Tokyo - Preliminary Itinerary and Questions from an NYC CH'er
Just found out we will be spending 5-6 days in Tokyo and 4-5 days in Kyoto in early September and am so excited! I've been reading through the Japan threads and running searches and there's so much great info here, very grateful to all who have posted. We'll be staying at the Park Hotel in Shiodome so I tried where possible to include places that were within the surrounding areas. Here's a rough, preliminary list I put together so far for Tokyo:
soba - Narutomi
unagi - Nodaiwa (lunch)
tempura - Kondo (expensive) or Tsunahachi (reasonable chain)
katsu - Butagumi (expensive), Tonki (reasonable), Katsukara (in Takashimaya)
sukiyaki - Yoshihashi (lunch)
modern - Aronia de Takawaza
sushi - Sawada, Mizutani, Shimizu (lunch), Kyubei (lunch)
yakitori - Kushiwakamaru, Souten (I know Birdland is closer but these seem nicer...)
ramen - ?? (warito? tetsu?)
udon - Konoya
izakaya - ??
I need the most help, I think, in the ramen and izakaya categories but welcome input on any of the above. Our visit will include a Sunday - during the day Sunday we'll probably go to one of the depachika. Of course, we will not be able to manage all of the above...
A few more specific questions too --
My husband wants to go to the electronics district. Anything around there to recommend?
We were thinking about hitting Tsukiji Monday morning and I was wondering if it's more crowded on Mondays?
Any other favorites that are not too far from Shiodome, especially ramen or izakaya? (We have been to the En sister restaurant in NYC so my husband isn't that interested in going to the En in Japan...)
I'll be very glad to get any input on my list or questions. Thanks so much!
There is a branch of Kyushu Jangara, a chain of extremely porky tonkotsu ramen shops, smack in the middle of Akihabara- the electronics district. Other than that, it is difficult to make blanket recs for ramen and izakaya without more specifics about what part of town or what you are looking for. We have definitely covered a lot on here and if you set search parameters for up to 5 years, more options may reveal themselves.
I don't really understand the need to be close to Shiodome as it is kind of sterile, but it's close to Ginza so you can run searches on that area.
For yakitori, Kushiwakamaru is fine but I'm not sure it's destination worthy. Torishiki in Meguro is getting a lot of acclaim on Tabelog these days. You might want to look into that as an option.
For noodle places, do those for lunches not dinners.
Thanks so much, Silverjay, I'll definitely check out Torishiki. I'm not necessarily looking for places in Shiodome per se, but maybe that side of the city, so including Ginza, Aksaka, Tsukiji, etc. Although my knowledge is rudimentary at this point, it seems like most of the ramen joints mentioned on this blog are way far from where we are...would love to find out if anyone has any favorite ramen or izakaya a little closer...I've also been having trouble using Tabelog with Google Translate, it seems like the names of restaurants aren't really translating properly, so my info thus far has been from CH, bento and my guidebooks...thanks again!
Bario, a tonkotsu-shoyu place in the style of Jiro has a location in Shimbashi, walking distance from Shiodome. Kikanbou, spicy miso, has a spot in Kanda, not too far from Akihabara. Kururi, miso, has another location in Jimbocho, also nearby Akihabara. Though, be warned that downing a bowl at any of the Jiro-clones or heavy miso ramen leave you unable to eat for the rest of the day!
In Akihabara (the electronics district) there's an upscale unagi shop called Kandagawa Honten (Y5000 for lunch or dinner). There's a branch of kushiage shop Tatsukichi, whose Shinjuku branch is often mentioned here; they're open open 4-11pm. If you're feeling adventurous you can sample five different old-school Japanese curry shops in one sitting at Tokyo Curry-ya Meitenkai in one of the Atre buildings.
re: Robb S
Thanks, Robb! Mmm, unagi and kushiage, planning this trip is making me famished! Finally figured out to use tabelog googling the phone numbers...
