12 must-eat dishes in Tokyo, Japan!
Apart from the usual eats, there are many hidden finds in Tokyo! Even though it may be a good idea to star all the places that one should visit for food, true travellers should sometimes take a step back and pop into lesser known eateries and experience food like a local.
1. Ichiran Tonkotsu Ramen
Several locations in Tokyo including: Shinjuku, Harajuku, Asakusa, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Machida
Ichiran Ramen, Tokyo, Japan
Ichiran is definitely a must-do for first-timers! Other than the delicious ramen, experience purchasing a ticket for your ramen using the vending machine, and sitting in a cubicle as you have a meal!
For travellers who prefer not to sit in a cubicle, the Asakusa branch has small tables that allow you sit facing your partner. This branch is great for families too!
TIP: To avoid the long queues, visit Ichiran during non-peak (3-5pm), and avoid the Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Shibuya branches.
2. Gindaco Takoyaki
Gindaco Takoyaki Balls
Don't you miss Gindaco that moved out of ION Orchard some time ago? Gindaco has a reputation for being the best Takoyaki balls! With the succulent octopus within the crispy outer covering, with the yummy sauces, it is one food item that you should not miss! You can find Gindaco all around Tokyo. Just type Gindaco into your google map.
Eats at Tsukiji Market
5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
You must visit the Tsukiji Market during your trip, walk around, and try as much food as your stomach can take!
3. Tamago Maki @ Marutake Tsukiji
4 Chome-10-10 Tsukiji, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0045, Japan
Yummy tamago in Tsukiji Fish Market
Look at that piping hot tamago! We had our plain and it was the best tamago that we've had!
4. Fresh Seasonal Fruits
Fresh Fruits in Tsukiji Market
Everything looks great! Try the fresh fruits at any one of the store. Although some of them may be overpriced, but the fruits were really fresh and tastes nothing like the ones we get in Singapore!
5. Grilled Seafood
We walked past this store that were grilling huge hotates, oysters, and clams on the grill. We just had to try one! It was juicy and had all the flavours of the sea. As this scallop is huge, they also provided scissors so that you can cut it into smaller pieces.
5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, 中央区 Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0045, Japan
Sushi set at Umai Sushikan
If queuing up in the wee hours of the morning is not your thing, try any one of the sushi restaurants located in the inner market (close to where Sushi Dai and Sushi Daiwa are located). We tried Umai Sushikan Tsukiji Market. Even though food critics would argue that it cannot possibly beat Sushi Dai, the sushi at Umai was very fresh and yummy.
It was also quite fun to sit at the counter, watching the sushi chefs pinching the rice and adding the fish on top. While waiting, the waiters will serve you chawanmushi (japanese steamed egg) that was filled with lots of goodies (gingko nut, chicken, flavourful broth).
Unagi rice bowl at Umai Sushikan
We also tried their unagi bowl which was very good! So, if you are not a die-hard Sushi Dai fan, and just want to get an experience eating fresh fish in Tsukiji, consider Umai Sushikan!
There are three major gyudon chains in Tokyo - Yoshinoya, Sukiya, and Matsuya. We tried all three of it during our trip and will share our favourite chain at the end of this section.
Similar to Ichiran, you will have to buy your meal using the vending machine and proceed to the counter or tables for a seat. Do remember to pass your ticket to the staff so that they can prepare it.
These gyudon chains were very popular amongst the tourists, and even the locals. However, it was a eat-and-go system so you do not have to worry about queuing for long.
Yoshinoya Beef Bowl
We tried the original beef bowl and it was so good. Unlike the ones we have in Singapore which may sometimes be too dry, the gyudon in Tokyo was flavourful. We told ourselves that we would only do a taste test in order to leave some space in our bellies for more, but we licked the bowl clean...
Sukiya's gyudon was very good too, just that we thought that the outlet that we went to in Shinjuku had quite a slow service. As compared to Yoshinoya, we very much preferred Yoshinoya for its gyudon and the service we've received.
No points for guessing which was our favourite. We loved Matsuya. It had a good variety of dishes and I think we tried most of them during this one trip. We had Matsuya almost every day. It also helped that it opened till late, and there was one branch right opposite our hotel. We made it a point to stop for supper everyday.
