Anyone who has ever visited Japan will tell you that it is a haven for foodies. In fact, I am not sure I have ever eaten anything from this country I did not like. Even their convenience store food is good! (Possibly the best in the world alongside Taiwan.) During our visit to Tokyo, I didn’t get to hit up nearly as many of the food places I wanted to visit due to time constraint and them being out of the way, but I was still fairly happy with the places we did get to visit. Just thought I’d share them here!
Tokyo Tonkotsu Base by Ippudo
The moment we landed at Narita Airport, we went straight to the Ippudo inside the terminal. I’m a huge fan of Ippudo Ramen. Locally, it’s my favorite ramen shop franchise. In my opinion, they make the best ramen bowls that offer the best value for money. I have never been disappointed with them in Manila, and I sure as heck was not disappointed when we had some Ippudo in Tokyo.
Ironically, we’ve never had Ippudo in its actual birthplace, which is Fukuoka. You better believe it’s on my list upon my return to the prefecture though. Back to the Ippudo in Narita Airport, it’s actually called Tokyo Tonkotsu Base and it’s located at Terminal 2. (It seems to be closed at the moment. No idea if it’ll reopen.) Nothing like a satisfying bowl of ramen to welcome you to Japan!
If you’ve ever played the Yakuza videogame, you might be familiar with this restaurant already. It’s a popular sushi chain in Tokyo known to consistently serve good sushi. Obviously we did not pass up the chance to eat here. It’s your typical sushi restaurant with both sushi-bar and table seating. You can watch the chefs prepare your sushi right at the counter should you choose to sit by the bar.
Being a popular sushi chain, they do have an English menu for tourists. The best part about Sushizanmai is that you can expect great quality food for a good price. I am constantly in awe of the quality of the food in Japanese chain restaurants, because where I live, this is like mid-range restaurant fare already. (Just imagine what the chains are like lol.)
I really enjoyed the Sashimi Salad, with a dressing that’s sesame based but also a bit tart at the same time. I think this was 800 yen. The chirashidon was delicious as well, and I believe it was less than 1,500 yen. It’s not super cheap, but you get what you paid for.
We didn’t want to leave Tokyo without a visit to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, and so my brother picked Himawari Sushi since there were a lot of positive reviews for this place. It’s a small single-floor restaurant located in Shinjuku. There is only bar seating available, and it goes in a square shape around the conveyor belt. The sushi chefs prepare the sushi inside this little square with expert speed and precision. As soon as you take a plate off the belt, it gets replaced right away.
As we eventually found out, its prime location is not the only reason why it’s busy. The place is pretty darn legit. People lining up to eat here are a mix of locals and tourists, but with the pricing it’s clear this place is not a tourist trap.
Once you’re seated, you will notice menus placed on the tables that give you an overview of the pricing of the sushi. Prices range from 150 to 350 yen, and if that’s not reasonable for you I really don’t know what else to say. You don’t have to worry about the freshness and the quality either because the sushi is DELICIOUS. I can assure you of that much. I giddily picked plate after plate from the conveyor belt until I had my fill. I can’t remember the last time I ate this much sushi.
The sushi come in different patterned/colored plates depending on its price range. You stack your empty plates once you finish with them, and when it’s time to pay, the cashier will compute your total bill by looking at the colors of the plates on your stack. It’s a fast and efficient system.
By the way, it’s not a good idea to linger and chitchat after you’re done with your meal because there are always people waiting outside to get seated. Japanese restaurants are often quite small, and the seating capacity, especially for popular joints like this one, is small. A normal practice for locals is to leave immediately once they’re done with their meal so the next customer can come in. I find that sometimes we tourists forget this.
Snacks from Takeshita Street
Running out of food choices is the last problem you will encounter here at Takeshita Street. The more pressing issue is probably where you will even begin. It’s easy to get caught up in the colorful displays of certain eateries (like the crepe places) but sometimes the less flashy places have the best food. My advice? Follow the line. If the Japanese line up at a certain place, then you can be sure that’s the “hot” place. Of course, you should feel free to try anything that piques your interest.
The CALBEE PLUS store was a very popular spot for tourists. They sell freshly cooked potato products here, as well as limited edition potato chips. I’m not sure why my mom wanted to buy the cheese-stuffed fries from here, but I thought they were a bit overpriced for what they were. I suppose you pay for the branding and the novelty.
My favorite place was Zaku Zaku. We decided to try it because we saw a line snaking outside their shop, and when I peeked through the glass I saw the stuff they were selling. They all looked pretty darn good. Thankfully they also tasted pretty darn good, especially the custard-filled pastry. The ice cream was also yummy. Definitely recommended.
[READ MORE about TAKESHITA STREET]
酒亭じゅらく 上野店 Shutei Juraku in Ameyayoko Market
There are a lot of eateries at Ameyoko and to be able to explore them you would need more than one trip here. As it stands, we only ate at one restaurant and liked the experience quite a bit, so I decided to include it in this list.
Shutei Juraku is not the only restaurant to offer lunch menus for office workers here. In fact, that’s a norm in Japan that tourists like us gladly benefit from. Restaurant lunch menus often offer set meals that are great value for money. For instance, my chirashidon set with a bit of zaru soba and tempura on the side went for around 1,280 yen, if I remember correctly. My brothers also opted for the lunch sets, like steak on top of rice with miso soup on the side. Most of the lunch sets were priced within the 800 to 1,300 yen range, which is really not bad for what you get.
[READ MORE about AMEYOKO]
Yummy food from Yanaka-ginza
We briefly dropped by Yanaka-ginza to enjoy some old Tokyo vibes and a bit of street food too. If you’re not really up for the modern Japanese fusions popular in hipper Tokyo districts, this place is a good spot for more traditional fare in an equally traditional atmosphere.
But of course we had some takoyaki! (Here’s a great recipe if you want to learn how to make them.)
And of course we could not resist some matcha soft serve. Japan is THE place for amazing soft serve ice cream, I have to say.
Hoshino Coffee in Shibuya
Aside from being a good spot for watching people walk the Shibuya Crossing, Hoshino Coffee is actually a pretty cool coffee shop. It’s got a cozy vibe to it, and the best spot is without a doubt the seat by the window overlooking the Crossing.
At the time of our visit, Hoshino Coffee had this promo between 11AM to 3PM wherein if you buy certain food items, you can get a cup of coffee for half the price. We ordered their famous Soufflé Double Pancakes (680 yen) and a Strawberry Rare Cheesecake slice (420 yen) to share. To be honest, I wasn’t wowed by the food nor the coffee, but the overall experience was really quite nice.
[READ MORE about HOSHINO COFFEE]
Well, this post has made me very hungry, so I think I’ll stop here and just hope that all of these restaurants have and will manage to survive this pandemic.
Other posts in this series:
- A stroll through Ueno Park
- A brief visit and lunch at Ameyayoko Market
- A lovely visit to Meiji Shrine
- An excursion to Yanaka-Ginza & Takeshita Street
- A view of Shibuya from Hoshino Coffee
- Touring around Yamanashi’s Fuji Five Lakes & Oshino Hakkai
- The crowded but glorious Nezu Shrine
- My Favorite Tokyo Snapshots & Travel Video
- Japanese Food Souvenir Haul from Tokyo Spring 2019 [Vol. 6]