One of the great things about Tokyo is that you’re guaranteed a good meal at just about any restaurant or little shop you walk into. Heck, even the Family Mart and 7-Eleven offer great options if you’re on the go. While you could certainly eat up a storm in Tokyo without doing any research ahead of time, I’m pretty damn glad I did because I managed to have an incredible meal each of my five days in the city (as well as some great ones that just didn’t make my ‘top 5 places to eat in Tokyo’ list).
If you ask for suggestions on where to go for a fun night out in Tokyo, it’s likely that many people will tell you to head to Golden Gai in Shinjuku. This well-known area of Tokyo is famous for its nightlife. You’ll find 6 parallel alleyways with tiny bars crammed everywhere (there’s said to be over 200 bars). Many tourists come here for a bit of bar hopping (if you manage to find a seat), though there are a handful of bars that cater to a “Japanese-speaking only” crowd. While I can’t say I loved Golden Gai, I thought it was a unique experience that is worth checking out.
There are so many fantastic restaurants in Tokyo that planning where to eat during your stay can be a bit overwhelming. Many well-established restaurants begin taking reservations upwards of a month in advance, so if you’re not in the know, you’ll likely miss out on an opportunity to have a fantastic meal. While many of these restaurants tend to be quite fancy, I discovered a hidden gem that I want to share with you: Narukiyo Tokyo. This restaurant only serves an omakase menu (meaning there is no menu), has insanely fun vibes (sit around the kitchen counter for added entertainment while enjoying the chef’s playlist and the awkward yet hilarious phallic objects scattered about the restaurant), and is basically guaranteed to be one of the best nights you’ll have in Tokyo.
Having walked by The Wellington at least once a day for the past two years (when I begrudgingly worked out at California Fitness [before it went bankrupt]), I actually never knew that URA Japanese Delicacy was in that building. Having gone unnoticed for so long, when I did her about it, I decided to give their modern Japanese cuisine a go. You can expect a lively bar (and outdoor covered beer garden!), comfortable and spacious dining area, and sleek decor at URA.
Hong Kong has opened its doors to the first renowned authentic kushikatsu restaurant from Osaka, Japan: Jan Jan Kushikatsu. Kushikatsu is basically a fancy way of saying fried skewers, which may sound simple enough to make, but what sets kushikatsu apart from other deep-fried Japanese fare is the special oil, batter, and dipping sauce used. Nestled in an unassuming building in Wan Chai with practically no signage is where you’ll find Jan Jan. Be prepared for a big Japanese “welcome” the moment you walk through the door and into the homey restaurant.
The saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” rings true to the unassuming exterior of SAAM, despite Chef Patrick creating fabulous fine dining dishes in the kitchen. Tucked away on Graham Street in Central, it’s likely you’ve passed by SAAM multiple times and didn’t think much about it. Having recently revamped the menu and concept of the restaurant, SAAM is ready to make a big splash in Hong Kong’s dining scene with well thought-out tasting menus. The newest venture, after SAAM’s successful “Back to School” menu, is a kaiseiki inspired winter tasting menu highlighting seasonal ingredients and using various methods of preparation for each course.
Kyoto Joe, located in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong, is a contemporary Japanese restaurant with a stylish and unpretentious interior. Whether you’re looking to grab a bite to eat and some drinks after work or are wanting to go on a dinner date with friends, Kyoto Joe has the right atmosphere, with its various dining rooms, to suit any type of occasion. The service is friendly and quick, and the food consists of high quality ingredients ranging from sushi to ramen to grilled dishes. At the end of the day, you really can’t go wrong with a meal at Kyoto Joe.