Food & Wine’s Tokyo City Guide 2011

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

My favorite writing assignment each year is the Tokyo Go List for Food & Wine magazine (the current May issue). This year focuses on three restaurants in the notable Ginza shopping district that features cuisine from three different prefectures in Japan. The chefs at each of these places are all getting a lot of press not only for their abilities in the kitchen, but also for their expression of the local ingredients featured in their shops.


At Ginza Ibuki, chef Sadahisa Yoshizawa focuses on seafood from Japan’s Kochi prefecture, like blackthroat fish that he butterflies, dries overnight and then grills.

Ginza 2-14-6, Dai Ni Matsuoka B1

Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Phone: 011-81-3-6278-8110

No website


Fourth-generation chef Yasufumi Otani flies in seafood from the Seto-naikai area for his kaiseki menu at Setouchi Ryori Suminoe.

Ginza 8-7-18, Getsukousou B1

Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Phone: 011-81-3-3572-2155


Foodies make pilgrimages to Masayuki Okuda’s Italian-influenced restaurant in the northern prefecture of Yamagata; now he shows off the area’s ingredients, like Yonezawa wagyu at Yamagata San-Dan-Delo.

Oishii Yamagata Plaza 2F

Ginza 1-5-10, Chuo-ku

Phone: 011-81-3-5250-1755 (Japanese) (Al-che-cciano website – Japanese)

Chef Seiji Yamamoto of Nihonryori Ryugin 日本料理龍吟の山本征治

Chef Seiji Yamamoto photo by Jun Takagi

Chef Seiji Yamamoto photo by Jun Takagi

Avant-gardist Seiji Yamamoto of Nihonryori Ryugin once silk-screened bar codes onto plates with squid ink. His latest shocker: He’s embracing Japanese classics, as in his rice steamed with shamo (chicken).


Minato-ku, Roppongi 7-17-24, Side Roppongi Bldg, 1st Floor

03-3423-8006 (English)

Food & Wine 2010 Tokyo Go List

Here’s a piece I wrote on chef Yamamoto for The Japan Times.

Food & Wine Go List 2009 for Tokyo

Nihonbashi Yukari

Nihonbashi Yukari

I am often asked for my recommendations for my favorite restaurants in the city. Here is my contribution to Food & Wine’s 2009 Go List for Tokyo.

Japanese chefs are dictating the world’s dining trends with their fierce devotion to seasonality and respect for aesthetics. For more great restaurants, check out our guide to the world’s best places to eat.



Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-5-8, Kawabata Bldg. 3F


Chef Harutaka Takahashi may have a Michelin-starred resume, but he isn’t showy. He turns exceptional seafood into perfect sashimi and sushi in a simple space down the street from Tsukiji Market.
We loved: Anago (eel) broiled in a sweet soy-based sauce.


Setagaya-ku, Minamikarasuyama 3-24-7


Native New Yorker Ivan Orkin faced skeptics when he opened a 10-seat ramen counter in the Setagaya neighborhood almost two years ago. But now, ramen connoisseurs make pilgrimages to eat his homemade noodles doused in a chicken-and-seafood broth and topped with luxurious slabs of roast pork or nests of pickled bamboo shoots.
We loved: Whole wheat noodles with slow-cooked charred pork topped with a spicy sesame-and-peanut salad.
Insider tip: Ask for the gentei, or daily special.


Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-5-13, Sakaguchi Bldg. 9th fl.


At this tiny tempura temple, baskets of seasonal vegetables sit on the counter waiting to be battered, deep-fried and served right out of the bubbling oil. Chef Fumio Kondo carefully monitors the temperature of the oil and the cooking time to create a delicate, crisp shell. He serves sweet soy tsuyu dipping sauce on the side, but purists stick to salt.
We loved: Lacy nests of julienned carrots and Satsumaimo sweet potato.


Minato-ku, Shiba Koen 4-4-13

At this 100-year-old reconstructed sake brewery, the classic kaiseki courses, like seasonal sashimi and seared wagyu, are delicious. The highlight is soy in several forms, including decadent twice-cooked tofu and freshly made tofu simmering in a hot pot of creamy soy milk.
We loved: Deep-fried tofu spread with dengaku miso.
Insider tip: The gift shop sells jars of the sweet dengaku miso.


Minato-ku, Minami-Azabu 5-1-5


Revered chef Hiromitsu Nozaki owns several other places in Tokyo, but he likes to hang out behind the counter at his little kappo restaurant (a relaxed relative of kaiseki) in upscale Hiroo. Nozaki preaches the philosophy of shun, or seasonality, as he assembles gorgeous dishes like uni topped shimeji mushrooms.
We loved: Abalone with kimo (liver) sauce and toasted nori.

Hot Food Zone: Kagurazaka

Once renowned for its geisha houses, this area near Iidabashi Station is now called “Petit France” for its many brasseries, bistros and wine bars. Also here are some of the best places to eat nearly every style of Japanese cuisine, like steamed dumplings at 50 Ban (Kagurazaka 3-2), tempura at geisha house–turned–restaurant Tenko (Kagurazaka 3-1) and traditional sweets at Baikatei (Kagurazaka 6-15).

Where to Eat Near: Omotesando’s Shops


Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-8-5


Hidden behind the Omotesando Hills shopping complex, this is a classic spot for humble tonkatsu: fried panko-breaded pork cutlets made from prized regional breeds like Okinawa’s red benibuta hog.


Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-10-1, Gyre Bldg. 5th fl.


At this luxe new teppanyaki restaurant, Venetian glass and European art set a fancy stage for chefs grilling extraordinary seafood, vegetables and marbled beef.


Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-5-25, T Place Bldg. B1


Seafood from the Izu Peninsula, brought in daily, elevates the reasonably priced lunch specials at this excellent restaurant on a side street behind Comme des Garçons.