Saturday, October 24, 2015

Four delicious restaurants to try in Tokyo: Ginza, Tsukiji, Odaiba and Shinjuku.

This is one post of a multi-part series covering our Two weeks Tokyo & Hokkaido Travel Guide:
    ▫ Singapore Airlines Suites Class from Singapore to Tokyo
    ▫ Three Days in Tokyo: Off the Beaten Path
    ▫ Sapporo, Otaru and Cape Kamui: Scenic Self-Drive Guide
    ▫ Furano, Biei, Sounkyou and Asahikawa: Amazing Autumn Colours
    ▫ Jozankei, Noboribetsu and Hakodate: Unparalleled Beauty
    ▫ Scoot's ScootBiz Class from Tokyo to Singapore



Tokyo is an absolute gourmet paradise. For the last 5 years it's held the title of the City with the most Michelin-star rated restaurants in the World - surpassing even Paris where the Michelin guide was born. Fine dining is (typically) expensive, though, but us less well-heeled plebs can take solace in the fact that this gastronomical excellence trickles down to some very reasonably priced restaurants.

So without further ado, in today's blogpost we're recommending four restaurants, in four different corners of the city, serving up four distinct types of Japanese cuisine. Happy eating!



Hitsumabushi Bincho (ひつまぶしびんちょ)
What: Nagoya-style Charcoal-grilled Eel on hot steamed rice
Where: Ginza. 12th floor of the Marrionnier Gate mall (next to Printemps)
Price: ¥3,150 and up
English?: Yes
Yum Factor: 👍 👍 👍 👍

Best Tokyo Restaurants Hitsumabushi Unagi Bincho Ginza

In Japan there are two main styles of grilling Unagi (freshwater eel). In the Kanto-style (the more Eastern parts of Japan, including Tokyo/Edo), the eel is broiled and steamed before being charcoal-grilled, which results in a moister, softer eel. Here at Hitsumabushi Bincho we try the Kansai/Nagoya-style, which is charcoal-grilled from start to finish, resulting in eel fillets that are dryer but have a more pronounced crispy / charred flavour.

Each order of eel rice comes with Kimosui: a very clear, very mildly-flavoured soup (¥100 additional if you want some eel guts).

Best Tokyo Restaurants Hitsumabushi Unagi Bincho Ginza

The base Hitsumabushi costs ¥3,150, with each subsequent menu item increasing both in price and quantity of eel served (you can go all the way up to a double portion of eel). For about an extra ¥1,000 or so you can convert the bowl into a 'set meal' which comes with some varying side dishes - examples being salad, cold tofu, chilled unagi and tamagoyaki.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Hitsumabushi Unagi Bincho Ginza

We're not exactly sure what the grammatical meaning of Hitsumabushi is, but in the food world it seems to refer to a "three-ways-style" of eating a particular dish. So for this bowl of eel on rice you're supposed to:

1st style: Eat plain grilled eel with rice.
2nd style: Add toppings such as chopped spring onion and wasabi.
3rd style: Pour a generous amount of clear dashi-stock-based broth, and enjoy unagi "soupy rice."

Our favorite was the 1st style: Pure, unadulterated freshwater eel goodness.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Hitsumabushi Unagi Bincho Ginza



Yotekkoya Ramen (よってこや ラーメン)
What: Kyoto-style Tonkotsu Ramen
Where: Odaiba, Ground floor of the Decks Mall (facing the street)
Price: ¥1,000 and up
English?: Yes
Yum Factor: 👍 👍 👍

Best Tokyo Restaurants Yottekoya Odaiba

You can't miss the entrance of this Ramen restaurant in Odaiba - It's got a huge, 6 foot tall 'よ' facing the street. Yotteko-ya serves up Kyoto-style ramen in a (relatively for Japan standards) large restaurant which unapologetically smells like tonkotsu (pork bone) broth.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Yottekoya Odaiba

There are a few different broth types on offer, all variations of the pork bone-based paitang (白湯, literally 'white soup') - choose to add some spice, miso, or little bits of chicken fat. Lunch sets are around the ¥1,000 range, with your choice of rice, mini rice with chashu, gyoza or fried chicken.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Yottekoya Odaiba

Noodle portions are on the large side: enough for all but the largest of appetites, and the taste is pretty good. Not good enough to unseat the more famous chains like ichiran or ippudo, perhaps, but if you're in the area anyway you won't be disappointed.



