Tokyo is one of those cities that I can’t stop re-visiting. There’s really no other place in the world where boundless expression and measured restraint fit side-by-side with such ease. But let’s be real, I really just go back for the food.
Yoyogi Park (Yoyogi Village):
Just steps away from Yoyogi station is one eco-conscious musician’s idea of an urban oasis. Part eco-park, part shopping arcade, part lifestyle hub, Yoyogi Village is filled with shops, cafes and restaurants, all operated with thoughtful simplicity. Go there for a break from the frenzy that is Tokyo, to be inspired by the next generation of Japanese creatives, but also to get fed really really well.
An ideal visit would begin in the afternoon with a pastry from pour-kur, the tiny on-site bakery, known for its house-made yeast. With your pastry in hand, explore the complex via the elevated wooden walkways. Come dinner time, head to code kurkku for intricate japanese-italian fusion organic cuisine (reservation recommended). And to cap the night off, enjoy jazz and drinks at the music bar rpm.
Tonkatsu Maisen Tokyu Toyoko (Maisen):
I’m not really a fan of tonkatsu. When it comes to deep fried meat, I much prefer fried chicken - juicier, meatier, tastier. But the tonkatsu from Maisen is hands down one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The coating is light, but super crispy; the pork is perfectly marbled, so every bite almost melts in your mouth. You’re going to have to queue for this place, but it’s worth it.
Tip: If you don’t want a sit down meal or to wait as long, the Omotesando location has a tonkatsu sandwich takeaway counter just around the corner. Fried meat between white bread, why not?
Omotesando Koffee: (Note — Now Closed As They Are Moving To Hong Kong)
Lunch at Maisen is best followed by a brief stroll in the neighbourhood and a stop at Omotesando Koffee. Hidden in the residential area of Omotesando, this one-man run coffee shop is a design dork’s dream: simple, elegant and honest. From a 3x3 meter metal cube, the owner serves an array of caffeinated beverages, only with full-cream milk, of course. Grab a coffee, head to the small courtyard, and soak it all in.
As far as high-end dining experiences go, this place is pretty special. There are only six tables, which should feel intimidating, but it really isn’t. As Chef Takazawa meticulously prepares each course from his podium in the middle of the dining room, his wife graciously tends to diners and makes you feel at home. The chef is known for his french technique and playful homage to Japanese cuisine. I can’t promise every single dish will be delicious, but I guarantee every dish will be surprising and delightful.
After being in Japan for a while, it gets hard to tell one omakase from another. A meal at Sushi Yoshitake, however, always manages to stand out. Think the basics done right, with a couple of insanely delicious curve balls that make the meal truly memorable. As an added bonus, Chef Yoshitake is also an absolute pleasure. Unfortunately, Sushi Yoshitake only has seven seats, so plan ahead!
Cover photo credit: Spreng Ben