Tokyo, as you might've heard, is home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world—230 as of 2019. However, if you're looking for top restaurants in Tokyo, you don't (necessarily) need to dine someplace expensive or difficult to get into. These are Tokyo's best restaurants, from multi-course kaiseki restaurants to family shops serving melt-in-your-mouth comfort food.
If you're looking to enjoy an authentic Teppanyaki experience in the heart of Shinjuku, Hakusyu is your best bet. From grilled Wagyu beef to succulent lobster tails, to chicken and even more veggies than you might assume, this is a downright decadent dining experience at what is certainly one of the top Tokyo restaurants.
Officially, Hakusyu doesn't accept reservations from abroad, which has led many websites to offer a reservation service for a fee. However, if you can't speak Japanese or call Japan but don't want to pay up, you can simply have your hotel's staff make the reservation on your behalf.
One of several sushi bars on this list of top restaurants in Tokyo, Sushi Aoyagi gains points for its location within Tokyo Station Hotel, a heritage accommodation housed inside the historical facade of ultra-modern Tokyo Station. Here it's all about the chef's choice, served either as a lighter sushi and sashimi course or a multi-course kaiseki set menu, which also featured miso soup, dessert and several cooked items.
TIP: If you have an evening flight departing one of Tokyo's two airports but don't want to bite off more than you can chew before you leave Japan, make a lunch reservation for Sushi Aoyagi, whose location makes it easy to be on your way when you're done.
We won't weigh in (at least not here) on whether Hiroshima- or Osaka-style okonomiyaki is the best (let alone original) version of Japan's famed savory pancake, which sees meat, vegetables and other ingredients stuffed inside sheets of egg, which are then generally doused with sauces and garnishes. Sometaro, located in Asakusa, has been serving up the same recipe of its classic okonomiyaki since 1937, however, so Tokyo has at least 80 years of evidence that it, too, should be in the running for Japan's best.
TIP: Sometaro is old-school in more ways than one. In addition to offering only traditional tatami mat seating, the restaurant accepts only cash.
If your search for top restaurants in Tokyo involves ramen noodle soup, it's likely to end at Rokurinsha. Located amid the so-called "Tokyo Ramen Street" of Tokyo Station, Rokurinsha differentiates itself from its neighbors because its specializes in tsukemen, a type of ramen where you cook cold noodles yourself by dipping them into a bowl of hot brother.
TIP: Rokurinsha is cash only—you actually order through a machine! Additionally, reservations are not possible so be prepared to wait in line. Unfortunately, because Tokyo Station is busy all day, Tokyo Ramen Street (Rokurinsha and elsehwere) always tend to be busy as well.
No trip to Tokyo is complete without a trip to an Izakaya, or traditional Japanese pub. And while there's a lot of familiar izakaya fare on offer at Shirubee, in the hip Shimo-Kitazawa neighborhood of Setagaya, the physical atmosphere of Shirubee somehow feels like going back in time, even if the service is contemporary. On the other hand, even seemingly traditional dishes have modern touches, such as nikujaka Japanese beef stew served with garlic bread, of all things.
TIP: Shirubee only accepts reservations via phone at +81 3-3413-3785, but many staff members speak English. Unlike many smaller Izakaya in Tokyo, Shirube does accept credit cards.
Arguably the best restaurant in Shinjuku and therefore among the top restaurants in Tokyo, Michelin-starred Kagurazaka Ishikawa presents a uniquely Japanese take on the uniquely Japanese kaiseki style of dining: Ingredients (and, therefore, menus) that correspond to the four seasons of Japan. If you come in winter, for example, one course might pair rich Japanese duck with delicate winter spinach.
TIP: Kagurazaka Ishikawa has outsourced its reservations to Omakase, a Japanese reservations platform in the beta stage as of August 2019. Note that the restaurant is closed during Golden Week, a busy domestic travel period for Japanese people in late April and early May.
