Casual/Semi-Casual Eats in Tokyo, Spring and Summer 2023

Tokyo is an inexhaustible city where you can get almost every kind of food. Lots of great food requires reservations and advanced planning, but I always save half of a trip for walk-ins and exploring casual eats. I’m sure there are many other options perhaps just as good if not better than the below, but here are some casual / semi-casual eats that I’ve enjoyed recently.

TLDR:

  • In Azabujuban - for lunch, burger at Aldebaran, then walk 1 min to Savoy Tomato and Cheese if you can
  • In Yoyogi - for breakfast, Nata de Cristiano’s for Portuguese egg tarts then walk 1 min to Camelback Espresso & Sandwich or Fuglen for coffee
  • In Omotesando - for lunch of casual, easy sushi, Kaiten Sushi Ginza Onodera then walk around Omotesando/Jingumae/Harajuku
  • In Marunochi - breakfast takeout and food gifts from Echire. I liked the sweet butter croissant but the salty one is great, too.

Burger: Aldebaran

“The Real Baran” burger - wagyu patty, soft-cooked egg, melted cheddar, teriyaki sauce, spiced onion chutney. Extremely good, especially the bun - just the perfect pillowy texture, not too thick, but substantial enough so it doesn’t wilt with the juices. The fries are also excellent - probably the best I’ve had. This burger is right up there with POPL in Copenhagen for me, but for different reasons.

Located in Azabujuban. If you have room, bang bang at Savoy Tomato and Cheese pizza about 50 feet away.



Kaiten sushi: Kaiten Sushi Ginza Onodera

Great QPR and an easy, streamlined experience with a pretty broad selection of sushi that is better than it needs to be. The akazu rice isn’t bad, not near top tier of course but certainly fine for kaiten.

Features yamayuki tuna - the chutoro is the sweet spot. They parade whole fish around (this time it was yagara) and orders come out quickly. iPad ordering (in English, too, with pictures) limited to 4 orders at a time but honestly they kept coming out so quickly, that you don’t need more than 4 orders every time. You can simply submit another order right after anyway, and there’s a live bill and order history time-stamped. Good for the whole family - there’s also tables next to the bar, and several people brought young children. You can get full off of decent kaiten sushi guilt free for quite a deal. Of course it’s not high-end sushi but given that it’s kaiten and with a streamlined, casual experience, it checks many boxes. For non-sushi eaters, there’s also a surprisingly light chicken karaage and the like.

In Omotesando right across Omotesando Hills. So, lots to do after - coffee at Koffee Mameya or LittleCloud at Visvim in GYRE, doughnuts at Higuma Donuts, etc. for a pick-me-up, visit an animal cafe in Jingumae or Harajuku, all walking distance. Omotesando is absolutely swamped now on weekends, almost unrecognizable from a few years ago; try coming during the week for lunch just walk in at opening or you may have to wait 15 minutes or so.


Tendon: Kaneko Hannosuke Nihonbashi

Way better than the West LA outpost. Shatteringly crisp (and it stayed that way). and the sesame oil batter is nice, not too overpowering but satisfying. Always a crazy line here at the Nihonbashi shop, so come near closing.

Stuffed for about $11. The standard bowl comes with 2 kurumaebi, 1 large piece of anago, 1 kakiage of kobashira, 1 soft egg, 1 shishito pepper, and 1 nori.

Noods

  • Ginza Sato Yosuke
    Inaniwa udon from Akita. I always go for the warm bowl with tempura. Since it’s from Akita, they also have iburigakko (good) and a chicken rice bowl (not bad). No English menu but it’s easy to order, and there’s always some foreigners here. I ran into the sushi chef from Kiyota here since it’s so close by.



