Tokyo has an unexplainable intensity coupled with a subtle and mysterious cultural charm. The city buzzes with constant activity, courtesy of its nine million inhabitants. It’s hard to not to feel slightly intimidated and lost, especially if you don’t speak the language. Thankfully, visitors are united by the universal language of food.
While you obviously do want to have sushi, eating it for every meal might be challenging for some. Throw in some cafés to begin your day at (no Starbucks, don’t worry), and speciality restaurants you can end your evenings with, and your stomach will be thanking you for the delicious itinerary that is a gastronomical adventure in its own right. Without further ado, here is a full-service food itinerary to Tokyo, from Monday through Friday.
You know those jiggly and fluffy pancakes that you see on social media and leave you salivating and with a desire to lick your screen (maybe that’s just us)? Well, you’re in luck because Tokyo has heaps. While Bills in Harajuku is not exactly a traditional Japanese café, it’s got the pancakes. And trust us when we say, they’re one of the best we’ve ever had.
Bills, 7/F, Tokyu Plaza, 4-30-3 Jinugu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo | (+81) 3-5772-1133
Roppongi has a bit of a bad reputation for being the red light district of Tokyo. Luckily, it’s not as scary during the daytime, so venture to the lively Gottsui for some okonomiyaki, a Japanese-style pancake-cum-omelette topped with shredded cabbage, a mix of fresh meats and vegetables, tangy special sauce, and a generous squeeze of mayonnaise.
Gottsui, 1/F, GH Building, 5-9-16 Minato-ku, Roppongi | (+81) 3 3401 0538
What better way to kickstart your first evening in Japan than with a bowl of classic Japanese soba? Located in Shimokitazawa—one of the trendiest areas in Tokyo—is Shoune. This place is the perfect restaurant to go to if you want to dive into the cooler parts of the city, yet still want a bit of familiarity (read: an English menu is available). With perfectly-textured soba made fresh onsite, Shoune is perfect for dining solo, with pals, or with kids. Tip: Order the classic zaru soba noodles with tempura!
Shoune, 2-chome-28-1 Kitazawa, Setagaya City | (+81) 50 5890 6388
It can be really difficult to find quality coffee in Tokyo, but Frankie in Shimokitazawa has you covered. With Australian-inspired brews made from beans sourced from Central and South America, you can definitely rely on this endearing little café to give you your AM (and PM) coffee fix.
Frankie, 2-chome-12-15, Kitazawa, Setagaya City | (+81) 3 6356 5305
While quality Kobe beef isn’t cheap, if you’re a major carnivore and willing to spend the dough, this place in Akasaka is the place to be.
Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, Dear Plaza Akasaka, B1, Akasaka 4-3-28, Minato City, 107-0052 | (+81) 03 6685 0511
At some point during any trip to Tokyo, one needs to try the sushi. Instead of going to franchises and chains that provide minimal cultural enrichment, let’s delve deeper. In the touristy district of Omotesando lies Sushi Issei. It's a small, authentic sushi shop with an atmosphere that would be best described as occasionally uncomfortable (because you’re likely the only foreigner in there). With all the classic and expected sushi options (as well as some a little more unique), freshly made in front of you, the food, as well as the cultural insight, will definitely make your worries melt away. Tip: Make a reservation before going and stay mindful of cultural decorum!
Sushi Issei, 3-12-7-102 Kita-Aoyama Minato-ku, 107-0061 | +81 050 3476 8948
Ochazuke, a savoury rice dish made with green tea, is one of the most comforting Japanese foods out there, similar to porridge or congee. While it’s great after a big night out, it can also be a nice warm way to start your morning. You can get a breakfast set with a side of pickled vegetables for around ¥600, between 8 am to 10 am.
Dashi Chazuke En, LUMINE Shinjuku 1 B2F 1-1-5 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, 160-0023 | (+81) 03 5339 1696
While this isn’t your typical sit down lunch, you’re definitely in for some fun, especially if you have a sweet tooth. Outside Sensoki Temple in Asakusa is Nakamise Shopping Street, where you’ll find little vendors selling an overwhelming amount of traditional Japanese sweets. From mochi to Ningyo Yaki, you’ll definitely be ready for round two before reaching the end of the street.
Yes, a non-Japanese recommendation, but hear me out when I say this is one of the best restaurants to go to in Tokyo if you’re looking for a bit of a break from all the Japanese food.
With a really mysterious vibe created by dimly lit lights and romantic aura, it is the perfect place to go with your special someone. The menu items are also diverse. From whale meat (controversial, I know) to truffle fries, the kitchen does everything brilliantly and will fail to disappoint. Tip: The truffle fries are a must!
6th by Oriental Hotel, 1/F, New Yurakucho Building, 1-12 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, 101-0006 | (+81) 03 6212 6066
As many people know, the iconic Tsukiji market relocated several years ago to Toyosu. However, luckily for you, it’s relocation has not meant the complete demise of the district’s fish market or culture. The restaurants and food stalls around the original location are still very much in operation, so carve out a morning to wander around the area. You’ll definitely be able to find a good breakfast from either any of the restaurants or just by purchasing small bites from the small vendors around the market.
Tsukiji Fish Market, 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, 104-0045
Harbs is a café specialising in cakes of all kinds, famous for their multi-layer crêpe cake sandwiched with cream and fresh fruit. They have savoury offerings too, so stop by for their lunch set (which includes a salad, pasta, and a drink) and end your meal with heavenly bites of their signature dessert.
Harbs, 1/F, Hillside 6-10-2, Roppongi, Minato-ku | (+81) 03 5772 6191
In Shinbashi, otherwise known as the playground for Japanese salarymen, lies the highest concentration of izakayas—casual drinking dens serving yakitori and other light bites—you could possibly find in one district. Within this party district lies an authentic and unpretentious little gem—Toriyoshi. With several other locations scattered around Tokyo, Toriyoshi offers a-la-carte options or omakase (chef’s choice), with all the meat and veggies cooked to juicy, mouth-watering perfection. Tip: If you order the omakase, they’ll keep bringing you food until you tell them to stop, so be prepared to eschew skewers with a firm hand.
Toriyoshi, 7-2, Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo | (+81) 3 5537 3222
While this breakfast spot isn’t Japanese, it definitely has captured the hearts (and stomachs) of the locals. Serving Taiwanese staples like soy milk (in both salty and sweet iterations), fried dough sticks, and breakfast pancakes, this local favourite is open from 8 am to 2 pm. Tip: Be sure to arrive early as they close once they sell out (and they sell out quickly!).
Tokyo Tojan Seikatsu, 1 Chome-20-3 Nishigotanda, Shinagawa City | (+81) 03 6417 0335
In the high-end district of Ginza lies a Michelin-starred tempura restaurant, Kondo. Seafood and vegetation of all sorts are lightly fried for a satisfying and melt-in-your-month crunch. It is quite affordable for a restaurant of this calibre, and extremely popular amongst locals, so be sure to book in advance!
Kondo, 5 Chome-5-13 Ginza, 104-0061 | (+81) 3 5568 0923
What better way to end your trip with a steaming bowl of traditional Japanese ramen. With every single prefecture specialising in their own prefectural flavour, it is a nation that undoubtedly, takes their noodles seriously.
While we’re not big fans of chains, after scouring the city corners for the best ramen, the badge of honour still has to go to the much-touted Ichiran ramen, a place equally loved by visitors and locals. Order your own customized bowl of ramen from the solo dining booths—from the firmness of your noodles to the spiciness of your soup, they can make it to your exact liking. Tip: Be sure to add the salted and halved soft boiled egg on top!