If you're visiting Tokyo for business or pleasure, there's a good chance you'll be staying in the Shinjuku area. Arrive at night, and you'll feel like an alien (or perhaps a replicant?) amidst all the neon in the Blade Runner-like atmosphere. And while amazing Japanese food surrounds you, that alien feeling may challenge you in navigating the streets (addresses are difficult in Japan), not to mention the menus, and perhaps even the basic how-tos of ordering and etiquette. Read on for a list of essential Japanese dishes to eat in Tokyo and our favorite spots to enjoy them, all right in the Shinjuku area.
'Tokyo' on Serious Eats
Watching top bartenders in Tokyo, I think of the Japanese tea ceremony, with its elaborate details and rules. Both reflect what Japanese call kodawari, which translates roughly to a striving for unreachable perfection achieved through relentless practice, repetition, and extreme attention to detail.
Yakitori, takoyaki, tsukumen, and more: what and where to eat should you find yourself hungry in Tokyo in the wee hours.
As Tokyo's legendary Tsukiji fish market prepares to move in 2015, we pay a visit to the tuna bidders inside and discover some of the lesser-known vendors just outside of the main market. Plus, sushi for breakfast!
From dango to a sweet potato "sandwich" to a Japanese twist on the croissant, here are eight standout sweets I ate in Tokyo.
Nakajima serves a set menu lunch at a bargain price of 800 yen. Sardines are the star of the show, available fried with panko, served sashimi-style, simmered in dashi with soy sauce, or prepared in an eggy casserole.
As an offal lover, I always make room in my trips to Japan for a meal or two of horumonyaki: grilled pork and beef offal and other bits that are generally thrown away. Here's a look inside two horumonyaki restaurants in Tokyo.
A meal for the senses, this Japanese breakfast features grilled fish with sweet grated daikon, pungent miso soup, crunchy tsukemono pickles, and sides like a hyper-seasonal local spinach. It's served on handcrafted custom pottery in a spartan restaurant with a single talented chef.
This is a coffee shop for coffee purists.
The last time I was in Tokyo, I didn't make it to Rokurinsha, one of Tokyo Ramen Street's most popular restaurants, which is known for its tsukemen, or dipping noodles. This time, however, I vowed not to be denied, and arrived before noon to make sure of it. The unique thick noodles and umami-heavy broth were worth the wait.
I was lucky enough to be in Tokyo as the promotion started, hitting up a Shinjuku location that offers only 100 burgers per day. (Some shops sell only 50.) I was excited to try this. Ramen and burgers are two of my favorite foods. Combine them, and what could go possibly wrong?
Different kinds of ramen, yakitori, soba, and even a hotdog at an upscale cocktail bar in Ginza. Speaking of ramen...I may have taken a six-hour train ride from Tokyo to visit the original Ippudo. Ramen-loving man right here, what can I say?
Tokyo is loaded with yakitori restaurants, most notably in Yakitori Alley near Shinjuku Station where the smoke-filled, sake and beer-stained holes-in-the-wall rumble with each passing train. Make your way to upscale Roppongi Hills, though, and you'll find an altogether different yakitori experience.
The Nagi Golden Gai experience is fascinating, from the walk up and down the stairs, to the wait for a call through a tube, to the two types of noodles and the unique broth made with niboshi--dried baby sardines. With just ten counter seats in cramped quarters, you'll be rubbing elbows with your neighbors.
Last year, Tokyo Ramen Street opened in the First Avenue Tokyo Station retail center, which includes about 100 stores and restaurants. Here you'll find eight of Tokyo's finest ramen shops, drawing long lines of adoring Japanese fans, mostly salarymen. For non-Japanese newcomers, there's a mix of mystery and confusion.
Japan is a country known for trying out flavor combinations that few others would—tomato-flavored white chocolate, anyone?—so it's no surprise Burger King in Japan released the BK Ringo: a burger with lettuce, honey mustard, mayo, and a slice of apple (ringo in Japanese). The Whopper Jr.-sized burger has been available since March and can be yours for ¥240 (about $3).
Tempura Tsunahachi was founded in Tokyo in 1927, the restaurant of chef Kyuzu Shimura. Over the next half decade, it built a reputation for using the freshest possible seasonal ingredients and for hiring chefs with an unparalleled mastery of the art of the battered fry. Great ingredients, clean oil, and highly skilled chefs are still the core concepts of the restaurants, which has now expanded into seven branches.
What's the longest you've ever waited in line for a dumpling? If you've been to a Din Tai Fung, the Taiwan-based dumpling and noodle chain famous for their xiao long bao (steamed soup-filled dumplings), chances are you've waited at least an hour. Can these soup-filled tiny little buns live up to their reputation?
"In my mind, there is no doubt... at this moment, Blacows in Tokyo indeed makes the best burger on the planet," says C. B. Cebulski of Eataku. What's so special about this place? As Cebulski explains in his post, the restaurant is owned by a butcher and they only use Japanese Black Wagyu beef, hence the name Bla(ck)cows. A chalkboard at the restaurant's entrance lists info for the cuts of beef they're using that day: the beef's origin, the number of the cow the cut is from, and the beef's grade. Inside you get a full view of a full-time butcher cutting meat in the section of the kitchen dubbed the Patty Factory. This is some hardcore burger-making.