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Where to stay in Tokyo for Chowhounds?

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rushbikes Jan 5, 2013 05:11 PM

Undoubtedly there are great places to eat in Tokyo no matter what neighborhood you're in. But which neighborhoods are the best for a lover of food looking to gorge himself on the best cheap & mid-priced eats Tokyo has to offer? I don't need go chasing Michelin stars.

For example, I live in NYC and can quite certainly say our best neighborhood for food in Manhattan is the West Village, followed by East Village and Lower East Side. I think that's readily agreed upon by most NY'ers.

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  1. Silverjay RE: rushbikes Jan 5, 2013 05:49 PM

    New York City is not really analogous to Tokyo because, quite frankly, NYC is small and not as dense. And really, Manhattan is what most people are considering when booking travel to NYC.

    For high option cheap to mid-range neighborhoods that are also good for tourists, consider Shinjuku or Shibuya. Both of these neighborhoods have more places to eat than those three NYC neighborhoods combined. They are both also on the Yamanote Line and have access to main subway lines.

    1. Robb S RE: rushbikes Jan 5, 2013 07:33 PM

      As Silverjay said, Shibuya and Shinjuku are good choices.

      Ebisu probably has the best ratio of good and interesting restaurants per square meter, but there aren't really many hotels there other than the Westin, which is far from the center of action.

      The Tokyu Stay in Gaienmae might be a good choice too - it's not a touristy neighborhood but it is filled with good places to ea.

      1. b
        babreu RE: rushbikes Jan 5, 2013 08:08 PM

        Everywhere, really. It's impossible to mention an area that is not excellent for cheap or mid-priced food. There's no city like Tokyo for food and you can't walk for 2 minutes without seeing a restaurant.

        But anyway, it might be a good idea to stay in the middle of the city (anywhere from Akasaka to Kagurazaka), near a convenient train line (Marunouchi line and Hanzomon line, for example). It makes train journeys shorter. If you stay in Ginza, for example (which may have the highest concentration of fancy restaurants in Tokyo, and a billion low-mid priced ones), you'll be far from Shinjuku and vice versa.

        I also like to stay in south-west Tokyo (around Meguro ward) for the quiet atmosphere. There're many fantastic low-mid priced "neighborhood restaurants" in that area, but fewer hotels.

        1 Reply
        1. re: babreu
          n
          Ninisix RE: babreu Jan 6, 2013 05:19 PM

          Recently I read that Shinjuku works well with cigarette, the atmosphere of a cafe in Shinjuku that comes to mind. With such an atmosphere, in Shinjuku, there is so many izakaya... but to be honest, I do know more places in Shibuya than Shinjuku, as I have a preference for this young, dynamic area. But still, I would like to recommend a 'shita machi(down town)' area, the Sendagi/Nezu, where you can find the ramen tsukemen Tetsu, the cheapest 'unagi(eel)' founded Inageya, the udon NenoZu, .. the Ueno -Okachimachi is 10mn walk and very enjoyable ! The Japanese lives there, so they don't spend usually to eat near their home.. if you want something particularly Japanese to stay, try Ryokan Katsutaro Annex(modern Japanese auberge). In Ueno, you will have actually too much choice... and if you want to try an Izakaya without reservation, try the Renkon-Ya !! In Tokyo, there are actually quiet different towns in a big megapole, each one with its kind of feeling ! And follow your nose ...

        2. m
          mrjuggs RE: rushbikes Feb 3, 2013 06:06 AM

          I have travelled extensively to Tokyo over a dozen business trips. I have used the opportunity during the first 5 or 6 trips, to split my time between 2 neighborhoods. Each of my trips was at least 1 week long, my first trip was split between Shinjuku and Shibuya-purposely by me, to get a feel for the city. Later trips took me to Akasaka/Ginza, Roppongi/Minato, Ebisu/Tokyo...you get the idea. I kept coming back to spending half of my time in Akasaka, then just staying there everytime for the entire trip. I'm 50 years old, a foodie and lover of music. Akasaka is perfect for me-lots of great food choices across all price spectrums, sophisticated and quieter than Shinjuku (quick subway ride) or Roppongi (walking distance from Akasaka), not for the 20 something crowd-Shibuya(just a quick cab ride away). Lots of sophisticated mid-priced food, including one of the best Fugu restaurants in Tokyo (reasonable by Fugu standards) and Akasaka Ramen, very famous also. Night life includes over a dozen inexpensive little jazz clubs including Birdland, Akasaka BB, Hashi no Shita, B-Flat and my favorite "Kei", an intimate bossa nova jazz club run by the lovely Kei herself, a brazilian jazz singer of Japanese descent.
          I've had fantastic meals at Asterix, a little french bistro in a basement a few doors down from Kei, last one was Steak Tartare(surprisingly made with rumproast-awesome-when asked the chef had to point to tell me what cut he used :)), Grilled Lamb chops and Banana Flambe for dessert-wow. Many other choices, international and japanese-centric in a sophisticated, yet not too swank or stuffy (Ginza fits this bill) area, very accessible to all of Tokyo via subway, taxi or on foot. The Hotel New Otani is a prime spot to relax over lunch with its beautiful multi-acre garden, and a fine place to stay also. One night I stumbled on the Danny Meyer Union Square Tokyo outpost, right in Akasaka, boardering Roppongi!! (I didn't eat there, but it speaks volumes of the area itself).
          I live in the West Village, and agree with your NYC synopsis of food-I highly recommend Akasaka, I consider it and the boardering residential area of Aoyama(home of the Blue Note Tokyo) to be the Greenwich Village of Tokyo(more West Village if you know what I mean), with low lying buildings, tree lined streets, and slower pace. It has become my home away from home when visting this amazing city.

