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.
- 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.
“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.
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.
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.
Famous udon shop. With tempura, always. It’s always got a queue, maybe not quite worth waiting a long time for, but rather good nonetheless if there was no wait. Udon itself was better than Tsurutontan’s, but I have some difficulty waiting 45 minutes outside for lunch even if the food itself was enjoyable.
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.
Mugi to Olive
A different styled ramen featuring clams, chicken, and olive oil. In Ginza. Good clam flavor.
In the Tokyo Ramen Yokocho, opened 2021 (not the only ramen area in the sprawling Tokyo Station). One can eat well in Tokyo’s subway stations, and there’s about 7 shops in this “yokocho” (and more at “Tokyo Ramen Street” elsewhere in the station). Hit the spot after seeing a baseball game.
Unconventional green curry ramen as I was visiting a friend near Setagaya. Actually quite tasty!
City Country City
Records and itameshi (Japanese style pasta) in Shimokitazawa.
Base - La Pasta dello Sfoglino
Handmade pasta by a real pasta master Kosaku Kawamura, who trained in Bologna under Alessandra Spisni (the teacher of Evan Funke). I learned about Base through Evan Funke’s recommendation, and “the warrior” Kawamura-san apparently has “perfect technique” just as his teacher says.
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.
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.
A popular chain with locations in Roppongi Hills
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 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
one of the styles, with dashi broth, shiso, green onion, and wasabi. I just liked the donburi the best
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.