Indagare Interview – Culinary Tokyo: Restaurants Not To Miss

Isetan depachika (photo by Takuya Suzuki)

Isetan depachika (photo by Takuya Suzuki)

This interview appeared a while back but I wanted to share it for its information on some of my top recommendations for foodies visiting Tokyo.

Born in Japan and raised in the United States, Yukari Pratt Sakamoto, the author of the soon-to-be-released Food Sake Tokyo (Little Bookroom, $29.95), is a true Tokyo food insider. Here, she shares her favorite restaurants, bars and gourmet shops in the Japanese capital.

What are some Tokyo restaurants you would recommend for the following types of meals?

A traditional Japanese dining experience: Tofuya Ukai, one of the most unique dining experiences in the city. It specializes in tofu and soy products, but also serves seafood and meat. The menu is kaiseki style with several courses. For an authentic local experience, I would recommend Yamariki. And if you’re looking for a high-end dining experience with a big-name chef, there’s Nihonbashi Yukari with Iron Chef 2002 winner, Kimio Nonaga.

What are some restaurants you would suggest for families traveling with kids and why?

Tofuya Ukai is nice, as each group gets their own private dining room. Ivan Ramen is a child-friendly ramen shop run by a native of Long Island, Ivan Orkin. And also try going to a kaitenzushi shop, the sushi shops with a conveyor belt. These are made for families. A popular shop is Magurobito (Roppongi; 81-3-3405-5466) that does a very nice job with good seafood. Ask for any “shun” or seasonal seafood that may be off the menu. Another very good option for children are restaurant floors located in department stores. Here you will find a variety of restaurants (sushi, tempura, tonkatsu, etc.) and these shops are accustomed to families.

What are the types of food not to miss trying while in Tokyo?

Seafood-based food like sushi, tempura, and unagi (eel). Noodles like soba and ramen. And of course, kaiseki (Nihonbashi Yukari is one of my favorites). Also, the wagashi(traditional Japanese confectionaries) should be experienced. Good stores for wagashiinclude Toraya or Kano Shojuan. Hormone ryori (innards) are very popular at the moment. Try Saiseisakaba or Yamariki. An ideal eating trip to Tokyo would be to visit different shops that specialize in one type of food. Birdland (Ginza; 81-3-6269-9825; http://ginza-birdland.sakura.ne.jp/ for yakitori, Kondo (Ginza; 83-3-5568-0923) for tempura,Kyubey (Ginza; 81-3-3571-6523; www.kyubey.jp) for sushi, Tamai (Nihonbashi; 81-3-3272-3227) for anago (eel), sukiyaki (hot pot), soba, ramen, etc.

What are some tips to navigate the incredible food floors in the department stores in Tokyo, and which ones would you recommend for a first-time visitor?

There is usually a concierge on the first floor by the main entrance of each department store. Inquire if there is any special food events taking place, these are often on an event floor. Often there are maps of the food floors, these are good as some are so big you can get lost. The best one to visit is Isetan (Shinjuku; 81-3-3352-0909;http://www.isetan.co.jp) in Shinjuku.

What are some of your favorite Tokyo bars (both classics and new ones)?

The hotel bars are great. Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Bar & Grill

What are the main culinary items visitors should buy in Tokyo?

Knives at Kiya (Chuo-Ku; 81-3-3241-0110; www.kiya-himono.co.jp) in Nihonbashi. Lacquer at Kuroeya (Chuo-Ku; 81-3-3272-0948; www.kuroeya.com) in Nihonbashi.

If a traveler only has one day and night in Tokyo, which are the places you would suggest to get a good taste of the city (lunch, dinner, drinks)?

Have lunch at Kyubey Sushi in Ginza; dinner at Nihonbashi Yukari, and finish your night with drinks at the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar & Grill in Shinjuku.

What are some of your favorite spots in the city that are not food-related?

AsakusaMeiji Jingu Shrine, Monzennakacho. A very short trip out of the city, but still a part of Tokyo is Mount Takao.

http://www.indagare.com/passions/4/departments/172/8166 (text above)

http://www.indagare.com/passions/4/departments/173/8165 (on Food Sake Tokyo)

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