Tokyo restaurants span a spectrum so diverse that dining is an attraction standing all on its own. Tokyo dining can be enigmatic to those who have never witnessed Japanese dining customs, but after a few nights out, the basics do come easy. The combination of stunning food presentation—something the Japanese are famous for—along with an array of uniquely designed restaurants and fascinating people makes for quite an experience out on the town.
The best food in Tokyo is found in restaurants both small and large, distinct and clandestine. A meal that costs a few thousand yen can be as delicious as one that costs tens of thousands. The best restaurants in Tokyo vary. Some are tiny, family-run establishments with a smattering of tables and nothing fancy to write home about, while others are lavish, illustrious specimens serving costly meals with all the trimmings and plentiful offerings of world-class service. Tourists who are able to discern that difference yet appreciate what each has to offer can enjoy the best food in Tokyo on every kind of budget.
Tokyo restaurants differ in one main respect: the type of food they offer. Restaurants typically either offer traditional fare (some with a modern twist), international cuisine, or both. Traditional Tokyo dining is paired with customary Japanese food for an authentic dining experience.
Traditional fare includes chanko nabe—a hot-pot dish eaten mainly by sumo wrestlers—and one that is enjoyed during martial arts tours. Ningyoyaki is another popular dish found in Tokyo restaurants consisting of little cakes infused with bean paste of the sweet azuki. The popular slow-cooked rice and clam dish fukagawameshi is another meal commonly found at restaurants in the Monzennaka-cho and Fukagawa areas. While these are great examples of traditional fare, some tourists consider the best food in Tokyo to be the huge array of exquisitely prepared sushi and sashimi.
Though a feast of kaiseki might break the bank for some, it is an experience to remember for a lifetime. The royal fete ensues with one dish after another of beautifully presented, savory foods that seem more like artwork than food. Kaiseki can be found in some of the best restaurants in Tokyo. On the flip side, throughout Roppongi there is an abundant array of cheap eats, from family-style restaurants to food stalls and noodle shops. In fact, these can be found all over the city, they are just less obvious in some areas than others.
Tokyo hotels are well known for offering great food with both national and international dishes. The Imperial Hotel is a magnet for buffet lovers, while the Four Seasons and Park Hotel render an adventurous list of fusion cuisine. Some of the most expensive food, which some might call the best food in Tokyo, is found throughout the restaurants of Hibiya, Shinjuku, and Ginza districts. The New York Grill is perhaps the highest regarded restaurant offering upscale meals along with phenomenal views of Mount Fuji.
Though luxurious hotspots abound, budget-friendly options do, too. Fixed-priced meals are a staple in many restaurants and are available between 11:00 a.m. and about 2:00 p.m. The Japanese version of this is called Teishoku while the Western counterpart is called coursu. Each generally consists of a few courses, coffee or tea, and dessert. Yakitori-ya, the common pub-like setting where Japanese office workers rub elbows, offer up tasty crispy tempura, chicken skewers, and other tasty treats for low prices. Cheap Tokyo dining can also be found in department stores, in colorful, lively and inexpensive restaurants favored by locals, and via prepared foods found at local grocery and convenience stores, or the famous bento boxes sold all around the city.