  • Tsurutontan
    Udon bistro that’s expanded to NY, but this location in Tokyu Plaza Ginza is pretty centrally located if you’re spending the day shopping in Ginza (and they close at 11pm everyday). I was picking up some Star Wars souvenirs for a friend at Tokyu Plaza and needed somewhere to eat, so I ducked into here. To my surprise, 1) they serve basashi (horse sashimi) and 2) there’s no price difference for choosing up to 3x noodles portion. I’ve seen other shops offer 2x noodles at no upcharge, but 3x is quite a big portion. I did 2x after some appetizer and was quite full. Udon is fine, nothing special, but the setting is easy if you need a relaxed shop at any hour. Easily customizable ordering via iPad in English, private enough for solo dining, some Aramasa sake on order, overall a decent spot at any hour. You should sign in for the waitlist on the ipad as soon as you get out of the always-crowded elevators and note that they will call out table numbers only in Japanese.

Premium horse sashimi - served with a strong soy dipping sauce, myoga, grated ginger and garlic, red onion, and lemon. Meaty and delicious. Aramasa colours was OK with this, not the best pairing but the horse meat had a very satisfying chew and given its rarity stateside, I was happy anyway.


I was on a destination to get some famous caneles at this hidden shop somewhat nearby.

Soba Hatari was not bad for the area, not necessarily a destination but solid. I thought the dashimaki tamago was more of the well-done style, though. Soba itself and tempura was a B+ but satisfying.



  • Kamo to Negi
    Duck ramen in Ueno. Not a fan of the area, but the ramen was rather unique and quite good. I generally don’t like queuing for ramen since it’s a 10-minute meal, but this was a very satisfying bowl with a very savory broth of long-stewed duck and negi.

You can choose 2 types of negi. I choose the grilled ones, which exploded with juice, and the shaved whites. Order via machine, get a ticket, then line up - there’s always a big queue, I waited about 30 mins after getting there around 10:30am. They’ll take your order ticket while you’re in line and by the time you sit down, the food comes out in like 2 minutes. Duck chashu was great, the karaage was OK but the batter didn’t adhere to the duck as much.


A super focused and minimal space. There are 2 food items on the menu: tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese and tagliatelle alla bianco.

The pasta texture here is quite something - very thin, with the right stiffness and suppleness so it gathers easily on the fork but dances in the mouth with a fresh bite back. A clearly different league than say Pasta Sisters in LA, where I ate lunch today. To me, better than the tagliatelle I’ve had at Funke’s restaurants, due to its thinner and livelier bounce. The Bolognese sauce itself was alright - dry as it should be, but Funke’s ragu is richer. The pasta en bianco was exceptional though, with just cheese, pepper, and olive oil.

This is masterful technique with handmade pasta showcasing exceptional texture. Not really much of a traditional “restaurant” per se, as there’s even a notice that one “will not eat well here.”

Not centrally located, maybe 40 mins from Ginza or so in a residential area.





Pizza: Pizza Studio Tamaki

Still pretty good, but not quite what I remembered it to be this time. I think the service was a little slow, to the frustration of some other parties. Tamaki-san was there but pizzas were made by his assistant who worked the bar as well, and she did a good job. Actually the margherita pizza was very good. I think the appetizers were not quite as good as the previous time, and the special “tikka masala pizza” sounded great but the sauce was a bit dry. Overall, it’s still a solid choice if you’re in Roppongi but these days I may prefer Savoy overall for my pizza. I guess I’m being a little harsh on this because the standard of pizza is so high in Japan.

Margherita, always


Chicken Tikka Masala pizza

Escabeche - like a “nanbanzuke.” Fried shisamo this time.

cf. a prior visit: fried sawara, but the use of pink peppercorns and the proportions were done better.


Ocotpus and fennel - maybe slice the fennel a little thinner/smaller, so the octopus’s texture isn’t lost as much.

Tonkatsu: Narikura (Minami-Asagaya)

Soft, light fry, excellent quality pork. Hard to get into and somewhat pricy for tonkatsu, but worth a try for excellent pork and technique. Not centrally located to touristy areas.


