. re: kainzero

                  kanemasu is great choice for izakaya. meat yazawa wasn't as good as i thought it would be (i'm a big fan of yakiniku jumbo of the same group and highly recommend it for yakiniku). ramen kissou is my favorite ramen joint and i personally think it's so much better than others. but that's just me. soba, u can try hirosaku lunch.

                  1. re: japanesefoodlover

                    What did you get at Meat Yazawa? I was looking more at the hamburger than the steak.

                    Thanks for the recommendations. =)

                    1. re: kainzero

                      my friends tried both steak and hamburger and said steak was better. i tried steak only and it was so so.

              2. For ramen, I enjoyed Tsukemen TETSU, which has multiple locations throughout Tokyo (search Tabelog for address); I actually ate at the satellite branch at the JR Kyoto station but the honten is in Tokyo. From my scant dining experience in LA, tsukemen is not very common (I only know of a couple places offhand that serve it: Daikokuya in LA and Yamadaya in Torrance/Gardena) so dining at TETSU was a new and unique experience.

                I really enjoyed the atsumori, where the noodles come in a warm broth (rather than just cold). Spring for the special if you want extra chashu/menma/egg.

                10 Replies
                1. re: graceface

                  Tsukemen's been popping up at a lot of the spots in LA recently. I think they also offer it at Mottainai and Tonchan, and there's a specialty tsukemen shop that opened up in Hollywood as well.

                  One of the reasons why Menya Kissou is on my list is because it enjoyed a reputation on this board and on blogs as a phenomenal ramen place, but I heard that their real specialty is tsukemen...

                  1. re: kainzero

                    Traditionally Tokyo is known for shoyu ramen. I like Tagano on the Ikegami Line- . These days, the blended broths that contain seafood and/or pork, chicken, vegetable elements are the rage. Many of them serve it tsukemen style, but the broths are what really set them up as unique. This is why Kissou got famous, as well as Tetsu, among the non-Jiro and tonkotsu shops. Use RamendDB or Kamiosaki's site for what's hot. I'm hot for Fu-unji in Shinjuku, which uses no pork in the broth and mixes chicken and seafood soups. The back of the shop smells like a seafood stew is being prepared. Crazy good.

                    I suggest setting the search parameters on this board for to up to 5 years. This board isn't as active as LA and most of the regulars got burned out more than a year ago responding to dreamy uber requests for the "best" sushi-ramen-tonkotsu shops in greater Tokyo. There is still a lot of relevant information on places of all sorts but the default search only goes back a year. Personally, I live by Tabelog, which is the gold standard for food websites. You take the ratings and ranking with a grain of salt, but it has never steered me wrong. Helps to hone in on particular areas of the city to provide specific recs.

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      It's not that I take Tabelog with a grain of salt; it's more like, there are a ton of restaurants between the 3.2-4.2 range, and in my experience all of them have been very good so I feel like that by choosing only the top ones that I could be missing out on some favorites or something that's closer to my taste even though it's not technically the highest quality or best reviewed. I remember that last year, someone wrote a post here about the 3 most well-known places in Hiroshima for okonomiyaki. I used it to choose Micchan which was superb but not among the highest rated.

                      Tagano looks great so I'll give it a try. Thanks for the recommendation!

                      1. re: kainzero

                        This is why I suggest to hone in on a geographic area or train line or something. Obviously the number of places in the fat part of the bell curve is huge, so defining location helps narrow down. At some point, it is good to define where in the city you want to dine. I think a lot of requests on this board fail because people are too general about location.

                        1. re: Silverjay

                          I think that anything accessible in the Yamanote Loop will be good, which still leaves a large area. I'll be staying near Ueno for a bit before moving to Nagano for a ski trip and then staying somewhere closer to Saitama but still plan to take trips to Tokyo.

                          So far I've got a lot of good recommendations so I'm thankful. In terms of plans I'm pretty wide open--my experience with traveling has led me to just list a bunch of stuff I want to do and do it as I go down the list; the only real event so far is a concert in Shibuya afternoon on Christmas Eve. I might end up only going to 3 or 4 restaurants despite a list of like 30.

                      2. re: Silverjay

                        The Tabelog are always biased, not always idealistically speaking, just to give a result that is not surprising...In this case, an 'exotic' sushi can have his place in it, but purists will have something to say. That is why you can see RamenDataBase that will give a 92.15mark for the ramen Aoshima, and on Tabelog it is just average...
               DATA BASE

                        1. re: Ninisix

                          If you search on a more granular level- specific location, cuisine type, and sort based on cuisine and read through some of the reviews, you can control for bias based on novelty. There is a little bit of a science and technique to using it as a helpful resource. You can also enter specific search words in to drill to something you are looking for...RamenDB works differently but still calibrates for cases when the number of reviews is small. Their shop ranking system, not the scoring, takes this into account. Again, if you use that site to also sort based on location and type, it can be helpful.