Tsukiji Itadori Uogashisenryo (築地虎杖 魚河岸千両)
What: Sushi and Hitsumabushi Kaisen Don (Seafood bowl)
Where: Tsukiji's Outer Fish Market area
Price: ¥2,000 and up
English?: Yes
Yum Factor: 👍 👍 👍 👍 👍

Best Tokyo Restaurants Tsukiji Itadori Uogashisenryo

Most first-timers to Tsukiji Market will try to pay a visit to one of the "big two" sushi restaurants: Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi. A meal at either these restaurants typically involves setting a 5:30am alarm clock and a 2-4 hour queue, though, so if you're not really up to doing either of those things, there are a myriad of other sushi restaurants serving up food that's almost just as good.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Tsukiji Itadori Uogashisenryo

We're big fans of Tsukiji Itadori Uogashisenryo at the outer market area (introduced to us by RegentCid, lowyat.net's resident Japan guru). Although they also serve up sushi and seafood rice bowls, their specialty is the Hitsumabushi Kaisen Don: A bowl of ikura and cubes of assorted raw fish, topped off with a hunking heap of sweet uni. As with the Unagi meal we described earlier in the article, this bowl is also meant to be eaten "three ways":

1st style: Fish with rice, like normal kaisen don.
2nd style: Mix thoroughly until the uni coats every grain of rice and cube of fish.
3rd style: Like 2nd style, only with hot dashi stock. Hot, soupy, perfect for colder weather.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Tsukiji Itadori Uogashisenryo

If that's not quite your cup of tea, more 'traditional' kaisen dons are also available ...

Best Tokyo Restaurants Tsukiji Itadori Uogashisenryo

... as are ala-carte orders of sushi. Pictured here: the Hon Maguro (bluefin tuna) selection - 4x akami (lean tuna), 2x chuu-toro and 2x oh-toro (medium-fatty and fatty tuna respectively).

Best Tokyo Restaurants Tsukiji Itadori Uogashisenryo

There's no doubt that if you're willing to give up the time and effort to queue for the "big two" shops then you should do so; but otherwise Itadori Uogashisenryo's offerings are very very good!



Torikizoku Yakitori (焼き鳥 鳥貴族)
What: Yakitori (charcoal-grilled chicken skewers)
Where: Shinjuku, a few blocks away from Golden Gai
Price: ¥1,500 and up
English?: Yes
Yum Factor: 👍 👍 👍 👍

Best Tokyo Restaurants Torikizoku Shinjuku

The outlet of Torikizoku we visited in Shinjuku was at the basement of some building sort of in-between the station and Golden Gai. Although it specializes in Yakitori (¥280 for each order of typically two skewers), there's other izakaya staples on the menu as well such as fried chicken bites, etc. And a lot of different beer too, of course.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Torikizoku Shinjuku

When the Japanese eat yakitori it's normally a chicken degustation of sorts; i.e. they'll order some skewers of chicken and leek, then maybe some hearts, some skin, and then top it off with a gizzard skewer.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Torikizoku Shinjuku

Our group, collectively, isn't as adventurous though so we stick to safe skewers - meatballs with cheese, chicken tails, wings, and wishbones.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Torikizoku Shinjuku

Strangely, when ordering we're not asked whether we want たれ ('tare', sauce) or 塩 ('shio', salt). I guess each different skewer has its own 'default' whether to come sauced or salted? Anyways the meats were generally very nice, with a terrific char and aroma that can only come from direct-flame grilling.

Best Tokyo Restaurants Torikizoku Shinjuku

One slight criticism: There are no non-smoking seats, so there definitely can be a faint (or strong) smell of cigarette smoke depending if the tables beside you are puffing away (or not).



If you're in any of the areas, do pay these restaurants a visit! Feel free to leave any questions or concerns in the comments. いただきます!!!

1 comment:

  1. Love your photos! Going back to Tokyo in a few weeks. I didn't line up at the 2 sushi joints but found 1 a few doors down with no line ! haha I'm so hitting up Itadori Uogashisenryo! Also, there's gonna be a torikizoku near our hotel and glad to know that food is good value for money.

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