          8 Replies
          1. re: mrjuggs
            Silverjay RE: mrjuggs Feb 3, 2013 10:55 AM

            Akasaka and Roppongi are prime corporate business traveler destinations. And Akasaka is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the entire city. It's kind of known as a business expense playground, along with those back alley places for the government "officials" to meet (it's right next to Nagatacho where LDP is headquartered and also near PM's residence)...And the New Otani, which opened in 1964(!) when Tokyo hosted the Olympics, is 20,000+ YEN a night.

            If you're looking for a pre-gentrified more bohemian NYC Greenwich Village type of vibe, try Shimokitazawa or Sangenjaya. For West Village upscale resi vibe, try Jiyugaoka or Shirokane. Maybe Nishi and Minami-Azabu, if you don't mind being among a ton of other foreigners. For a plethora of cheap to mid-range options though, I still think Shinjuku, Shibuya, and the Nezu/Yanaka/Ueno areas are the best bets. I mean, there are other neighborhoods with plenty of places, but these have the best train connections if you are a short time visitor.

            1. re: Silverjay
              m
              mrjuggs RE: Silverjay Feb 3, 2013 03:38 PM

              The comment made by the questioner was that the Village had the best food in the city. The top Michelin star rated restaurants are congregated in midtown Manhattan, not Greenwich Village. The top restaurants in Tokyo were not to my knowledge in Akasaka, but there were scores of mid range restaurants and music venues, on quieter, tree lined streets, just like the Village I've called home for the last 30 years. Thus the analogy and my recommendation for Akasaka. I stand by it.
              I've stayed in many nice midrange hotels in Akasaka, the Chisun Grand, the B Akasaka, and a couple of great "Apartment" style hotels with kitchens in the room. The Hotel Otani is actually quite competitive-$200/night in Tokyo? Shibuya is a young persons mecca, Shinjuku was Midtown Manhattan, Roppongi full of tourists, Akasaka made me feel at home.

              1. re: mrjuggs
                Silverjay RE: mrjuggs Feb 3, 2013 04:18 PM

                My point was that by comparison to other parts of Tokyo, Akasaka is expensive and known as a business part of the city. And I went into it thinking of putting a traveler among a wide range of Japanese restaurants, not lamp chops, steak tartare, and Danny Meyer outposts. It's great that you've carved out a little enclave for business visits that you can eat that sort of food and listen to jazz though.

                1. re: Silverjay
                  m
                  mrjuggs RE: Silverjay Feb 3, 2013 05:30 PM

                  I'll stop now. Akasaka has fantastic Japanese food, in addition to a wide mix of international food with a japanese twist, that i find a real treat-a place like Asterix, while French in approach, is uniquely Japanese. All over Tokyo you can find this depending on your personal likes. Tokyo is the business capital of Japan, and like NYC the restaurant scene is driven by it. The difficulty of navigating this city should be taken into consideration while visiting also. It sounds like jay is the expert-my perspective is as an international traveler who never did any business in Akasaka, but enjoyed living there.

                  1. re: mrjuggs
                    a
                    Asomaniac RE: mrjuggs Feb 3, 2013 09:56 PM

                    Mr Juggs, you'd be sad to see what has happened to Asterix - the proprietor was sick for a long time and eventially returned firing on much less than all cylinders. I am afraid he also makes rather unpleasant and xenophobic comments about his customers when he incorrectly assumes that they do not understand Japanese. (The unpleasantness is not reserved for foreign customers though - just take a look at his long-suffering wife.)

                    Otherwise I'm with you on Akasaka in terms of enjoying the area. Lived there for several years so know it very well. It is, however, full of very mediocre eateries. Lots and lots and lots of eateries, but sadly generally of pretty average standard.

                    1. re: Asomaniac
                      m
                      mrjuggs RE: Asomaniac Feb 4, 2013 04:17 AM

                      I take it that his wife is the lady running the front of the house? He was a bit intense :) . I was impressed how he handled everything himself, a la minute, including chopping the beef, making the Tartare to order. I sit at the counter and watch him work, sad if he has become more curmudgeonly, I found the whole encounter entertaining.

