Memorable Meals in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka
August 25, 2019 3:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking my first trip to Japan next month and I'm looking for recommendations for memorable restaurant experiences in Tokyo (Ginza/Tsukiji area especially), Kyoto, and Osaka. I do plan to eat plenty of cheap noodles and random sushi but would like some specific nice places planned ahead as well. I don't mind spending some money but maybe not like $200 per person.

posted by something something to Travel & Transportation around Japan (17 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
The tempura meal (especially including the egg!) at Tensuke in Koenji, Tokyo.
It’s also just a fun neighborhood to wander around in.
posted by exceptinsects at 4:03 PM on August 25, 2019

Best answer: If you're going with a group I highly suggest Ukai Toriyama. It's a little out of the way - about an hour out of Tokyo and then you pick up the restaurant bus at the train station. But it's just MAGICAL, this is my 'must take people to' restaurant in Tokyo. If you have a group of 4 (if memory serves) you get your own little private hut, in this amazingly beautiful grotto. Less than that and you'll eat in the main restaurant, which I'm sure is still amazing, but not quite as much of an experience.
posted by Caravantea at 4:06 PM on August 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you’re looking for memorable, Kagaya fits the bill.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:33 PM on August 25, 2019

In Osaka, I highly recommend Shunzentamuzake Soan. It's a tiny (think five counter seats) restaurant/izakaya run and staffed exclusively by an elderly husband and wife. Wonderful tasting menu, warm ambience, overall just really memorable. Reservations are required, but I think I made them online, maybe through Gurunavi.

Another great place in Osaka, much more casual, is Kakurega Watori bar, which is down an alley a couple blocks away from Soan. It's got delicious yakitori, but the real standout for me was the chicken sashimi. If you're at all an adventurous eater, consider coming here. I just walked in, so I don't think you need reservations.

In Tokyo, one of my favorite restaurants in the world is the yakitori place Ganchan in Roppongi. Delicious bits of chicken on skewers, including some off-cuts you don't find in many other places, like bonbochi, bonjiri, or nonkatsu.

And I had a phenomenal experience at Namikibashi Nakamura in Shibuya in Tokyo. It's another high-end but fabulously warm izakaya with a set nightly menu. Reservations are required and whoever takes them didn't speak English when I called, so ask a concierge to arrange it if possible. I was able to get same-night reservations, so you probably don't have to book too far in advance.

Easily two of the best food cities in the world. Enjoy!
posted by Gadarene at 5:58 PM on August 25, 2019

Kyo-kaiseki is a guaranteed memorable dining experience. Kaiseki is a multi-course, themed meal, using seasonal ingredients. And the food grown in Kyoto is exceptional. It is often quite expensive, but it can be reasonably priced, especially if you do lunch instead of dinner. I don’t have any specific recommendations (it’s been a long time) but a google search for “inexpensive kaiseki Kyoto” can probably point you in a favorable direction.
posted by introvertigo at 6:21 PM on August 25, 2019

Definitely download the Bento app, by MeFi's own I don't know his username. ;-)
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 8:05 PM on August 25, 2019 [5 favorites] is run by Umami Dearest, and he knows his stuff.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:28 PM on August 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: In Kyoto last year, we had a delicious 9-course Kobe beef degustation served Teppanyaki style at Pound. I’d strongly recommend doing something similar.
posted by roshy at 9:34 PM on August 25, 2019

(Thank you, thank you!)

One of the fun things to do in Kyoto is to eat shojin-ryori (vegetable-based Buddhist temple cuisine) at a temple. Here are a few to choose from:

To balance out all those vegetables, Okariba in Kyoto specializes in game meats, many of them bagged by the chef himself, who is also a hunter. He also serves oddball dishes like bee larvae and grasshopper.

I always enjoy the 21-course tasting menu at Tapas Molecular Bar in Tokyo. It's as much a theatrical performance as it is a meal, and it's quite memorable.
posted by Umami Dearest at 10:06 PM on August 25, 2019

Yamatoku near Tsuruhashi Station in Osaka has delicious yakiniku (Korean barbecue; various kinds of meat you grill yourself, also vegetables etc.) in a quieter and more relaxed setting than most yakiniku restaurants.
posted by huimangm at 12:31 AM on August 26, 2019

Okariba! That's the name of the place I took my friends and family to. It was pretty great, and the owner/chef was really friendly. Definitely a place for adventurous eaters (he served us fried grasshoppers and bees, as well as some amazing, more food-like food). I forgot the name. Thanks, Umami Dearest, good to know they're still up and running.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:27 AM on August 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Kyoto: Fushimi Inari-taisha, Pay homage to the fox god and find some inarizushi. Don't not do it.

totally love inarizushi and would never not visit and stop around a fox shrine for some inarizushi
posted by zengargoyle at 3:22 AM on August 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

Seconding Tensuke, which I first heard about here on Metafilter and am eternally grateful for.

Specifically in Ginza (all these places will be reasonably priced and English-friendly):
Torigin, serving yakitori and kamameshi.
Little Okinawa - Okinawan food in a cozy ground-level spot in a Ginza alley.
Nemuro Hanamaru- it's conveyor-belt sushi but run by a seafood company from Hokkaido so they have seasonal fish and things like six different cuts of squid. It's on the 10th floor of Tokyo Plaza Ginza so there's a great view, for about the same cost as your average kaiten-sushi spot.
posted by Gortuk at 6:34 AM on August 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had a really excellent kaiseki meal in Kyoto at Tempura Matsu, which is not just tempura. The chef, Toshio, is young and trained with Alain Ducasse and mixes tradition and innovation in a really refreshing way.

Also in Kyoto is the singular experience of Sake Yoramu, an out-there sake tasting counter curated by an Israeli guy named Yoram who does things like buy up a bunch of sake and then age it for 15 years in an uncontrolled warehouse to create completely unique flavors.
posted by zingiberene at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2019

I would really encourage you to try shojin-ryori, as suggested by Umami Dearest. I've been 5 or 6 times to Izusen over the last 10 years and I always really enjoy it, though I haven't been in two years. Use the opportunity to stroll around daitokuji, and maybe visit daisen-in, to hopefully escape the crowds you will find at more famous temples in Kyoto.
For a reasonably cheap kaiseki lunch, per introvertigo's reply, I can recommend suetomo, I think the first set menu is around 6000 yens. We had some very good sake which increased the bill though. I enjoyed it a lot more than kikunoi, which was a lot more expensive (but the setting at kikunoi is better).

Umami Dearest, I don't think I had come across your website, and it seems to be exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!
posted by anzen-dai-ichi at 5:32 AM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, I just realized that my Tokyo recommendation didn't quite fulfill the "not $200" criterion (although it did before they raised their prices), so here are a couple more suggestions.

Mixology is a fun cocktail bar with very inventive drinks like the Tom Yam Cooler (inspired by the Thai soup) and an excellent blue-cheese martini. They serve food as well, although the food is more ordinary fare like pasta.

Anpuku is notable for two things - their extremely creative udon dishes and their excellent selection of sake by the glass. The Italian-style four-cheese udon is one of my favorites there, but you may discover your own.
posted by Umami Dearest at 6:14 AM on August 28, 2019

Response by poster: Many, many thanks for all your terrific suggestions!
posted by something something at 12:40 PM on August 28, 2019

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