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Tokyo is one of the world's great cities for foodies. Not only is there a fabulous variety of premium eateries (collectively with more Michelin stars than Paris) but the wonderfully diverse and exciting world of Japanese cuisine reaches its highest peaks here. From , the elaborate and expensive Japanese cuisine themed around the four seasons, to roadside classics like noodle dishes, deep-fried , mouth-watering pork, and chicken grilled on skewers, Tokyo has it all in abundance.
Then there is the perennial western favourite, sushi - impeccably served in a thousand different varieties around the city. Note that when eating sushi it is usual to eat with your fingers, and go easy on the soy sauce and . For a light meal on the move, you can also grab a lunchtime box from any convenience store and find a seat in the many quiet enclaves amid the city bustle. For an unforgettable experience, treat yourself to a pricey but incredibly fresh sushi breakfast at one of the restaurants near the Tsukiji Fish Market in Chuo.
You can also visit the basement level of nearly any department store, which will contain a number of shops selling prepared foods. Piece together your own meal, or just browse the free samples. Note that these stores will begin discounting their food around 7pm.
Chopsticks are used in most restaurants, except those serving western cuisine. You can ask for western utensils, but you are better off getting into the spirit and practicing with chopsticks before your visit! When eating noodles it is quite normal to pick up the bowl and drink from it, using the chopsticks to eat the solid bits. Slurping is also normal; in fact, it improves the flavour of the food.
In most restaurants you will be given a wet towel known as before eating. Use this to freshen up by wiping your face and hands. While ordering in a restaurant without an English menu can be intimidating, many restaurants have plastic food models on display, and most offer set menus with popular combinations.
Tipping is not customary in Japan, and attempts to provide gratuity are likely to be met with confusion. At more upmarket restaurants a 10 to 15 percent service charge may be added to your bill. Smaller restaurants and roadside stalls will not accept credit cards.
Japanese / 4-5-6 Roppongi, Minato-ku
This well-known establishment has become something of a tourist landmark in Roppongi, probably because of its delicious yakitori fare and reasonable prices. Yakitori is the Japanese version of the barbecue, with chicken, beef, pork or fish kebabs grilled over oak coals, served with large bowls of crudité vegetables like crisp raw cabbage, carrots and courgettes. Nanbantei offers bargain lunch menus and specialities like namban-yaki (grilled beef dipped in hot miso) and asapura-maki (green asparagus wrapped in thinly sliced pork). Dinner only. Closed Saturdays.
La Tour D'Argent
French / New Otani Hotel, 4-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku
Decidedly opulent, the lavish La Tour D'Argent, like its famous sister in Paris, sets the standard for French haute cuisine. The high standard of the food and décor is only matched by the prices in this celebrated establishment situated in the New Otani Hotel, which was recently ranked #1 in Tokyo by Zagat. The house speciality is the duck, specially flown in daily from Brittany in France. Other highlights on the menu are pigeon and fricassee of lobster. It is all prepared by chefs trained at the Paris restaurant and an impressive wine list accompanies the outstanding menu, which changes seasonally. Closed Mondays. Dinner only. Reservations essential and dress code is jacket and tie.
What the Dickens?
British / 4th Floor, Roob 6 Building, 1-13-3 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku
Good old English steak and kidney pie in the heart of Japan? Charles Dickens himself would feel at home in Tokyo's British pub which serves up a variety of ales and a down-to-earth atmosphere helped along with wooden beams, sprung floors, hand-painted pub signs and dried hops. What the Dickens? also offers live music every night of the week. The menu is reasonably priced and consists of several traditional British favourites such as cottage pie, accompanied by heaps of potatoes and vegetables. Closed Mondays.
Italian / TBS Garden building, basement, 5-1-3 Akasaka
The twin restaurants of La Granata and Granata Moderna are situated in the basement of the Tokyo Broadcasting Systems building, but the Italian cuisine on offer is top level. La Granata offers a traditional ambience with check tablecloths and brickwork, while Granata Moderna is elegantly modern with mirrors and stained glass. Both offer delicious pasta specialities.
Japanese / 4-8-5 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku (near Omotesando station)
This establishment offers the novel experience of eating in a Japanese bathhouse. The baths are gone, but the large building, which now houses Maisen restaurant, was converted from a sento (public bath) about 20 years ago. The huge space makes for an airy dining room where discerning gourmets can enjoy a range of Japanese delights. Speciality of the house is Tonkatsu, tender and crisp deep fried pork cutlets. Open daily from 11am.
Japanese / 1-1-2 Shimo-Meguro, Meguro-ku
It is worth waiting in line to sample the fare at Tokyo's most renowned tonkatsu (deep fried pork) outlet. Waiters take orders while patrons queue for a spot at the well-worn Formica-topped tables, watching the hustle and bustle of the dozens of busy cooks in action. The reward is delectable treats like hirekatsu (fillet of lean pork) reishoki, or rosukatsu (loin cut), crunchy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth tender on the inside, or perhaps a tasty kushikatsu (skewered meat with onions). Tonki is closed Tuesdays and the third Monday of every month.
Japanese / 1-10-15 Shubuya, Shibuya-ku
The humble noodle is elevated to aristocratic status at this establishment, where waitresses in starched blue kimonos hand out brocade bound menus featuring more than 50 variations of noodle dishes. The background music is usually Vivaldi, Mozart or Beethoven, to complement the handmade noodles that form the base to each artistic dish. Patrons can watch noodles being made in the window of the restaurant before entering. Chotoku is closed on the first and third Monday of the month.
American / Piramide Building, 1F, 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Roti serves some of Tokyo's most authentic American grill and rotisserie cuisine. The ambience is relaxed and causal, the waitstaff friendly and helpful, and the food delicious! Many expats frequent this eatery due to its wide selection of beers and old favourites such as the deluxe blue cheese burger, char-grilled steaks and sticky Shanghai style pork ribs and the classic Mexican tortillas and jalapeno cheese dip. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Booking recommended.
American / 2-25-17 Dogenzaka, Shibuya
Located below the Ruby Room music venue, this small and modest eatery is a favourite with locals. The chef's recommendations include rosemary grilled chicken seasoned with lemon, garlic, and rosemary, served on garlic mashed potatoes and favourites include grilled Swordfish crusted with herb and pistachio crumbs accompanied by a potato rosti. Dinner entitles diners to a free entrance at the Ruby Room upstairs. Open daily for dinner. Reservations recommended.