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Value restaurants in Tokyo

Hi "Chow'ers" - this is my first time on this forum so be kind.

I am travelling to Tokyo and will stay for a week this July. One of the reasons for the visit is food experiences. I am not looking for the 3* restaurants, but great food and food experiences for a reasonable price. I will stay for seven days and need tips for both lunch and dinner. The eating may be everything from Sushi to Kobe beef, it may be local cuisine or asian crossover, even European or American kitchen - I am looking for the really fantastic and interesting food experiences that's not too expensive. Price range from streetfood to 100$ meals included tip.

Thanks for the help in advance.

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  1. There's a lot of great eating to do in Tokyo, but my first bit of advice would be to forget everything you think you know about food in Japan, because it will misdirect your experience here. For example, Kobe beef is of far more interest to visiting tourists than it is to people who live here (and I'd say the same about sushi for the most part). I can't imagine what "Asian crossover" would be, but trust me, it's not really a thing here, nor is there a street food culture. There's no tipping.

    With that out of the way, I'd recommend focusing evening meals on various styles of izakaya (ranging from upscale "dining bars" to cheap stand-up places), and exploring specialty cuisines like tempura, tonkatsu, etc. at lunchtime.

    Here are a few things I'd recommend trying:

    - tempura
    - tonkatsu
    - yakitori (yakitori grilled chicken restaurants are a subcategory of izakaya, so I'd recommend going in the evening)
    - yakiton (grilled pork on skewers, sometimes found alongside yakitori)
    - kushiage (deep-fried meat, seafood and vegetables on skewers - daytime or evening)
    - ramen
    - soba
    - unagi
    - Okinawan cuisine
    - Kyushu and other regional cuisines (in Tokyo you'll find many izakaya that specialize in various regional cuisines and serve sake and shochu from the region)

    I'd also suggest trying out lots of small dishes at the izakaya you'll be visiting in the evenings, from sashimi to charcoal-grilled horsemeat to stews.

    Specific restaurant recommendations would depend on where you're staying and where you're going during the day, or you can search this board or other resources.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robb S

      Sushi are for tourists ? Kobe style beef also, for tourists ? Err, well, restaurants fall usually under the category 'tourist information', and sure enough, some places definitely are for tourists. Nah, for me, food for 'tourists' brings to my mind images of frozen/quickly heated pizza, soft and almost sweet hamburgers (garanteed no beef taste) , bland pasta (I don't even want to call these spagetti), ...

      1. re: Robb S

        Thank you so much for your good advices! I will write it down and try as much as possible.

      2. I go to Tokyo every year and will be there around the same time as you in July. I've actually been compiling a list of restaurants, cafes, and markets that I'm going to check out on this trip. Let me know if you would like a copy and I can send it to you via email. It's on an Excel worksheet and I have about 33 places listed so far sorted by name, cuisine, station, and potential cost (for one). Let me know.

        15 Replies
        1. re: Sushi Otaku

          Hi Sushi Otaku,

          I was checking out the boards as I will be in Osaka and Tokyo for a week for some good eating. Hoping I can also ask fro a copy of your list.

          We have a partial list now which include Matsukawa. I'm trying to get a table there but can't seem to get a number.

          Thank you in advance.

          1. re: HimUDB

            I think the custom here is to post something like that (a list of 33 places you want to try) on the board (maybe even in a new topic), where people who have actually been to those places might comment on them.

            Otherwise you're just offering a list of places you've never been to, on a board filled with people who probably have personal experience with those same places.

            1. re: Robb S

              And yet, there is a lot to be said to trying new places that are new to you and not the same dozen places every year. I find it fun and part of the challenge.

              1. re: Sushi Otaku

                I'm not sure how you interpreted what I said as meaning you shouldn't try those new places. I just said that it might be helpful (to you, to other visitors, to me) to post something like that on the board, and maybe hear some opinions from people who have actually been there.

                Of course you can still go to those places even if they get negative reviews here. And other people reading get to learn about different places (other than the same dozen standbys), which is kind of the point of Chowhound. I know I'm always interested in learning about new spots.

                1. re: Sushi Otaku

                  Sushi Otaku: FWIW, I make regular business trips from SF to Tokyo, and I am also looking for new places like the OP describes. I'd love to see your list if you don't mind posting it! So maybe one of those who Robb S is describing :)

                  1. re: jmarek

                    This is a first draft list of what I got so far. I plan to whittle it down a little but I find that having several options in all the areas I plan to be in is a good plan to have since you never know what you might be in the mood for when you're actually at a specific place during a specific time. **Full Disclosure** Most of these I got from TimeOut Tokyo as I've found their London and Paris iterations have always served me well for food.

                    My strategy for this trip has been to find smaller places that I can spend time eating & lounging.