Not all the top restaurants in Tokyo are Japanese—well, at least not purely. Akasaka's Takazawa, for its part, spotlights the French-Japanese fusion cuisine of chef Michelin-starred chef Yoshiaki Takazawa. Many elements of the tasting menu vary over time, but certain ones (such as a modular ratatouille, which seems crafted to resemble a Japanese bento box) are more or less staples.
TIP: Takazawa accepts reservations via email—and you do need to make one. This famed place only seats 10, so your chances of being able to walk in are minuscule, at best. If you don't receive a reply to your reservation request, make sure to check your spam folder, as the restaurant has reported problems with this.
Kanda Yabu Soba
Even if you love a delicate plate of sushi or a steaming bowl of ramen, there's sometimes nothing better than simple soba buckwheat noodles, served cold and dipped into wasabi-seasoned shoyu sauce. If this sounds right up your alley, consider a meal at Kanda Yabu Soba. In addition to offering such satisfying food, this restaurant is housed in an 80-year old Edo-style house near convenient Kanda station.
TIP: Reservations are not accepted here—and neither are credit cards. Come with plenty of cash, and with patience in case you need to wait.
There are few better examples of Japanese comfort food than tonkatsu (thick cut pork breaded in panko and deep friend)—and there's nowhere better in Tokyo to sample it than at Tonki. Situated in a historical home just steps from the popular Meguro River, Tonki has been serving up tender tonkatsu for more than 80 years—try its original classic tonkatsu to see the best evidence as to why.
TIP: Reservations aren't required for Tonki but you should expect to wait, especially during sakura season when nearby Meguro River is exploding with cherry blossoms. Don't let the spacious two-story design fool you into thinking you can walk right in!
Kyobashi Tempura Fukamachi
Tokyo has dozens of incredible tempura spots, but Fukamachi is a cut above the rest—and not because its flash-fried meats and veggies have earned the shop a Michelin star. Although many dishes here are of the traditional sort, the most popular one is also the most innovative one: A tempura version of uni sea urchin wrapped in aromatic oba leaf.
TIP: Fukamachi only accepts reservations by phone (+81-3-5250-8777) and in Japanese. If you can't speak Japanese and don't know anyone who can, speak to your hotel's concierge about getting a reservation.
Ain Soph. Ginza
Both in Tokyo specifically and in Japan in general, vegan food might not be the first place your mind goes. However, the artistic Japanese-style vegan fare on offer at Ginza's Ain Soph. can compete with the meatiest or fishiest items on this list, anyway. The shop's most famous offering is its vegan bento box, which sees fresh ingredients like lotus root and daikon radish paired with vegan versions of sushi and sashimi.
TIP: Like many restaurants in Tokyo, Ain Soph. closes for a few hours between lunch and dinner, in this case between 4-6 p.m. Make sure to time your visit accordingly.
If you've never been a fan of tofu, you probably haven't had it in Japan. Tokyo's legendary toufuya Ukai, which is located at the base of Tokyo Tower in Shiba Park, sets the record straight on how this misunderstood bean curd should be served. Among the recommended preparations of Ukai's tofu, which is prepared in-house with fresh spring water, is age-dengaku, wherein it is sliced, fried and then cooked over wood charcoal.
TIP: If you make a reservation and decide not to show, you'll need to pay 50 percent of the set menu cost, per-person, as a penalty. Don't change your mind!
Of all the rooftops in Tokyo, none are as well-known at that of the Park Hyatt Shinjuku, made famous in the iconic film "Lost in Translation." While it was the hotel's New York Bar that featured in that movie, Kozue is far from a second take. Featuring modern takes on traditional Japanese dishes that also emphasize seasonally available ingredients (think traditional tuna sashimi boxed in by seaweed "towers" that strangely resemble the skyscrapers just out your window), Kozue embodies both Tokyo's timeliness and its futuristic quality as well.
TIP: Kozue officially only requires reservations for parties of greater than 10 in size, but one is always recommended. On the other hand, it's easy to turn up at New York Bar without a prior reservation.