                          1. re: Silverjay

                            I do also try to check on speciality/district and Tabelog is listing. Actually, if there was a SushiDataBase, I would happily have posted on it, and I believe Ramen fans feel the same.., It might be wrong, but I have heard the too negative comments have been cut on Tabelog. The 1200 reviews of 'Vienne no Mori' sounded credible. I tried one of the sushi he recommended, but had bad luck, the 'sushi Tskusa' was not really that.. or SushiKin...Bouh !! 

                            1. re: Ninisix

                              I read the reviews and cross-reference with other sites and blogs. You can't expect one place, or specifically one reviewer, to be the holy grail....And there's definitely plenty of negative reviews on Tabelog, complaining about food and/or service and/or cost....There are ramen, curry, and sushi databases out there.

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                That is not illogical that sites remove the too bad comments (if they think they have behavied in an ungry, cruel, offensive way so not objective), but the politico speaking correct is thin don't you think ?
                                As an argument, I can for exemple give you again the exemple of Sushi Manten that has a high mark in Tabelog but that was not terrible ! Or also the good surprise of RamenDB for the Aoshima Ramen, but not as estimated in Tabelog. But, I do have also doubts on the most representative ones, the Ramen Harubarutei was on the top 5 years ago, now forgotten... 
                                Never agree, never satisfied, but have to say somthing about it, I have not find this kind of reviewer blog !!! I am sure I will be a fan of reading the critics, and will give a more satisfying review for a want to go place...

                  2. I saw that you were prepared to spend up to 15000yen on teppanyaki. Before you do that, do you want to try a cheaper alternative (scaling up from the Toyota Camry to the Porsche as you say :)?

                    If so, and you don't mind a slight detour to Akabanebashi, Teppanyaki Ranma has a good value lunch. For 1575yen, you get soup, salad, kuroge wagyu nakaochi, rice, coffee. See or their website for more details. They use good quality beef. (Then when you go for the 15000 yen meal, you can see if it's 10x as good!


                    On yakiniku I've actually posted a run-down of several good places in Tokyo previously (add Jumbo, which I left out, to that list). just search wagyu + yakiniku and it should come up.

                    16 Replies
                    1. re: RipCurl

                      I forgot to add, if the Torishige you're thinking of is the one in the Shibuya area, I think you can only get in if you're recommended by someone.

                      1. re: RipCurl

                        ah yeah, that's what it seems like now that i read the entirety of the tabelog entry.

                        well, that's no big deal. i wasn't sure i'd like chicken sashimi anyway. =)

                        but that teppanyaki ranma place looks good, i think i wanna give it a shot for lunch for sure.

                        for the dinner course I was looking at Kurodaya in Roppongi, but it seems to require a reservation and i'm really bad at conversation so i'd rather not, haha.

                        also, are there any manners i need to be aware of when i dine at these places?

                        1. re: kainzero

                          many yakitori places are not serving chicken sashimi anymore. but yakitori is certainly still something to be considered. i used to skip yakitori because i only have so many meals in japan, so i concentrated on sushi and beef. but once i tried a good one, i've always included a yakitori meal in the itinerary. for teppanyaki wagyu, you can try ningyocho imahan. they use very good quality beef. they have very reasonably priced lunch set. actually, if u have enough number of meals, u can go back and try their sukiyaki as well. another option is if you have access to a kitchen, order matsuzaka gyu directly from wadakin in matsuzaka. they are the honmono (real thing.)

                          1. re: japanesefoodlover

                            There are so many good yakitori and teppanyaki places in the city, it's totally unnecessary to have to go back at your own kitchen to cook meat or hold out for an exclusive reservation at a chicken shack. Seriously.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              interesting point of view, silverjay. i'm sure there aare plenty of "good" sushi places charging around the same price range that doesn't require a reservation. are you suggesting to people on this board to just bump into any sushi joint which looks reasonably good enough? (any place charging 20000yen+ would be "good", i'm sure) problem is, this is a foodie board, and i think a lot of people would want to have better than "good" food. personally, as a tourist, i only have so many meals in japan, of course, i want the best i can possibly get. i must admit though that most places in japan which serves half way decent wagyu would serve better wagyu than the most fancy places outside of japan. so if i'm used to wagyu overseas, probably every wagyu place i happen to bump into would be considered good.

                              1. re: japanesefoodlover

                                I believe Silverjay was responding to your suggestion to buy meat at the store and cook it oneself, which seems to me also to be a crazy thing to do when on vacation when there are so many teppanyaki places in town. The topic has been covered here many times, and answers can be found via the search function.

