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May 6, 2013 10:31 AM

Chinese food in Tokyo?

Hi, we will be spending a week in Tokyo soon, and I just know my Chinese food-crazed husband is going to "need" some. I have heard there is very good Chinese food available.
We will be staying in Shibuya but will travel for food...any recommendations? Cost not a particular hindrance.
Any other non-Japanese Asian cuisine recommendations?
Thanks very much in advance.

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  1. I find Chinese food in Japan to be very much adapted to local tastes. I guess you can say that about Chinese food anywhere, but the Chinese food I've had in Japan has been very muted in flavours compared to what I'm used to. So I don't know that it would be worth your while to search out Chinese food.

    There is at least one branch of Din Tai Fung in Tokyo in Shinjuku (at Takashimaya Times Square, I think). They have xiao long bao, of course, but also other dishes that are worth trying.

    May I ask where you're from? There's some comparatively good Thai food in Tokyo, but if you're from LA, for example, I'm not going to recommend it because you'll be able to get far better Thai food in LA than in Tokyo. Good Indian food in Japan, too (but it's probably better in Kobe than in Tokyo).

    1 Reply
    1. re: prasantrin

      "There's some comparatively good Thai food in Tokyo..."

      Errr, really?? After almost a decade of mediocre Thai meals, I'm not so sure about that. Pray tell where you're eating good Thai.

    2. Chinese food is to be found everywhere in Japan, and I actually love Chinese food in Japan. The one thing I still can't figure out is why so many foreigners knock Chinese food in Japan. I guess it's a matter of taste. To me, average Chinese food in Japan is generally so much better than in the States that I can't even begin to compare.

      You should definitely hit Yokohama Chinatown, as it's a one straight shot on Tokyu train from Shibuya (~40min). Yokohama Chinatown is clean and much more food-focused than most other Chinatowns. The sights and smell of Chinese food permeate the place. It's true that a lot of Chinatown restaurants cater to Japanese taste, but that is not a bad thing (at least not to me).

      Ginza Aster is a chain Chinese place with locations all over Kanto, and they have a location on Tokyu Plaza's restaurant floor in Shibuya. Aster's food isn't like the best Chinese you'll find in Japan, but it's reliable and very typical of Japanified Chinese food. Shibuya also has a branch of Bairan, which is a chain place that started out in Yokohama's Chinatown and is famous for their Bairan Yakisoba (pan-fried noodles with juicy pork/veggie filling inside). Bairan's pan-fried noodles are popular and I used to love them, but recently I find them to be too greasy as I get older. One of the better dim sum spots in Tokyo is Le Parc in Ebisu, just a short trip down Yamanote-line from Shibuya. Kawasaki (a bit farther away) has Tokyo's branch of Singapore-based XLB restaurant called Crystal Jade; I love Japan's Crystal Jade because they serve all the usual Cantonese stuff on top of their famous Shanghaighese fares (eg, XLB, dan dan mein).

      7 Replies
      1. re: chowmouse

        I think Chinese food in Japan is better than what is considered "American Chinese" food (think chow mein which is primarily bean sprouts and cabbage, sprinkled with fried noodles), but if you're "crazy" for chinese food, I would assume that you're crazy for "real" Chinese food. If that's the case, you'll be disappointed with Japanese Chinese food since, like I said, the flavours will be rather muted.

        That being said, it's not necessarily a bad thing to try it. I've had very good food (as opposed to very good Chinese food) at Chinese restaurants in fancy schmancy hotels.

        1. re: prasantrin

          Since Cantonese and Taiwanese cuisines share similar sensibilities to Japanese tastes, there's not really an issue of flavors being muted. And there are a TON of Cantonese and Taiwanese restaurants in Tokyo. There are also a TON of Szechuan places, a TON of Shanghai places, and a TON of various other regional Chinese restaurants. Like LA and NY and probably a few other big cities, Chinese restaurants break down along the lines of Chinese sub-cuisines, along with a genre of pan-Chinese, fast food Chinese, and Wafu-Chinese. The scale obliterates those other cities, so I'm not sure it's worth simply panning the entire Tokyo scenes as not "real".

          That said there is not a lot of info in English. There are many acclaimed Chinese restaurants at hotels though and those can be researched online.

          1. re: Silverjay

            During my ambles around Tokyo, I've encountered more people from Dalian and Harbin (Northeast China) and restaurants serving food from those cities, in addition to generic Chinese food (by Akasaka Mitsuke, for instance). That's not the norm in the US.

            What I've come to find popular in Japan are dumplings (steamed/fried), mapo doufu, steamed buns, and julienned bell peppers and beef. Nothing is ever truly spicy, but then that's to be expected in Japan. Often you can find a couple of Chinese dishes in convenience stores too.


            1. re: BuildingMyBento

              There's a whole enclave of Dongbei restaurants in Flushing......The dishes you listed (gyoza, mapo dofu, jinja rosu, etc.) are mostly those that have been appropriated as Wafu-chuka. Many (not all) of those are Northern Chinese origin that became popular with returning army vets who served in Japan's occupation of Manchuria...There are plenty of standard regional authentic Chinese restaurants though.

