Tokyo food recs for multi-gen family?
April 18, 2024 7:37 PM   Subscribe

I'll be in Tokyo this summer (in Shinjuku) with my partner, elementary school kid and older parents. I'm feeling stuck on lunch and dinner spots to go to.

It'll be 5 of us total most of the time. Two people don't eat raw fish. Three people will not wait in a long line, likely anything 20 min+. One person will definitely complain if they feel it's a tourist rip off spot. Otherwise, we love all Japanese foods and familiar with them.

Please give some specific recs for where we can go. I've been struggling through the long lists in tabelog and to find tasty, high-rated places that could take in a larger group and is kid-friendly. also open to any dessert/coffee/treat spots!
posted by inevitability to Travel & Transportation around Japan (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
With a group of five, I would strongly suggest making reservations through your hotel or by some other means, if at all possible.

struggling through the long lists in tabelog and

Thank you! (I put together most of the long lists in; hopefullly some of them will be useful.)

Here are a few places to look at more closely: Katsukura (tonkatsu) and Tenkuni (tempura) in Times Square/Takashimaya are good introductions to their respective cuisines.

Oreryu Shio-ramen serves amazing garlic-butter-cheese ramen (though you may have to wait on line and you won't all sit together).

If you want to explore sake, any of the Shinjuku branches of Genka would be a good place to start, and I think they usually have some English-speaking staff. They have diverse izakaya-style menus with a lot of variety, and dishes to share.

On the west side (Nishi-Shinjuku) Toriyoshi serves a variety of Japanese dishes to share, with an emphasis on chicken.

Hibiki is somewhat more upscale but still affordable, with a nice 49th-floor view.

Hashiya is a nice introduction to the mysteries of Japanese-style spaghetti.

Banyou specializes in beef dishes like sukiyaki and shabu-shabu and is also a bit upscale.

Senkichi serves curry udon, cheese curries and other modern versions of Japanese curry. (I'm not sure if they have big tables though, maybe not.)

Note that some of the prices listed on Bento date back from before the current tourist boom, so they might be higher nowadays.
posted by Umami Dearest at 8:38 PM on April 18 [14 favorites]

Check Out Parco Shibuya's food court for lots of different options - everyone gets to eat what they want!
posted by brookeb at 8:46 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]

I'm vegetarian and will be in Japan this summer, and a lot of folks have recommended the Happy Cow app for finding places that have vegetarian/vegan friendly menu items as well as some entirely vegan restaurants. I've been told to use it on-site wherever you are when you're getting hungry, and it'll show you places (relatively) nearby.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:34 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]

Not a joke rec, and don't think of them in an American sense: food courts. Most shopping plazas or road rest stops (if you're doing a roadtrip at any point) will have food courts and they're rarely bad. Then each can have whatever they like.
posted by cendawanita at 10:41 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]

it'll show you places (relatively) nearby also has such a feature, usable from any mobile device.
posted by Umami Dearest at 12:40 AM on April 19

You should also go to Ramen Alley in the Tokyo Train station. There you will find multiple ramen options all representing different regions. Bonus, you get to order from little vending stations. Second Bonus you can go visit Character Street for all your Studio Ghibli, Sanrio, Pokemon, and other anime shopping needs.
posted by brookeb at 11:29 AM on April 19

How long are you going for? When I go back to Japan most of our restaurant meals are based on what's nearby as opposed to making specific plans for going to a restaurant for a meal. I get the need to make the most of experiences but you'll get a good meal just walking into a random izakaya.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:55 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

we were taken to Taniya udon in Ningyocho as part of a food tour when visiting with a family group larger than yours. they have actual tables in addition to the usual counter seating, english menus and very very good noodles. We did arrive just at opening time which i think made getting the table easier. We loved the kitsune udon and the mentaiko butter egg udon which had a very japnanese carbonara thing going on for it. The area is also pretty neat to wander around - Unison Tailor had excellent coffee (and a delicious toast thing on shokupan made by a neighborhood bakery) and for sweets Amamidokoro Hatsune is almost 200 years old and super duper traditional as you would expect. Anmitsu is the order here, a kind of sundae of sorts with red bean paste, mochi, jelly cubes and fruit. This would be a more adventurous language experience as they dont speak much english and there are no english menus - but there are plastic models of the food outside for you to select/take a photo of. This will definitely satisfy the group member who isnt into tourist spots.
posted by something_witty at 3:02 PM on April 19

One thing I like to do when I'm traveling in Japan is to visit basement food halls in department stores, which are lined with kiosks selling various ready-to-eat dishes to take home.

Pick up whatever looks interesting, maybe get some plastic forks and paper plates from a convenience store, and have a picnic back at your hotel. It's great for those days (or jetlagged mornings) when you might not have the energy to look for restaurants or deal with ordering.

I don't know where you are in Shinjuku, but Takashimaya and Isetan are the fanciest of the department store food halls, and worth a visit even if you're just looking. If you're on the west side, Halc is pretty good as well.
posted by Umami Dearest at 8:14 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]

I just lived a similar struggle - a party of 5 does just have to wait a while in Japan sometimes, which is rough when not everyone has a great attitude about it. The recommendation to head to department store basements is a good one, and yes also go to Ramen Alley where you can just walk from ramen to ramen purveyor and pick one that has a short line.

With our kids we also try to hit up buffets when we're in east Asia since a lot of the foods there feel strange and foreign to them, especially for breakfast, and it's nice to know at least for this meal they can see what looks good and pick it themselves. But whether those are an option for you depend on where you're staying, since they're usually part of our hotel but not all hotels offer buffets.

Finally, if you do want to go out, consider dividing your group into 2+3 or even 2+2+1. You are just going to have to wait an eternity to get five seats together in a lot of regular-size restaurants in Tokyo. Honestly this was kind of nice traveling with three children since sometimes I got a break to just eat with one older kid or by myself. But of course sometimes my husband got the break and I got broth all over myself trying to help my preschooler eat udon with chopsticks. You win some, you lose some.
posted by potrzebie at 5:20 PM on April 20

Response by poster: Thank you all! I've noted the specific recs, plus a list for potential reservations, and I also went down a rabbit hole of department store basements. :)
posted by inevitability at 5:37 PM on May 5

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