Silverjay mentioned that where we're staying is pretty sterile. As far as neighborhoods on our itinerary so far, we were thinking Tsukiji, Ginza, Asakusa, Nihonbashi and Shinjuku...does that make sense? We're not big sightseers, mainly we like to take big walks and eat! Grateful for any other advice on our itinerary.
re: The Cookbook Addict
There are some very nice restaurants and izakaya in Shiodome and nearby, they just tend to be in newish office buildings and close relatively early (last order at 10pm is typical). Besides En (which I think is worth visiting even if you've been to the NYC branch), I like Sai, Katsukura, Hibiki, Konaya and Tsunahachi Sui. And there are some interesting places just across the road in Shimbashi proper.
For sightseeing, I would add Shibuya/Harajuku/Aoyama to your list - lots of things to see and places to eat and drink.
Nodaiwa is an excellent pick. I went for the first time two years ago and it ended up being one of my favorite meals of my two week of fine eating in Tokyo.
I also consider Butagumi a step above any of the other other tonkatsu places I've visited. It offers a wider selection of pork. The last time, I enjoyed the Butagumi Zen platter which allowed me to sample five different types including Iberico.
I loved Aronia de Takazawa went I went (again, two years ago) but here it has undergone some changes.
Sawada is pricey but, in my experience, the place I would bring any guest for a one-of-a-kind meal in Tokyo. The sushi is wonderful and the meal itself is a spectacle of variety and varied preparations. On my past two trips to Tokyo, I've been twice. Both my dining companions said it was the best meal they've ever had.
When it comes to tempura, I guess it comes down to a matter of taste. I've been to Kondo and, while very good, it didn't blow me away like so many of the other meals I've had in Tokyo. I can say I've done high end tempura but, at the end of the day, I wouldn't spend the extra money to enjoy it again.
Enjoy your trip and do report back. I'm heading back in November.
re: The Cookbook Addict
Alas, Kyoto was eight years ago with my ex wife. She was feeling under the weather and spent most of the time in the hotel, leaving me to fly. It's a beautiful place, but I don't remember any of the specifics of the meals I had (outside of a great miyazaki steak I had at the hotel restaurant). I do remember checking out Toei Studios and the spooky Ringu haunted house.
Re Sukiyaki: unless your husband or you speak Japanese, Yoshihashi will not accept your reservation. Their policy insist one member of the party has to speak fluent Japanese as nobody there speak English. Another option may be Imahan chain, which has branches in Ginza and Nohonbashi that are quite good. I like Okahan in Ginza but it is very expensive around Yen15-20k pp so you may elect this one if budget is not an issue. In between is Seryna chain, which has branches in Ginza and Roppongi. Seryna is more of the corporate business type which serves very good Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki.
Thanks, Four Seasons...that's too bad about Yoshihashi, we will be traveling without Japanese-speakers. The only other time I've been to Japan I was traveling on business with numerous Japanese-speaking colleagues. We had an amazing sukiyaki meal at a small, traditional place in Matsumara and I was hoping to find somewhere that my husband could have something comparable...
I don't think you'll be turned away, but you'll feel reeeally uncomfortable. I've been there many times, every time without reservation, and until I open my mouth and speak Japanese the look on their faces says "a white foreign devil just stepped into my premises, and I'm all out of rat poison!". Overall, I've been treated appropriately, but it is not a particularly warm experience.
The food, on the other hand, is amazing.
L.A. Hound here. Been to Tokyo several times, last time being Nov. 2011. I can comment on a few of the places you've listed.