              1. re: Silverjay

                Have been to several Dongbei restaurants in Flushing. My tastes skew more spicy/hot, my husband's more southeast Chinese.

                1. re: buttertart

                  Szechuan food went through a boom in Tokyo and there are tons of Szechuan restaurants and Szechuan style restaurants. But I'm not sure I'd seek it out if you are coming from NYC area though as that is NY's sweet spot. It will be dialed down in spice in Japan unless perhaps if you gave them special instruction. Also, lamb meat isn't so popular within Chinese cuisines, though it is associated with Mongolian. Southeast Chinese should yield tons of options...Doesn't Chen Kenichi, the Chinese Iron Chef, specialize in Szechuan cusine? He has a few restaurants I think.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    Yup, Chen Kenichi specializes in Sichuan cooking. So the story goes, it was his father Chen Kenmin who introduced mabo tofu to Japan, and probably mabo nasu, and other Sichuan inspired dishes.
                    About Chinese restaurants in Japan, the one thing that you will probably never find is an authentic Chinese-Chinese fried rice, since all the rice used in Japan is Japanese (or Japanese style) rice. Any rice imported into Japan is hit with some exorbitant tariff. I do miss a good non-sticky fried rice.

      2. I especially like Sense in Nihonbashi (in the Mandarin Oriental) for contemporary Cantonese cuisine.

        Le Parc in Ebisu (mentioned earlier) and Chinaroom in Roppongi serve nice dimsum.

        Raika Seirankyo in Gaienmae is good for upscale Shanghai-style dishes.

        I've never been very impressed by Yokohama Chinatown; I doubt if it's worth the journey to another city during your one-week stay, when there's good Chinese food in Tokyo.

        As for other Asian cuisines, I'm a big fan of Jap Cho Ok in Gaienmae for sophisticated modern Korean cuisine. Shilingol in Sugamo serves fantastic Mongolian food.

        1. Thanks all for your replies, very useful info. I'd love to hear more.
          We are in NJ but are constantly in New York City for eating purposes.
          It might help to know that by Chinese food I do mean CHINESE Chinese food. We lived in Taipei for a couple of years in the glory days of the original KMT high-level refugees' dying off and their chefs opening wonderful restaurants...have been to China (Shanghai west to Nanjing and north to Beijing) numerous times...said husband is an urban historian with particular interest in Jiangnan, especially Suzhou. Hence the (happy) obsession.
          Pleased to hear about Din Tai Fung and Crystal Jade (we went to their Shanghai spot last trip and enjoyed it very much). And Mongolian food...heaven.

          4 Replies
          1. re: buttertart

            You're from NJ/NYC area?
            Then you may have been to Joe's Shanghai. Joe's Shanghai has locations in Tokyo. I've only been to the one in NYC and the one in Tokyo (Ikebukuro) once each, but my experience was that the XLB was really good in Tokyo and nothing special in NYC. Joe's in Tokyo (at least the one in Ikebukuro) is also pricier and in a bit of an upscale setting, nothing like the one in Chinatown NYC. Anyways, I think Japan has high standards for XLB's, and I've had better XLB's elsewhere in Tokyo than at Joe's. I think Din Tai Fung is better, and I've even had better XLB's at random places out in the suburbs. But the nice thing about Joe's is that it's up on ~60th floor with a sweeping view of Tokyo. That alone may be worth a visit.

            Crystal Jade... not sure if it's going to be worth your time to go all the way down to Kawasaki just for that. It's inside an Italian-motifed complex called Ciutadella a few minutes walk south of the station. Actually, the Crystal Jade there is set up as part of the Italian restaurant they share operation with, and they also offer all-you-can-eat. But the XLB's there are just as good as the ones you can get at their Hong Kong branches, and they also have Cantonese dim sum items like har gow, all very good. Last time we were there, we did the dinner-time all-you-can-eat... I think the time limit was 90minutes and you call the waiter to order a la carte any time you want to order more (not buffet-style).

            Although I definitely agree (as Robb said) that you can find better Chinese food in various places throughout Tokyo than in Yokohama's Chinatown, I still think it's worth going and checking it out. Especially since your husband has special interest in China and since it's easy to get to from Shibuya. It's definitely different than Chinatown NYC or SF. Go there at dusk/evening when it's more happening.

            1. re: chowmouse

              I do think Yokohama is in the cards, thanks very much for your recommendations. Joe's Shanghai here is low on my list, if you want Shanghainese food in NYC Shanghai Heping on upper Mott is super (tofu-skin wrapped fish) and my favorite XLBs are at Old Shanghai on Bayard (translucent skins, terrific the last time we were there -- as are many of their other dishes).

              1. re: buttertart

                I see... yeah I also didn't think Joe's Shanghai in NYC was all that great either.

                The easiest way to get to Yokohama Chinatown (station = Motomachi/Chukagai) from Shibuya is by taking the private train line called Tokyu Toyoko line, which goes straight without any transfers required. They have different services running the same line... some (called tokkyu) only make a few stops, others may make a stop at every station and take you forever to get to Chinatown. You'll want to ask the station employee and be sure to get on either a tokkyu or kyukou service to Motomachi/Chukagai.

                1. re: chowmouse

                  Thanks a million. This is extremely helpful.