Butagumi
A popular chain with locations in Roppongi Hills


and Aoyama
with an excellent Srilankan curry

Darker fry than at Narikura, but always pretty solid and easy to get in to. Not a fan of Roppongi, but we picked a random hand and ended up here and it was quite satisfying. Sure, one can do “better” but Butagumi is always a solid choice to me.

Unagi: Maruya

Unagi no hitsumabushi from Nagoya, here in Tokyo Midtown Roppongi. Not the highest Tabelog rating, but whatever we were famished around Midtown Roppongi and this was open a bit later in the afternoon. Surprisingly quite good. Everything was executed nicely and even if this wasn’t a destination spot, we really enjoyed all the dishes.

kimo - grilled livers


uzaku - with vinegared cucumber.

umaki - rolled in an omelette with grated daikon

1.5x portion

one of the styles, with dashi broth, shiso, green onion, and wasabi. I just liked the donburi the best

Snacks:

Croissant: Echire
Very worth the 15-minute queue outside in Marunochi. Exceptional croissant and the smell in the boutique is almost worth the wait itself.


Egg Tarts: Nata de Cristiano
Excellent Portuguese egg tarts. Disappointed I’ve lost my pictures of them, but get these when in Yoyogi. Great option for a breakfast run alongside Camelback/Fuglen coffee nearby.

Coffee and sandwich: Camelback Sandwich and Espresso

Lamb bacon sando and the “Immortal Latte.” In Yoyogi, near the park. Perhaps a good pick me up after a morning run in the park. This place is getting increasingly busy - if the line is too long, go to Fuglen (from Oslo, Norway) or Coffee Supreme nearby.


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Excellent tips.

The 50% sel croissant from Echire is absolutely marvelous - Better than any croissant I’ve ever had in France (or anywhere else for that matter).

PST was a big hit with my family on my last visit (November 2022). But Savoy still offers a better margherita, I agree. Have you tried Trattoria Da Isa (in Nakameguro)? I loved that place as well.

Most of the eateries on the top floors of the depatos (department stores) like Isetan and Takashimaya will not require advance reservations. And of course, their basement depachikas are also great sources of takeaway food (which you can often immediately bring to the rooftop garden area of that store to consume)…

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Yes, love the Echire croissants. I agree, after two recent trips to Paris as well. Perhaps one might find Boulangerie Utopie’s in Paris a bit easier to scarf down several of them, but Echire Marunochi’s croissants are next level delicious.

I didn’t make it to Da Isa but it was on my list - unfortunately they’re closed on Mondays, and that’s the day I was in the area. Italian food in Japan is great. I like Er Bistecarro de Magnaccioni for carbonara in Ginza.

Yes, Ginza Six offers decent dining upstairs too, albeit a bit smaller in choice. The teppan was a very decent walk-in place and they have a nice rooftop garden to eat some desserts from the depachika of sorts below.

I did like some of the walk-ins at Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya as well. Isetan is great but I don’t love Shinjuku. Yes, the depachikas are amazing - almost too much choice! Between department stores and train stations, one can eat surprisingly quite well in Tokyo.

I’m back next month with a more casual schedule this time, so I’ll be definitely frequenting the depachikas a lot.

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Amazing post! Thanks

So what did you eat that wasn’t casual/semi-casual?

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Thanks. It’s almost hard to have a bad meal there. I also ate lots of very good sushi, some beef, French, kappo, and a high end izakaya.

Next time, more tempura.

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Incredible! My partner and I are venturing to Kyoto & Tokyo next month.

How does one go about getting in touch with Base for a reservation?

You know I’m not sure other than calling. They’re not on a famous online booking site as far as I know. But, I actually walked in.

Their phone number is +81-3-5844-6992 if perhaps you can speak Japanese or you have a hotel concierge that can call for you.

It is a very small restaurant with a very sparse menu. It’s also largely a residential / near Tsukuba University, and I’m not aware of much else in the area. That is to say, if you go without a reservation, consider goijg early so that in case it doesn’t work out (or you’re still hungry), you can venture back into places that are more central for lunch.

Happy travels!