In general, make reservations whenever possible, even if it's spur-of-the-moment, and you're already in the neighborhood and will be at the restaurant within 30 minutes, call the eatery anyways. It's polite.
tempura: Many think Ten Ichi in Ginza is too touristy for tempura, but I found it to be great.
modern: I finally tried Aronia de Takazawa on my last trip to Japan. The meal I had there was incredibly, utterly fantastic, and defies categorization. BUT, the restaurant has since undergone changes, and is simply now called Takazawa, and I've not yet been to this new incarnation, so I cannot comment.
sushi: Sawada was in the top 3 sushi meals of my life... As good as Mizutani, and better than Jiro and Kanesaka. Note: It IS pricey (about USD$450 per person for lunch), and no photography is allowed by Sawada-san.
ramen: Easy... Ramen Jiro, in the original Mita-ku location
izakaya: My most memorable izakaya was actually at Kayabuki Izakaya in Utsunomiya, a city north of Tokyo, 30 min. by train. OK, so the food is literally served by trained monkeys - It was nonetheless pretty tasty! The gyoza, in particular, was excellent.
Electronic district (Akihabara): Why not try a maid cafe, if you've never gone?
Visiting Tsukiji: here is a link to the official pamphlet:
Thanks, J.L., it's great to get your input. We already emailed Takazawa about a reservation and he sent us back a very nice email asking us to contact him in July. Will definitely make reservations wherever possible. I'll report back on the revamped Takazawa if we end up going...
Yeah, I'm thinking that we're going to try to get a reservation for Sawada as our other big splurge meal. According to the Michelin Guide Sawada is actually open Sundays, wondering if anyone has gone on a Sunday...?
I never went to Tenichi - I wonder if it is touristy or just expat-y, and whether the below commercial played a lot in hotels that tourists would stay at. I remember seeing it at least once weekly for years and years on NHK during the nightly English news. I think they even filmed one of the scenes in the Japanese for Busy People videos lessons there.
That video is a crack up, it says "bubble era" as well as Juliana's Tokyo. As for Ten Ichi, it makes a competent tempura, but it is vastly overpriced for what you get, food-quality wise. Service and setting are very nice, but it is definitely more of an "expense account" type of place.
The changes at Takazawa are pretty much cosmetic: the name and the number of tables have changed, but that's about it. The chef says on their website that he is focusing more on domestic produce, but he pretty much exclusively used Japanese produce anyway, so I think it's just a bit of marketing to generate some buzz.
The courses at a recent meal were near identical to the pre-renovation menu.
Try and make sure you devote at least one dinner to true, traditional Japanese cooking, washoku. If you had planned a kaiseki meal or two in Kyoto then the above picks are great. Too many foreigners come all the way to Japan and leave without an understanding of what traditional Japanese cooking is really about, which is a shame. Most of the items on your list are easier to find good versions of in Tokyo, so planning to focus on washoku in Kyoto is not a bad idea, but IMHO, to skip it completely is a big mistake.
Thanks very much for your input, la2tokyo and J.L. We are planning on trying some kaiseki places in Kyoto, as you surmised, so I made the Tokyo list bearing that in mind. But I am definitely interested in trying more traditional places so if you have any recommendations, either in Tokyo or Kyoto, I'd be very grateful to hear them. Would love to try a Kappo-type place. The only other time I traveled to Japan I was based out of Osaka and primarily traveled in the countryside and a few large factory towns with numerous Japanese colleagues, which was an amazing experience.
re: Notorious P.I.G.
Thanks, P.I.G., Unasho looks awesome and we definitely wanna get some unagi, I think it's in season around then? Getting super excited, we were able to make the following resy's so far for our more formal meals:
Torishiki yakitori (dinner)
Sushi Mizutani (dinner)
re: The Cookbook Addict
Honestly, of all the countries I've visited (and I've traveled quite a bit), Japan is the easiest place to "stumble" into fantastic food unexpectedly.
Don't be afraid to deviate from the itinerary if conditions should change unexpectedly. Food-wise, surrendering to serendipity in Japan may yield some extraordinary experiences.
Other recommended small eats: Shinkansen bento boxes (buy before you board), and what I believe are the world's best croissants (yes, that includes France) at Boulangerie Jean-François in Omotesando Station.
Happy travels! May the gorgeous fall foliage be there for your trip.
Thanks J.L. Hmm I may have to try the croissant and will definitely get the bento for the bullet train to Kyoto....