Listed among the world's Top 50 restaurants more than a few times, Minami-Aoyama's Narisawa is certainly one of the top Tokyo restaurants. Conceptually, traditional Japanese "Satoyama" culture (which centers sustainable harvest and conception, both over time and through the seasons) is at the center of two Michelin star Narisawa. The tasting menu changes by the day, but can manifest itself in dishes like "bread of the forest" made with live grains, hand-pickled mountain herbs and Hokkaido shrimp sashimi accented with the edible blossoms of fresh-picked flowers.
TIP: Reservations for Narisawa open on the first day of the month before you want to dine. If you wanted to eat dinner on Sept. 15, you could reserve your table as early as Aug. 1.
If you're on the hunt for Michelin-starred sushi but plan to be in Tokyo's northeastern Asakusa district rather than near Tokyo Station, Isshin is the place to go. Order the nightly tasting menu, which includes five starters and 10 pieces of sushi, with many starters prepared in the shigoto, or "stewing" style.
TIP: In spite of Isshin's almost legendary status, it's relatively easy to get a booking here, particularly if you go through a hotel concierge. Still, if you know your plans will include a meal here several weeks in advance, early is always better.
It's difficult to pick just one amazing Tokyo restaurant in Ginza, but Misono ticks a lot of boxes. In addition to the delicacies served off its steaming grill, where the finest Kobe beef is the centerpiece, Misono offers panoramic views of Ginza and surrounding parts of the city, including Tokyo Tower in the distance. The performance of the grill chef is also part of the meal, and is a true marvel to behold.
TIP: Reservations are absolutely necessary for Misono, but they are only accepted by phone at +81-3-3344-6351.
Who says a sushi meal in Tokyo has to be fancy? Stop at Hibari, a kaiten (conveyor-belt) sushi restaurant located in the heart of Shinjuku for a delicious, down-to-earth lunch of dinner. Featuring sushi prices according to the color of plate, as well as a tablet for ordering other items like appetizers, desserts and of course sake, this is a convenient and affordable place to enjoy top restaurants in Tokyo without the pomp and circumstance.
TIP: Hibari doesn't accept reservations, though on busy days and nights, you might need to wait in line for a seat.
Boasting three Michelin stars and a location just opposite Hibiya Park in the heart of Tokyo, Ryugin presents an innovative take on kaiseki, traditional multi-course Japanese dining. Although the menu is ever-changing, you can count on a culinary journey that includes both classic Japanese items like sashimi and cutting-edge cooking styles, such as molecular gastronomy.
TIP: While a hotel concierge can ease the process of a reservation at certain restaurants in Tokyo, one is required for Ryugin, where private reservations are forbidden in order to help reduce no-shows.
Chocolatier Inamura Shozo
Who says the top restaurant in Tokyo has to serve a full meal? Inamura Shozo chocolate shop, to be sure, located in historical Yanaka, certainly offers enough calories in its delectable desserts to replace a meal. Try the Chocolate Dome, which sees hazelnut- and vanilla-infused cherries covered with a dome of hard, shiny chocolate.
TIP: Inamura Shozo doesn't require or even accept reservations, but it can get crowded, especially on weekends. Try to go around the time it opens (10 am every day but Monday, when it's closed) to avoid having to line up.
Tapas Molecular Bar
Housed inside Tokyo's Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the heart of the city center, Tapas Molecular Bar spotlights "molecular cuisine." This innovative cooking style is somewhat nebulous, apart from its investigation of the physical and chemical transformations of food through cooking, often using liquid nitrogen. An illustrative example of a Tapas dish (the menu is ever-changing) is "New Soba," creating squeezing a gelatinous version of buckwheat flour out of a tube.
TIP: Tapas offers only two seatings per night (6:30 and 8 p.m.) with a maximum of eight guests each seating. Make your reservation on the website linked above, or ask your hotel's concierge to do so for you.