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Revised the title to include summer as I’m just returning now from another visit to Tokyo (and a couple of day trips to Osaka).

It was hot, no getting around that. But it was also much less crowded than in April (probably about 1/3 the tourists from April). Reservations were easier to come by in general. Hotels also cost quite a bit less than they did in March/April.

In Akasaka, at the Kioicho Garden Terrace

  • Oden at Manwu. A solid and relaxing spot with excellent service and a diverse oden menu with some rare finds (saezuri…whale tongue!). I walked in here on the first night and am glad that I got a counter seat. Oden is comforting and the chef and okami-san are so welcoming. Chef speaks some English and he and okami-san saw me out and bowed at the door until I was completely out of sight!

All locals but they do have an 11 or so course menu in English for foreigners for about $80. If you can order in Japanese, you can order a la carte and have a solid meal for maybe about half of that. Not the full menu just a sample

Beef tendon and bean sprouts


Daikon teriyaki

Various fish cake. Good snappy texture. One w/ gobo, one w/ ginger.

Saezuri…whale’s tongue marinated. Tastes like a mix between fatty bonito and turtle, delicious with an interesting melty, slippery chew.

Konjak noodles. Great ender with snappy texture

Counter

I believe that it’s a branch or an Osaka restaurant. Kioicho Garden Terrace is always a relaxing space. Kioicho Mitani, Mitani Bettei, and Imahan are just steps away (and all very good in their own right!).

In Nihombashi

  • Katsu at Hajime Hanare. I became aware of Hajime in April when I noticed a big queue of locals for lunch. Now they recently opened a second location about a minute away, actually right next to the Tendon Hannosuke Honten (so it smells great waiting in line). Don’t be deterred gt the lines. Most of it is actually for Hannosuke. When I went around noon, there was a line of 4. Yes it was 99 degrees out, but the staff brought out umbrellas and cold water for everyone in line while taking our orders.

I actually went with ebifurai instead of tonkatsu. This was gigantic and the shrimp were legitimately heavy. It’s 2 pieces of shrimp but each piece has 3 kurumaebi fried as one. With an omelet over rice and a side tartar sauce into which you mash a boiled egg. Delicious and super satisfying. Also added in some excellent fried squid for $4. All locals but I just saw a Timeout article and apparently this special ebifurai is limited, but it’s making the rounds in social media.



  • Izakaya (forgot the name) in the Mitsukoshimae station by an exit escalator…I noticed this place in April when there were a lot of loud salarymen drinking outside by the storefront with tons of Jikon, Aramasa, and Juyondai bottles. Ventured in this time and was greeted by a jolly man who looked like a Japanese version of Vincent Laval.

An izakaya menu right up my alley in style. Used a translator but they really tried earnestly communicate as my Japanese is limited and broken. The food is solid but really about having a meal geared to some great sakes.

  • Basashi - raw horse heart (in sesame oil) and loin.
  • Chutoro maguro sashimi
  • Aji namerou (mashed horse mackerel with ginger, miso, sesame, and shiso)
  • Anko karaage (fried monkfish)
  • Kakifurai (fried oyster)
  • Narazuke (baby watermelon pickle from Nara)
  • Iburigakko (smoked daikon pickle from Akita)
  • Katsuo onigiri (rice ball with soy marinated katsuobushi)
  • Tonjiru (pork and miso soup)

Jikon tokubetsu
Aramasa X-Type, R-Type, and private lab Hinotori
Maruo Yorokobi Gaijin

All for about $100 out the door.








Coredo Muromachi (Terrace): inari at Kaiboku. They only sell one thing: dashiinari for takeout. Only option is 4 or 8. The inari is a little lighter and has a sweet dashi umami flavor. The rice is a little bit moister, but it’s wrapped around well. Nice snack!

In Toranomon

  • Toranomon Hills Yokocho. Some decent options in a nice office building. Buzzing at night. Even the Cantonese food was pretty good - a branch of Akasaka Rikyu.

In Ueno:

  • Old school yoshoku at Ponta Honke.

