Cuisines in Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the world's most exciting dining destinations. The city features a wide range of both local and regional Japanese cuisine in addition to all types of international fare. Its top restaurants have accrued more Michelin stars than both Paris and New York combined. But good food can be found at every price range from cheap hole-in-the-wall joints to expensive high-class restaurants with every budget in between.

Tokyo Specialties:

1. Nigiri-zushi
The most popular type of sushi today, nigiri-zushi originated as a fast-food dish in Tokyo. Consisting of a piece of seafood put onto a small ball of rice, it takes much less time and effort to prepare than more traditional sushi dishes. Nigiri-zushi are served at all sushi restaurants from inexpensive conveyor belt sushi to Michelin-starred restaurants. The Tsukiji Outer Market is one of the best places to eat fresh sushi.

2. Tempura
Another of Japan's most famous dishes, tempura also underwent major development in the capital city. Before the Edo Period, mainly vegetables were used for tempura, but Edo cooks started to deep fry seafood from Edo Bay in tempura batter, resulting in the more varied dish we know today. A visit to a specialized tempura restaurant (tempura-ya) is the recommended way to enjoy tempura.

3. Soba
Soba noodles (buckwheat noodles) are a popular dish in many regions of Japan. In Tokyo, they were particularly popular during the Edo Period, and can be found all across the city today, including at standing soba eateries and establishments specialized in soba (soba-ya). The dipping sauce used in Tokyo is traditionally relatively thick, and diners are encouraged to dip their noodles into it only lightly.

4. Chankonabe
Chankonabe is a hot pot dish that serves as the diet of sumo wrestlers. It is a healthy, protein-rich dish that contains mainly fish or chicken and seasonal vegetables. The best place to try chankonabe is at one of the specialty restaurants around the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium in Ryogoku, many of which are run by ex-sumo wrestlers.

5. Monjayaki
Monjayaki is a type of runny pancake made of flour and water mixed with ingredients like sliced cabbage and small pieces of seafood and meat, which are then cooked on a hot grill. A small spatula is used to scrape some of the cooked monjayaki and eat it off the grill. The "Monjayaki Street" in Tsukishima is the best place to eat the dish.

6. Tsukudani
Tsukudani are small pieces of food that were simmered in a mixture of soy sauce and sweet sake to preserve them. They are commonly enjoyed as an accompaniment to a bowl of cooked rice. Tsukudani has its roots on Tsukudajima Island near Tsukishima where Tokugawa Ieyasu relocated fishermen skilled in making tsukudani.

7. Tokyo Sweets
Tokyo is home to various types of traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi). These include ningyoyaki, small red bean paste filled cakes shaped like dolls or other forms; dorayaki, a pastry made of sweet pancakes with a layer of red bean paste sandwiched in between; and anmitsu, a dessert typically consisting of agar jelly, a scoop of red bean paste, small mochi balls and seasonal fruits topped with sweet black sugar syrup.

Tokyo’s Food Basements

All the Department Stores have them – the basement floor is like a supermarket on steroids. You can literally find almost every type of food here. My eyes glaze over. Each major rail station has them. Takashimaya, Mitsukoshi, Keio, Isetan are all just a few of the many. If you are looking for great restaurants, check the top floors as well – not your typical American mall food for sure. Even under the subway stations there are underground ramen dining areas.

Regional Specialties Foods could be sampled around Tokyo come from Okinawa, Kagoshima, Fukuoka, Kyoto and Hokkaido.

International Dining: Popular foods such as Chinese, Indian, Italian, French and Korean can be found virtually anywhere in the city, there are also a few districts serving less prominent international cuisines especially around the embassies located in the Azabu, Hiroo and Roppongi districts. Shin Okubo, popularly known as Tokyo's Koreatown, is home to a large number of Korean residents. Kagurazaka has a significant French presence due to a French school and a French-Japanese culture center nearby. Ikebukuro is known as the Chinatown with variety of Chinese restaurant.

Casual Dining: Izakaya are the most common type of casual dining establishments and are good places to try a variety of Japanese foods. Shinjuku, Yurakucho and Asakusa are a few casual dining areas around Tokyo that are well known for their atmosphere.

Fine Dining: Fine dining restaurants are often found on the top floors of skyscrapers and major hotels in Tokyo Station, Shiodome, Shinjuku, Ginza and Azabu etc.

Themed Dining: Themed cafes such as maid and butler cafes, as well as pet cafes are popular attractions. Maid cafes can easily be found in Akihabara whereas butler cafes are more concentrated around Ikebukuro. Pet cafes can be found in small numbers around the city. There are also other types of themed cafes such as the Moomin, Gundam, AKB48 cafes and food themed parks, which could be found in Tokyo as well.

Japanese-style Breakfast: The easiest place to try a Japanese-style breakfast are hotels, many of which offer Japanese breakfast set meals or buffets with both Japanese and Western dishes.