The food's so good that I'm literally drooling while typing and it deserves a picture spam!
Grilled Ginger Pork Set
Barbequed Beef Set Meal
Hamburg with Demi-Glace Sauce
Even though the sauce looks kind of unappetising here, it was delicious!
Premium Gyumeshi with Ponzu Sauce [Extra Green Onions and an Egg]
The green onions for this premium gyumeshi was too overpowering for us, and we much preferred the original version. Overall, our favourite was Matsuya's barbequed beef set meal! The slightly charred meat was flavourful and delicious.
8. Experience dining at a Standing Sushi Bar
We randomly walked into one of the Standing Sushi Bars in Shinjuku just to try a few pieces of sushi. The experience was interesting as the sushi chef would place the sushi on our 'leaves' (used as plates). However, we thought that Umai Sushikan's sushi was much better.
9. Ikinari Steak
2 Chome-5-11 Shinjuku
Ikinari Steak Dining Area
We were very upset that we only discovered this place on our last day. The steak was huge, tasty, and at a very reasonable price (a 300g steak costs about 1,950 yen). Dining at Ikinari Steak was interesting too as we had to stand throughout our meal. They will also provide an apron to prevent oil stains as the steaks were served in hotplates.
Ikinari Steak served on a hot plate
You could also choose the 'cuts' you would like - sirloin, ribeye, tenderloin, as well as the variety of meat, including wagyu. Look at the still steaming slab of meat! You can also choose two sides with the steak.
TIP: They opened an outlet in earlier this year in New York, United States of America!
90 East 10th St., New York , NY 10003
10. Yakitori at Torikizoku
Japan, 〒160-0021 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukichō, 1 Chome−2, 歌舞伎町１丁目２−３ レオ新宿ビルB１F
Love Tori-Q? Get authentic Yakitori at Torikizoku. We actually chanced upon this while walking along Motomachi Street in Yokohama, but there are also a couple of outlets in Tokyo.
Yakitori Skewers at Torikizoku
What we loved is the atmosphere of the restaurant / bar. Most of its customers were the younger crowd, and everything on the menu only costs 280 yen (~3.40 sgd). And wait for it... INCLUDING ALCOHOLIC DRINKS!
Umeshu cocktail and beer for 280 yen each!
We didn't go all out on the drinks because the cocktail was quite strong. The beer was also great to wash down the oil and grease from the yakitori sticks.
11. Matsusaka Beef
Rokkasen, Shinjuku, Tokyo Japan
Sunflower Building 6 F / 7 F, 1-3-1
Grilling Matsusaka Beef
Matsusaka Beef is prized for its high fat-to-meat ratio, and it literally melts in your mouth! We wrote about this in another blogpost: Click here to read it
12. Doutor Coffee
Doutor is Japan's local coffee chain. It can be found almost everywhere and it is a great place to rest your feet after all that walking.
We were also really glad to see it at Johor Bahru's AEON Tebrau City sometime back.
BONUS: Shake Shack
2 Chome-1-15 Kitaaoyama, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 107-0061, Japan
We love Shake Shack and when we found out that there were outlets in Tokyo, we just had to visit it! We had an arduous journey getting to Shake Shack because it was raining that day. The GPS was cranky and kept showing us to the wrong location. After lots of walking in the rain, we finally got to the place!
Shake Shack Burgers and Cheese Fries
Tokyo is indeed a food paradise, and there can never be enough space to fit all of these good food. Share with us which was your favourite! If we had extra time, we would also love to visit Kyoto, Osaka, and basically all other parts of Japan!
STAY: APA Shinjuku Gyoemmae
Should you be looking for accommodation, we stayed at APA Shinjuku Gyoemmae. It is a located in a quieter neighbourhood just a station away from Shinjuku. There are several excellent eateries around the area like the 24/7 Yoshinoya and Matsuya.
APA is a popular and reputable chain in Japan which also offers onsen facilities at the basement, or even in your own hotel room! No doubt it being a small room, it was an extremely comfortable stay!