This place is a classic yoshoku legend. Not my favorite part of town but it has history. They supposedly were one of the first to fry tonkatsu (previously it was baked)…? Anyway, their Demi-glacé is famous and apparently takes 3 weeks to cook.

The ox tongue stew was fantastic. I loved this place. Their prices are on the higher side for yoshoku, but it is a comfortable and quiet place with a lot of history, so I get it. And, the other yoshoku place I tried to go - Grill Grand - was closed for the fireworks festival.


In Nakameguro

  • Neapolitan pizza at Da Isa. As @J_L recommended above. This was really good! Margherita for $12.50. Note they also have a DOP bufala mozzarella version for a little more, but I realized too late. Come at opening.

In Omotesando

  • tea and wagashi or a small course menu at Sasha Kanetanaka

Bright, pleasant, and relaxing place to spend a lighter lunch or just some tea and wagashi. Nice space. Most customers were groups of women having wagashi and tea. It’s located right in the main drag of Omotesando, but upstairs and in the back so it doesn’t feel crowded. A few steps from GYRE and just across Omotesando Hills.

Make a reservation as it fills up. I was here on a business lunch so I didn’t take many pictures. But the ume-shiso somen was very refreshing.

On another note, I’ve come to realize that somen can be amazing. At the high end, I think it’s my favorite Japanese noodle.

Some coffee

In Shimokitazawa

In Shintomicho, Bongen. Went here after Sushi Hashimoto. Shintomicho has some good semi casual French wine bars / restaurants such as Simba and some hidden gems


In Nihombashi at COREDO Muromachi, Yanaka Coffee.

Gifts

Multiple locations

  • Chocolate Gateau Cake from Ken’s Cafe. I get gifts for meetings at the one by Gaienmae station, Aoyama. Simple but delicious unfortunately the shelf life is so short it’s hard to bring back.

  • Brandy cake or a box of caramels from Gendy. Only in Aoyama and Ginza. They sell 30 cakes a day. Rich and dense, good to share. Pair with Darjeeling tea. They also recommended champagne.

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Hell yeah man! This looks all super tasty… My girlfriend and I are planning to hit the Kioicho Garden Terrace!

Thanks for your advice re: Base; our schedule changed a bit and we’re going elsewhere. We have reservations at Sicilia-ya.

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Have a great time! Kioicho is a little quiet but good for some meal options, then hop on the metro onto some sightseeing / tourist duties. Enjoy!

@pomodoro

Any other recs for good casual eats near major train stations have 8 hours in November to eat!

Specifically unagi, omurice, gyukatsu, oyakodon/katsudon, Demi glacé food, or soba/udon near Ginza, Tokyo, or shinbashi station or general vicinity.

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Thanks that’s all the way in narita though!

Has anyone used jpneazy for booking?

I didn’t; it was not recommended when I looked into it. It may work, but I stick with whatever official reservation system a restaurant specifies; that’s usually that’s Omakase or Tablecheck. Hotel concierges, no matter how nice, aren’t great ways to secure top reservations now, unfortunately, but they can get you in to other places that aren’t so in demand.

Let me get back to you a little later. You can eat all of those foods in 8 hours?? :sweat_smile: I could recommend what I’d do in 8 hours, but it doesn’t include all of those and you may have different food priorities.

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Well I would love to hear your thoughts! Even if its not the food I highlighted.

Currently I am contemplating sushi taichi lunch or tachigui sushi akira and filling my time with other food in and around ginza and surrounding areas.

Ginza - Tokyo Food Page Restaurant Listings (bento.com)
Search this site. You can change location too.

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I’ve used it several times to success. Never had an issue, if they cant get you the reservation you dont pay.

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Great thanks for that information.

There wasn’t anything online regarding it since pre pandemic so I wasn’t sure what the deal was

Anyone know of a good shop to buy a musk melon or other melon fruits at in ginza?

I’m looking for something akin to what Brandon go serves for hayato dinners.