Just booked Sawada for lunch based on everyone's input (no dinner resy available), going to try to now restrain myself from making more reservations so we leave some slots open for wandering around and discovering things...
re: The Cookbook Addict
If you are in to patisseries, there are a ton of them in Tokyo (and by a ton I mean a ton)
Many of the French masters have their own shops there.
Let me know if you are interested and I will post a list I compiled.
The bottom floor of Isetan in Shinjuku was the best one stop experience for pastries.
re: The Cookbook Addict
2-4-1 Nihonbashi Chuo-ku Nihonbahi Takashimaya
Takashimaya in Nihonbashi(which is actually on another floor - maybe 3rd or 4th?)
I remember seeing somewhere that this location has closed but it seems to still be up on tabelog (can someone confirm?). I really loved Pascal Caffet when I was in Paris so I am hoping that is not true.
Mont St. Clair
2-22-4 Jiyugaoka Meguro-ku Tokyo
Patisserie Paris S’éveille
Tateyama bldg 1F 2-14-5 Jiyugaoka Meguro-ku Tokyo
Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
4-5-14 Kudanminami, Chiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
Le Couer Pur
#5-16-20 Ogikubo Suginami-ku Tokyo
Mon-Fri 07:30-21:00 / Weekend Holiday 09:00-20:00
Shibuya / Bakery
Udagawacho 33-8. Open 9am-10pm daily.
2-6-2 Marunouchi,Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Metropolis Marunouchi Brick Square(Park Bldg.) 1F
nearest station is takaracho(a3 a4 exit) or kyobashi(exit 1 or 2
)We didn't get around to going here but it sounds to be amazing if you love mousse
2-6-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
open 10:00-19:30 / close Monday
French + Pastries
2nd floor of the Ginza Mitsukoshi
6-9-3 Ginza, Chuo-Ku
Tokyo MidTown Galleria B1, 9-7-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
(Also in Shinjuku Isetan
Hotel New Otani
4-I kioi-cho, Chiyoda-Ku
Tel : +81 (0)3 3221 7252
Ouvert tous les jours de 11 heures à 21 heure
14-1 Shinjuku 3-chome
Shinjuku-ku Tokyo 160-0022
Phone : +81 (0)3 33 51 7882
Omotesando Hills - Tokyo
1F 4-12-10 Jingu-Mae
Phone : 03-5410-2255
This list is from 2 years ago - I have not updated it since except to add new places. Not sure if any are closed.
The highlight of our pastry tastings (and we did a lot) were 2 mille feuille - I think one was Pierre Herme or Paul Hevin; the other and better of which (different and a tad bit better) was from Laduree. I don't really like the cakes from Laduree otherwise - the Ispahan is good though.
Sadaharu Aoki cakes looks beautiful but taste just okay.
There is also a "pudding" shop in the Isetan Depachika (food floor) - this shop sells popular puddings from different companies. I would recommend trying puddings if you haven't - the puddings are actually just creme caramel and come in cute little glassware. The best part (other than the dessert itself) is that you get to keep the glassware after as a souvenir. We make creme caramel at home in the glassware we have collected.
If you go to Echire Butter (same plaza as Echire butter) then it is worth a stop at Joel Robuchon Cafe as it is in the same plaza - There is also a small museum attached to this plaza. We really enjoyed this quaint little area - very serene and calm. We bought an expensive but amazingly delicious apricot jam from Robuchon.
re: The Cookbook Addict
This summer is special... I am lazy and feel great with repeatedly going to the only sushi I loovve.. Anyway, on this topic I will try to give a quick answer!!
Viron in Shibuya is expensive for a bread that has a tough substance (700yens for a simple sandwich). In Shibuya, I would rather recommend you French Boulangerie Jean Francois on the 4th floor at Mark City in front of the JR station.
For Millefeuilles, the best I had recently is at Frederic Cassel, in the basement floor of the Mitsukoshi Ginza. Besides, in the same Mitsukoshi, you have a Japanese Patisserie Chaimon that has a special ice cube candy made by different sweet potatoes. There is no eat in, but if you want a cake diet, buy some from both, with 'anpan' on the Toraya shop in front of Mitsukoshi, then go up to 9th floor.