                2. re: mrjuggs
                  Robb S RE: mrjuggs Feb 3, 2013 11:07 PM

                  As a New Yorker (and former West Village resident) living in Tokyo, I'd say that Akasaka reminds me more of someplace like Turtle Bay - sure there are restaurants, but it's pretty much dominated by office buildings.

                  I think Ebisu is closer in feel to the West Village - there are plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs, but not that many offices or department stores.

                  1. re: Robb S
                    Silverjay RE: Robb S Feb 4, 2013 04:17 AM

                    Other than the Westin, I'm drawing a blank on other hotels in Ebisu- although I know there are a few right near Meguro Station. But Ebisu is one of my favorite neighborhoods. You're probably right on the analogy.

            2. r
              rushbikes RE: rushbikes Feb 5, 2013 06:52 AM

              Thanks for the recs everyone! We couldn't decide so we're staying in a couple neighborhoods. The Granbell Hotel in Shibuya for two nights and a week in Roppongi in an apt we found at a pretty reasonable rate. Still working on the restaurants, but I've scoured here and elsewhere, and have a pretty solid list together. Just behind the curve on making reservations for some spots considering our stay is at the end of this month.

              2 Replies
              1. re: rushbikes
                Silverjay RE: rushbikes Feb 5, 2013 11:37 AM

                Ah, that's a good idea to split up your stay.

                I was back in that neighborhood near the Granbell in Shibuya a few weeks ago (beers at Fujiya Honten with Tripeler). It's pretty much surrounded by cheap and mid-range places of all sorts. Not a ton, but a bunch. It's also more of a grown-up part of Shibuya than some other parts. You are also about a 15-minute walk from an excellent blended broth tonkotsu ramen shop called Warito-
                http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1317/A13170... , not to mention a couple of other good ramen shops right closer to your hotel on Sakuragaoka, the hill that the hotel is situated on. And Kozasa (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/733282), a very good sushi shop, is not far either.

                1. re: rushbikes
                  m
                  mrjuggs RE: rushbikes Feb 5, 2013 12:24 PM

                  I've stayed at the Cerulean Tower Tokyo very close by to the Granbell. If you enjoy Jazz, JZ Bratt in the Cerulean was top notch and elegant, classy like one of the Lincoln Center Jazz venues... Additionally, while its not the Lost in Translation Bar, the Bellovisto Bar on the top floor has spectacular views of Tokyo with an extensive Wine and hard to find in Tokyo (for me a good Martini) done well, extensive cocktail list. They have a nice sunset special in the afternoon from 4-6 with some hors d'oeuvres and a cocktail to watch the sun set over Tokyo. I enjoyed that very much.

                2. d
                  DougOLis RE: rushbikes Mar 13, 2013 03:45 AM

                  So what neighborhood would be most analogous to Brooklyn then (i.e. 20 to 30 something hipsters)?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: DougOLis
                    b
                    babreu RE: DougOLis Mar 13, 2013 02:12 PM

                    Daikanyama and Naka-meguro are the hipster's hood.

                    1. re: DougOLis
                      Silverjay RE: DougOLis Mar 13, 2013 05:11 PM

                      Well Brooklyn is a city, not a neighborhood. But Shimokitazawa is as close to the Williamsburg hood in Brooklyn as you are going to get and the most well-known hipster area. Koenji is known for hipstery stuff too. And Kichijōji is also in the media these days as hipster cool. Shibuya is pretty hipstery, especially around Udagawacho.

                      1. re: Silverjay
                        r
                        rushbikes RE: Silverjay Mar 14, 2013 10:37 AM

                        Heh, Brooklyn is neither a city nor neighborhood. It's one of NYC's 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island), comprised of many neighborhoods. Just chuckled a bit when I read these posts.

                        Anyway, I still have to report on my wonderful time spent in Tokyo. Stay tuned for that when I have some time a little later. Thanks everyone for the recommendations!

                        To the immediate question posed, I noticed a strong yupster (yuppy hipster) vibe around Nakameguro, Harajuku and Nishiazabu.

                        Williamsburg has become so expensive now that it has pushed out a lot of the struggling creative types and left gentrified hipsters (yupsters) in its wake. Most hipsters no longer like to affiliate themselves with Williamsburg, and have started moving to areas like Fort Greene, Clinton/Boerum Hill and Bushwick. At least that's my impression from some hipster friends that live in BK. Far more than you all care to know, I'm sure.

                        1. re: rushbikes
                          Silverjay RE: rushbikes Mar 14, 2013 02:25 PM

                          Brooklyn is basically a separate city that for all intents and purposes, requires logistical planning to visit in the same way you would visit any other city. Many people, even from the NYC area, refer to Brooklyn like it is a neighborhood but best to consider it like a city.

                          I'm in Williamsburg. It's hipster central still, gentrification and all. If you want the same vibe in Tokyo on a Friday or Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, I recommend Shimokitazawa. Parts of Shibuya and Shinjuku are a lot like this as well. So are the other hoods I mentioned. Sangenjaya has a similar, though a bit more old school shitamachi vibe.

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