                    Chikara Meshi
                    Clover's
                    Gion Tokuya
                    Goodbeer Faucets
                    Hemel Miyamasu
                    Hitsumabushi Bincho
                    Ivy Place
                    Kanemasu
                    Katsukura
                    Lahore
                    Magic Spice
                    Midori Sushi
                    Momotarou Ebisuten
                    Moto
                    Negishi
                    Nikunchu
                    Priya Indian
                    Sangyodo
                    Shin Tanaka
                    Sushi Zanmai
                    Tokyo Noren gai
                    Tonteki
                    Unatetsu
                    Viron
                    Yamaga Honten
                    Bon
                    Butagumi
                    Takano Fruit Parlor

                    1. re: Sushi Otaku

                      Thanks for posting that - it looks like an interesting list! I've found some good recommendations from Time Out, although I sometimes disagree with their suggestions. (Also they often write up places that haven't opened yet, so I wonder about that.)

                      I've only been to around a dozen of those places - I'd say the most memorable were Bon, Butagumi, and Moto, but there aren't any I would warn against. Goodbeer Faucets has also gotten much better, Bincho does a nice Nagoya-style unagi, and Katsukura and Ivy Place are pretty reliable.

                      1. re: Sushi Otaku

                        So I just got done with my Tokyo food trip and wanted to give a brief update on my "list" that I utilized during the last 9 days:

                        Chikara Meshi- Didn't go
                        Clover's - Didn't go
                        Gion Tokuya - Didn't go
                        Goodbeer Faucets - Very good beer, below average food
                        Hemel Miyamasu - Didn't go
                        Hitsumabushi Bincho - Didn't go
                        Ivy Place - Didn't go
                        Kanemasu -BEST MEAL OF THE TRIP!! Expect an hour wiat
                        Katsukura - Very good but pricey for tonkatsu ($30)
                        Lahore - Very good curry in a pool of curry chains
                        Magic Spice - didn't go
                        Midori Sushi - didn't go, always a wait of over an hour
                        Momotarou Ebisuten - didn't go
                        Moto - Very good sake; good food
                        Negishi - Good food but you need to like beef tongue
                        Nikunchu - didn't go
                        Priya Indian - didn't go
                        Sangyodo - just ok
                        Shin Tanaka - didn't go
                        Sushi Zanmai - typical chain sushi
                        Tokyo Noren gai - didn't go
                        Tonteki - didn't go
                        Unatetsu - didn't go due to unagi surplus concerns
                        Viron - good baked goods. go early
                        Yamaga Honten - go only if you need something to eat at 6am
                        Bon - didn't go
                        Butagumi - didn't go
                        Takano Fruit Parlor - very good, very expensive for a parfait ($16)

                        1. re: Sushi Otaku

                          What did you order at Katsukura that was $30?

                          An aside, the last time I was in Japan, I noticed Katsukura in Tokyo is more expensive than Katsukura in the Kansai area.

                          1. re: prasantrin

                            I had the pork loin set. I think it was the second most expensive one

                    2. re: Robb S

                      Ok got that. Will be posting the results of our trip this July to share. Thanks.

                      1. re: HimUDB

                        That would be great - have a good trip!

                  2. re: Sushi Otaku

                    That is very generous Sushi Otaku. I really want to receive your excel. Thank you. Is it possible for me to give you my e-mail in a PM? Or if you want to post it here that would also be great, so the other people in this thread also can get the pleasure of your work :)

                    1. re: chieffoodie

                      Can we do a PM on here? I don't think I can load my worksheet on here either now that I think about it. Any suggestions.

                      If anyone wants to join me for a meal while I'm there that would be cool too. Some places just benefit from breaking bread with someone else.

                  3. Thank you all for some very interesting advices and tips. Another question which some of you maybe can answer. We are travelling for Okinawa and will stay there for 11 days afte Tokyo. We are living on a resort called Sunmarina in Onna-Son. We are also looking for good restaurants within an hours drive (this includes Naha). Have anyone been to Okinawa. From what i've heard the kitchen is pretty different there compared to the rest of Japan. Is there any "Have to experience" restaurants or food experiences?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chieffoodie

                      Okinawa Soba and anything with Goya (bitter melon). Orion beer is not bad also

                    2. No tips in Japan (hoorah!). I was in Tokyo two weeks ago, and ate pretty well in the Harajuku area.

                      The Great Burger satisfied my cravings for agood burger. I liked the skinny fries and pineapple smoothie, too.

                      Next day I had a nice chicken gyro from a booth at the ASEAN fair across the street from Yoyogi Park. One time event but maybe someone here knows where the food trucks go.

                      Cheap eats. The burger dinner was less than 3000 yen, and I think the generous gyro was 580.

                      1. Hi chieffoodie,

                        I lived in Tokyo 2001-2002 and go there frequently on business.

                        My top recommendation is: Jangara Ramen

                        This is absolutely the best $10 meal you could find in Tokyo.
                        Order the "ko-bonsyan" (fully loaded ramen with thick pork broth) ... I'm very confident that it will blow your mind and redefine the meaning of ramen.
                        They have branches in Harajuku (near the park and JR station) and Akasaka (smaller, not as nice).

                        http://www.kyusyujangara.co.jp/