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Aug 5, 2013 06:51 AM

Can't miss restaurants and reservation lead times


I'm in the very early stages of planning my first trip to Japan, tentatively for early April 2014 (I haven't even booked airline tickets yet). I wanted to get your recommendations for some of the can't miss restaurants in Tokyo and more importantly how far in advance I need make reservations and the best way at going about making them (I speak no Japanese). What restaurants take reservations more than the typical 1-2 months in advance?

Some restaurants I'm interested in so far that I would like to get your comments on regarding reservations are:
Sukiyabashi Jiro
Aronia de Takazawa

Thank you.

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  1. All great choices. Sawada and Quintessence are always on my list whenever I go. Aronia de Takazawa and Ryugin are also marvelous. Saito and Jiro = very good too.

    If you're looking for a casual lunch, I'd recommend Butagumi for its diverse tonkatsu selection. Also, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is fantastic - and quite affordable.

    Last time I was in town, I dined at two excellent restaurants I plan on returning to when I'm back in town this November: Esquisse and the wildly inventive Effervescence.

    Finally, my girlfriend (she's Japanese and keeps up to date on the local restaurant buzz) is dying to try a place called Den.

    In general, 2-3 months is the time to make reservations for the hard those hard to get into places. Have your hotel concierge make the call.

    1. All of these restaurants have been discussed on this forum ad absurdum. I think they may literally be the restaurants that have been discussed here most over the past few years, because new visitors to Japan always seem to ask about the same places.

      Therefore, you should do a search on this website - you will get literally hundreds of posts about each of the restaurants you list (this includes comments on how much in advance you have to reserve, but also on quality of food, how they treat non-Japanese speaking foreigners, and so on).

      All of the restaurants you list require lots of advance booking. Ryugin only starts taking reservations a month in advance.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Asomaniac

        Thanks for the replies. I did a search on Saito but i couldn't find a consistent answer on getting reservations. Some say it's booked "months" in advance and and others are saying they take reservations on the first of the month for the next month. Do they allow regulars to book farther in advance?

        1. re: PorkyBelly

          Saito do allow regulars to book way ahead. For non-regulars, it should be, like you said, one month before, but it's VERY difficult. I heard he's moving to a bigger place, probably next year, so reservations might become easier.

          1. re: babreu

            Would a hotel concierge or travel agent be considered a "regular" and allowed to book before non-regulars at Saito? Anybody have success using a hotel concierge to get a reservation, if so which ones?

            1. re: PorkyBelly

              Unfortunately no. I have friends who requested Saito to very efficient concierges, like the ones at The Peninsula, and they said their success ratio at Saito was like 3%.

      2. I talked to Sawada San about reservations for a long time the last time I ate there. He only has 6 seats, so of course he's booked all the time, but he said there's also a lot of times when he's not booked and nobody calls. He said he even has rare times when there's not a single customer and he doesn't come to work. So if possible book ahead, but I think it's always worth trying on short notice if you are desperate, especially if you are flexible between a few days.

        2 Replies
        1. re: la2tokyo

          Thanks, I definitely will be booking as soon as they start taking reservations. Do you know when Sawada San starts taking reservations, I did a search and can't find the answer.