                            2. re: japanesefoodlover

                              >many yakitori places are not serving chicken sashimi anymore.

                              I'm curious about where you heard this. I haven't noticed any recent change.

                              1. re: japanesefoodlover

                                i was actually thinking about cooking kurogewagyuu at the place where i'm staying, but i feel like with my skills i wouldn't be able to get as much out of it.

                                plus, i would want to go to teppanyaki for the experience and the complete meal, not necessarily just to eat good beef.

                                1. re: kainzero

                                  Yes, a big part of a good teppanyaki meal is the seasonal seafood courses.

                                  1. re: Robb S

                                    At my usual teppanyaki place in Kobe, my favourite dish is the oysters--cooked with butter, soy sauce, and a wee squeeze of lemon. they're perfect!

                                  2. re: kainzero

                                    actually, for teppanyaki, i suggested ningyucho imahan. the reason i also suggested ordering beef to cook is that judging by the location of accommodation you mentioned, i thought you would have access to a kitchen, and it would be a good chance to try beef from wadakin. matsuzaka beef is considered to be the best wagyu brand by many japanese. and wadakin is THE place to have matsuzaka beef. (of course, there is also the winning cattle of the year and otawaragyu, which would be extremely expensive and difficult to come by) most japanese know about wadakin and many take pilgrimage to matsuzaka just to dine at wadakin. since they enlarged the area that matsuzaka gyu can be raised, some japanese think the beef from the newly included area is not the real thing. wadakin, with their own ranch, is where you can be sure you get to try the real thing. though, arguably, they are most famous for sukiyaki. sorry for not explaining myself more clearly earlier.

                                2. re: kainzero

                                  Do you mean this Kurodaya?
                                  If so, then you can reserve online at the above link, no conversation required :) Ikyu seems to be doing a special deal too, so you might want to check it out.

                                  I've not been to Kurodaya but I've visited their sister restaurant, Ayano Kouji. It was good though you do pay a bit more for their service, location and setting (which you might or might not consider important), I think Kurodaya would be similar.

                                  Btw, on Ranma, I saw your later note that you'll be in Ueno, are you sure you want to trek all the way to Akabanebashi? It's good but I don't know if it's worth your time to go all the way (even though Tokyo is pretty compact and easy to get around) given that you'll be there for only a short while.

                                  No particular manners so don't worry, just enjoy!

                                  P/S I should also add that lunches are uniformly priced cheaper than dinner at high-end restaurants so if one of these is on your itinerary, you may want to check out their lunch options instead of dinner (the exception is kappo / kaiseki places, where they often emphasize dinner & lunch tends to be very simple by comparison, though some places do offer lunch courses).

                                  1. re: RipCurl

                                    I don't mind going up to Akabanebashi... actually I'm quite bored of Tokyo so I really don't have much planned for the first few days except shopping in Shimokitazawa.
                                    My stay is basically...
                                    23rd-25th Tokyo
                                    26th-27th Nagano
                                    28th - 4th (I think it's somewhere near Saitama, staying with a friend. But we'll probably be taking trips to Tokyo every day.)

                                    Still working on compiling a list. If anything when I'm done I'd at least want to make a list so that other people can see it instead of getting the whole "use the search engine" line thrown at me. =)

                                    1. re: kainzero

                                      Akabanebashi is in Minato-ku. It's like 20 minutes south of Ueno on the Oedo Line...BTW, we've done a couple of threads on Shimokitazawa. It's a good eating and drinking neighborhood.

                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                        huh, for whatever reason, google gave me akabanenishi instead of akabanebashi. that makes it even easier since i can hit it up on the way to shimokita.

                                        @silverjay: i found your old post with all your recs! i'll take a look at it, though i'll be solo during that time and i'm not too sure i want to eat in such a festive atmosphere by myself with my awful level of japanese. =)

                                        1. re: kainzero

                                          Do you like seafood? Go to Tobu Sakana in Shimokita and sit at one of the counters. They are really nice there. It's a fairly cosmopolitan neighborhood so no need to feel out of place.

                            3. Tonkatsu:
                              - Mikawaya (Roppingi/Nishi-azabu) Tel: 03.3408.1304
                              1-13-15 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo

                              They are open for lunch only (M-F), run by a family for decades, close when rice runs out, reasonably priced (all around Y1000), huge portion, and limited seating - best to be there around 11:30am to avoid queue.

                              - Kushiwakamaru (Naka-meguro)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: manpuku

                                The Mikawaya is good, and it is also unusual for offering a chikin katsu, which is not very common. On the other hand, "closing when rice runs out" can be as early as 12:00, so beware. When you see the owner's granddaughter come out and start counting people, hope she doesn't stop counting before getting to you. That's a signal to go find food somewhere else.