If you are a roasted cafe addict - I know some - , there is a very good old fashioned one in Ginza named Cafe l'Ambre (cafe only).
At 'A tes souhaits', I have had very good cakes like 'Fruits des Bois.', but unfortunately, it is 30mn from Shinjuku. It is located in Nishi-Ogikubo, and takes 10mn walk from that station.
Pascal Caffet is on the 3rd floor of Takashimaya, but I have been recently and could remind, when having eclair au chocolat, exactly same impression I had a year ago ! It is anyway at woman clothes floor, so I don't recommend it ! But, if you are in this area, and your reservation at Yakitori Torishiki failed, I suggest you the Yakitori Usehiro Head restaurant, it is open at lunch. The set 'hachippon teishoku (8 skewers lunch)' at 1800yens is worth a visit. At lunch is shoulder to square shoulder, so at dinner, if tilting it will be harder !!
Isetan yes It is amazing, more than the pudding, there is some amazing candy named Citaro with 'ita ame(candy crunchy bar)', and so many good other ones like Financier of HenriCharpentier, or Macarons from several famous makers like Pierre Herme, JP Hevin, .. and again Henri's.
The Marunouchi Square is in fact charming, just avoid A16 ! I didn't like the Echire Croissant, but right at the corner, you have Sambaka, a very good chocolatier... dark chocolate ice, yummy !!!
For affordable Tempura, on a counter, I recommend Tempura Ten Matsu in Nihonbashi (station MitsukoshiMae).
I hope I didn't mess your plan, it is in one month right ? We can remake it again depending on the places you want to visit ??
Thanks, Ninisix! This is perfect, we still needed to add places for breakfast and coffee. And it's funny you wrote about Tenmatsu, I was just reading about it in Yukari's book and on tabelog because we need to have a few more reasonable places. Do you have the phone number or tabelog link for Yakitori Usehiro? Sounds like it could be a good place for another reasonable lunch...
re: The Cookbook Addict
I can't remember where you are plan to stay.
The Cafe l'Ambre is open from 12:00 to 21:00. In Ginza, for an early morning, it is be better to have breakfast at Kobeya Bakery in the International Forum, or, from 11:00, the Japanese Kimuraya Cafe on the 2nd floor of Kimuraya Ginza (in front of Mitsukoshi).
Here the link of the Yakitori :
Thanks so much to all who responded, we are having a blockbuster first day thanks to everyone's input! Walked around Nihinbashi and Ginza this morning and had an excellent chocolate eclair at takashimaya in Nihonbashi (thanks, quddous and ninisix!).
Then we went to Sawada for lunch. It was really the most lovely, incredible experience. We didn't take notes or pics so here's what I can remember, in no particular order: karei (righteye flounder?), mackerel, horse mackerel, spotted sardine, akamai, chutoro, otor, seared toro (he held charcoal over the toro until it seared), smoked tuna, eggplant (cold-smoked, maybe? More like a refresher), some kind of large prawn, abalone, uni, purple (he called it "red"?) uni, geoduck, grilled anago 2 ways (with wasabi and the with sweet sauce), squid stuffed with rice, ikura. Sorry I am missing a few pieces and these are listed out of order. Needless to say it was spectacular. More than that, though, the space and overall vibe were charming, and Sawada and his wife were lovely to us. We were the last ones and he talked to us for a long time. Thanks so much to all who recommended!
Also - I just wanted to mention that Sawada apparently takes credit card now, although ours wouldn't swipe. (we had cash anyways b/c we thought they didn't take cards). Not sure if this is a new policy but the other patrons all paid by credit card. Our lunch came out to 500 yen for 2 people (we didn't have sake). It was sushi only, no sashimi.
Going to Torishiki tonight, will be sure to report back. Btw Sawada was jealous that we are going to Torishiki, he said he has called but never been able to get a reservation!