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Journy's Definitive Guide To Tokyo's Best Dining

The ultimate Tokyo bucket list for diehard foodie travelers.

By Journy Admin

3 August 2018

Regular Tokyo restaurants are tricky enough to reserve, and the very best restaurants can be plain impossible. Journy cofounders and avid foodie travelers, Leiti and Susan, are lucky enough to have dined many many times around Tokyo (it helps a bit to be best friends with the chefs!).

Here are the best places for Japanese food that are definitely worth all the hoops you have to jump through—if you’re lucky enough to score a seat at even one.

(Psst…you can join our VIP Tokyo food tour in March to eat and drink at some of these top restaurants. Click to learn more.)

Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara

Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara

Why It’s The Best:

Chef-owner Kentaro Nakahara is a celebrity amongst yakiniku barbecue lovers both for his wagyu beef and for his personality. Born in San Jose, CA, Chef Nakahara returned to Japan at a young age and became a self-taught butcher and master of beef, which he sources directly from producers.

What You’ll Eat:

Opt for his yakiniku tasting menu and enjoy the best cuts of the finest wagyu grilled over charcoal burners at your table.

How To Reserve:

For foreign visitors, reservations are only accepted with pre-payment via Pocket Concierge for the Sumibi Yakiniku Nakahara Original Course menu at ¥23,000 per person.

Sushi Saito

There are only 7 spots in Sushi Saito, usually all booked up | luxeat

Why It’s The Best:

Possessing 3 Michelin stars, Sushi Saito has been called “the best sushi restaurant in the world” by renowned chef, Joel Robuchon. Intimate at 7 seats in the entire restaurant, Sushi Saito is located in a parking lot in the Ark Hills development in Tokyo’s Roppongi district.

What You’ll Eat:

Chef Takashi Saito has a reputation for smaller cuts of fish with a touch more salt in the rice than usual and delicate seasonings. If you’re lucky enough to snag a reservation, we recommend trying the ¥15,000 lunch omakase unless you want to splurge for the ¥30,000 dinner omakase. Either one crafted by this sushi chef will be a sushi experience not soon forgotten.

How To Reserve:

You can’t. They’re fully booked for the year, and almost all seats are held by regulars in Minato City.

Mitani

Master Mitani-san serves sushi directly from his palm | luxeat)

Why It’s The Best:

While less known outside of Japan compared to Sushi Saito, once you visit, you’ll understand why locals regard Mitani as one of Tokyo’s best. Mitani re-located in 2016 to Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioicho, where they serve just one group of diners at lunch and one at dinner.

What You’ll Eat:

When you arrive, the seat is yours and you can relax while enjoying Mitani's famous wine pairings, as well as start off with kaiseki-style dishes before you move into sushi and sashimi. Prices vary depending on the season but are generally around ¥30,000 per person, including wine pairings.

How To Reserve:

Up to 2 years in advance. While less known outside of Japan compared to Sushi Saito, Mitani is arguably an even more difficult reservation to book. Like Saito, Mitani is a place where hotel and credit card concierges are not able to help.

Sushi Hashiguchi

No photos are allowed inside Sushi Hashiguchi! | luxeat)

Why It’s The Best:

Hashiguchi has long been one of Tokyo's top sushi restaurants. Its Tablelog ratings put it just after the best sushi-ya in Tokyo, but it doesn't have any Michelin stars. If the no-photo policy is any indication, Chef Hashiguchi, with his anti-establishment mentality, has shunned the Michelin-inspectors. All the better to keep this intimate 9-seat spot under wraps. Here, Chef Hashiguchi works at the counter, assisted by his wife, who serves drinks and cooks some dishes in the kitchen where there is no other staff.

What You’ll Eat:

Hashiguchi serves dinner only, and you can expect to pay about ¥30,000 per person.

How To Reserve:

This is one of the only top 5 sushi places in Tokyo that can be booked well in advance by a 5-star hotel concierge, so be sure to plan at least 5-6 months in advance.

L'effervescence

French + Japanese = attention to detail that radiates | L'Effervescence

Why It’s The Best:

Tucked away near Chokokuji Temple is L’Effervescence, a Modern French restaurant that boasts two Michelin stars and a spot on San Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants list. In Tokyo, L’Effervescence is consistently in the top 10 of all restaurants. Decorated to feel like a private living room, you’ll find an intimate atmosphere that Chef Shinobu Namae hopes will make people feel happy and relaxed.

What You’ll Eat:

When it comes to Namae’s kitchen creations, he relies on precise European cooking techniques and seasonal, hard-to-find Japanese ingredients to create signature dishes. Dinner will run you about ¥30,000 per person.

