The one place you have to eat in Tokyo, according to chefs

Boasting a wide array of cuisines and dining experiences to please any budget or palate, Tokyo, Japan, is a great food destination for many reasons — and it has plenty of dining options for travelers and locals alike.

To help narrow down the thousands of places to grab a meal or a snack, INSIDER asked chefs about their top places to eat in Tokyo and their responses ranged from Michelin-star restaurants to fast-food chains.

Here are some must-try restaurants in Tokyo, according to chefs.

This San-Francisco-based chef said he recommends a specialty restaurant in Ebisu

Chef Anthony Strong of San Francisco’s live-fire grill, Prarie, said he is a fan of Toritama in Ebisu. The place specializes in yakitori, a Japanese style of skewered chicken.

He told INSIDER that the eatery offers over 30 different cuts of chicken on its binchotan, a type of charcoal grill. Strong also said that the place is a bit difficult to get into, but if you can manage to get a table it’s entirely worth visiting.

This chef said he loves to grab a certain fast-food burger when he’s in Tokyo

MOS burgers sells unique dishes.
Sam Tsang/South China Morning Post via Getty

Chef Eric Silverstein of The Peached Tortilla and Bar Peached in Austin, Texas, told INSIDER he spent his childhood between Tokyo, Japan, and Atlanta, Georgia. He said his go-to restaurant in Tokyo is actually a fast-food burger joint and he’s sure to visit it “at least twice” every time he returns to the area.

“I really like MOS Burger. Yes, it’s a fast-food restaurant chain that started in Japan. But this isn’t your typical everyday fast food. We’re talking burgers topped with umami bombs like tomatoes and miso ragu meat sauce and teriyaki burgers,” he explained.

“The restaurants are clean, the service is on point, and the food is delicious,” Silverstein added.

Two chefs who have Asian-inspired restaurants in the US listed Hakkoku in Ginza as their go-to for sushi when in Tokyo.

“[Hakkou’s] Hiroyuki Sato is one of the most creative and dynamic sushi chefs in Japan. His signature rice is made with red rice vinegar, giving it a gorgeous rose hue. His sushi menu, mostly nigiri, changes daily based on what’s available at the fish market,” Gregory Gourdet, “Top Chef” finalist and chef at Departure Restaurant + Lounge, a modern Asian restaurant and lounge in Portland, Oregon, told INSIDER.

“[Sato] uses a huge, sword-like knife to cut his fish with razor precision into beautiful linear shapes that cause the fish to drape perfectly over the rice for the most revelatory bites. I have never seen this anywhere else,” he added.

Chef Michael Lewis of KYU, an Asian-inspired restaurant in Miami, Florida, also said he recommended this eatery, adding, “I love Hakkoku. Its 32-piece nigiri menu is fresh and innovative whilst still embracing Japanese traditions.”

This ‘Top Chef’ alum said she loves Tsurutokame, a women-run kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza area

Tsurutokame has plenty of dishes.
TripAdvisor

Chef Kuniko Yagi, who owns Pikunico, a fast-casual Japanese-fried-chicken restaurant in Los Angeles, California, said she loves this place for a lot of reasons.

“[It has] fantastic, seasonal Japanese cuisine done in the tradition of kaiseki (a type of multi-course dinner), made by an all-female team of chefs, which is very rare [because typically] men work in kaiseki restaurants,” she explained.

“Often when you go to a really high-end kaiseki restaurant in Japan, it’s silent. People are focused on enjoying the meal and sake and looking at what the chef is slicing. But Tsurutokame is cheerful — guests talk, laugh, and smile at the counter,” she told INSIDER. ” … It’s a truly special dining experience for anyone visiting Tokyo.”

One chef has a go-to spot for fresh seafood.

While in Tokyo, you probably want to enjoy fresh seafood at least once and Keith Endo, the executive chef of Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar in Honolulu, Hawaii, told INSIDER his number-one choice is Kagurazaka-Ishikawa.

Endo said the eatery’s food is seasonal, fresh, and simply incredible.”The food is served kaiseki-style in your own private tatami room — eight courses plus dessert. The quality of ingredients is unbelievable,” he added.

“What I really love about this restaurant is everything is so fresh and simple — no need to overpower the ingredients,” he said. “Although it’s a three-star Michelin restaurant, the service is very pleasant and not at all pretentious.”

One NYC-based sushi chef recommended a tempura spot in Tokyo

Tempura is typically crispy.
Yelp/ Sara T.

Kazushige Suzuki, the head chef at Sushi Ginza Onodera NYC, said he loves tempura, a type of fried Japanese dishes, from Tempura Fukamachi in Nihonbashi, Tokyo.

He said the eatery’s chef is a true tempura expert. “His ebi tempura is crisp outside but juicy inside and keeps the sweetness of the fresh prawn. It’s amazing,” Suzuki told INSIDER.

This celebrity chef has four different top picks in Tokyo

Sushi Dai is a favorite of some chefs.
Yelp/Christina T.

Chef Jason Roberts, a New-Zealand native with a love of Japanese dining, told INSIDER he has four restaurant recommendations and the first is Sushi Dai, which he says has the best sushi in Tokyo.

“Their fish is just incredibly, fantastically fresh and vibrant. You can’t go wrong with anything you order,” Roberts explained. He said there’s often a long line outside of Sushi Dai, but the food is absolutely worth the wait.

For Thai-inspired delicacies, Roberts said he recommends Longrain, telling INSIDER, “This restaurant brings a fresh Australian take on Thai cuisine. I’m a sucker for any dish that starts with lime juice, palm sugar, and fish sauce; and they balance the elements of hot, sour, salty, and sweet beautifully in their dishes. It hits all the right notes for me.”

He also suggested checking out Ichiran Ramen in Shinjuku if you have a late-night ramen craving and Fratelli Paradiso if you’re looking for simple Italian food and a glass of wine.

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