How To Reserve:

The restaurant in the Nishi-Azabu district of Shinjuku accepts reservations exactly 2 months in advance.

Ginza Shimada

Shimada

Why It’s The Best:

Japan is known for its izakaya dining culture — dining bars where salarymen head after work to drink and snack. Ginza Shimada is perhaps the most refined izakaya of all. While keeping with the standing bar theme, Ginza Shimada has just a single 4-top table and a standing-room-only counter where only 6-8 diners could comfortably stand. The chef, Hiroshi Shimada, used to be at the helm of the 3-star Michelin Azabu Yukimura, before opening this neighborhood spot.

What You’ll Eat:

Here, you'll find beautiful dishes made from top quality ingredients served at the peak of perfection. Dishes include favorites like fresh soba dusted with bottarga, crab with lime, grilled beef, tempura fried cod milt, and more. A full tasting of the best menu items here will run you about ¥10,000 a person.

How To Reserve:

No English is spoken here, so best to have your hotel concierge request an “omakase” (chef’s choice selection) and assure them that you eat everything in order to have your reservation request accepted.

Torishiki

You get to see all the grilling action at Torishiki | Tabelog

Why It’s The Best:

This yakitori restaurant, founded in 2007, received its Michelin-star in 2015 and is notoriously hard to book. Chef Yoshiteru Ikegawa is a master of yakitori and uses a fan along with quick, dramatic gestures to control the temperature of the charcoal he uses to produce wonderfully smokey, juicy, perfectly cooked skewers. With a beautiful u-shaped bar counter with 17 seats, guests here are perfectly positioned to see all the grilling in action.

What You’ll Eat:

Torishiki offers just one omakase menu featuring the best delicacies and seasonal specialties -  all served up on skewers.

How To Reserve:

While technically this fine dining restaurant does accept bookings from hotel concierges two months in advance, there are notoriously elusive. They take reservations by phone on the 1st day of the month at 2 PM for up to 2 months ahead. The menu starts at ¥5,000 a person depending on how much you eat.

Extra Pro-Tip:

If you don’t have luck getting in here, you can try their sister restaurant, Gallus, which is also managed by the team at Torishiki and located a minute away. There, Ikegawa’s right-hand man, Tomohiko Abe cooks alongside Yasunori Yamamoto, whose background in Italian cuisine can be seen in the plating of a starter that resembles antipasti and woven throughout the meal in details like a garnish made of anchovy and vegetable. The chicken is also sourced from the same producer as at Torishiki.

Jimbocho Den

You've likely seen Jimbocho Den's food props all over your Insta | luxeat

Why It’s The Best:

At the Michelin-starred Jimbocho Den, you'll find modern kaiseki and haute cuisine at its finest and most playful. Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa is a bit of a rock star amongst foreign travelers and chefs eating out in Tokyo. He and his wife Emi-san are friendly and accessible.

What You’ll Eat:

Den’s meals use a variety of fun and customized props that you've liked seen all over your Instagram feed (Dentucky Fried Chicken with a Happy Meal toy? Dessert served in a "Star Comebacks" cup?).

How To Reserve:

Book via email exactly 2 months in advance, but note that Chef Zaiyu frequently travels away from Shibuya for chef collaborations (he’s done many in NYC, Bangkok, and beyond) and therefore may not be open when you are in Tokyo because of his travel schedule.

Gen Yamamoto

Mikael Leppä

Why It’s The Best:

A must-visit for Japanese cocktail lovers, Gen Yamamoto, is an 8 seat counter bar that creates bespoke cocktails and features a cocktail tasting menu with a progression of flavors created from carefully selected and seasonal local fresh produce (they take shiki, or Japanese seasonality, seriously here). Bartender Gen Yamamoto previously worked at Brushstroke in New York City, and because of that, speaks fluent English and will happily explain what fruits are in season and how he approaches his cocktail-making.

What You’ll Eat (Drink):

The 6-course cocktail omakase will set you back ¥6,500. As the cocktails are small tastings with a fresh hand-pressed juice paired with a spirit, you don’t have to worry about being too tipsy for your dinner.

How To Reserve:

Gen does not take reservations via any concierge, but you can email him directly to enquire at [email protected]

These are only a few of the best restaurants in Tokyo and if you can't score a reservation at one of these top spots, don't worry! Your Journy trip designer can help you select the best restaurants to fit your budget, preferences and location.

Craving more Japanese cuisine? Check out our other posts to find the best teppanyaki, ramen, sukiyaki, tonkatsu, soba, vegan, yakitori, okonomiyaki, miso, udon and more.

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Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara