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Top 30 Japanese Restaurants 2015
1   Sushi Saito
Given how difficult it is to get a reservation at this Roppongi restaurant (calling it impossible is an understatement), it is fitting that Chef Takashi Saito’s restaurant has taken the number one spot in our first Japanese survey. A former apprentice at Sushi Kanesaka, Saito has perfected Kanesaka-style sushi with carefully chosen seafood, flawless execution, and extreme precision. His sushi always has a perfect balance of flavors between neta and well-seasoned shari, and every piece he places in front of his guests is the exact same size, shape and temperature. Given the level of consistency of the experience, and Saito’s ability to deliver impeccable morsels of sushi over and over again, we understand why some of our reviewers visit this restaurant three or four times a year.
photo credit: Margaret Lam
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1st Floor, Ark Hills South Tower, 1-4-5 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, +81 3 3589 4412
2   Matsukawa
The consensus among locals is that Matsukawa is the best traditional kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo. Chef Matsukawa is a gentle and rather shy chef, but he excels in transforming the most pristine ingredients into masterpieces by combining simplistic yet impeccable flavors with elegant Japanese aesthetics. From course to course, from sashimi to grilled food, from seafood to dashi, his food captures the heart and soul of every customer. His rice course, complemented with ikura (salmon roe, fresh karasumi (mullet roe), and chirimen with sansho peppercorns and seaweed, is an irresistible and unforgettable signature offering. This is an introduction-only restaurant – the only way you can get in is to be invited by a regular.
photo credit: Margaret Lam
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Akasaka Terrace House, Akasaka 1-11-6, Roppongi, Minato-Ko, Tokyo, +81 3 6277 7371
3   Michel Bras Toya
Michael Bras Toya, located in the Windsor Hotel Toya, has become a must-visit restaurant for those who want to sample the finest French cuisine in HokkToya, Hokkaidoaido. Cedric Bourassin, the chef and director of the restaurant, continues to showcase the heart and soul of Michel Bras’ cuisine in each dish, complemented with local Japanese seafood and produce. Patrons often find themselves completely seduced by the breathtaking view of Lake Toya, the flawless and attentive service and, most importantly, the stunning food, presented with the attention that might be devoted to a piece of fine art, with flavors to match.
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Windsor Hotel Toya, Shimizu, Toyako-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, +81-142-73-1111
4   Sushi Sawada
Although Chef Koji Sawada is a self-trained sushi chef, he is able to impress his customers with the highest-quality tuna, uni and other seafood. His omakase with the most extravagant seafood comes with a hefty price tag, but many customers are so impressed by the quality that they will order extra sushi for an ultimate splurge. Chef Sawada’s seared toro, which he cooks while holding slices of fatty tuna over burning binchotan charcoal, never fails to please our reviewers.
photo credit: Hariz Bastion Junid
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5 Chome−9−19, MC Bill, Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, +81 3-3571-4711
5   Jimbocho Den
Zaiyu Hasegawa has injected new energy into the traditional kaiseki experience. His witty and fun creations are backed up by meticulous preparations; every dish at Den is one of a kind, something you won’t find in other kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo. From Hasegawa’s foie gras monaka to his “Dentucky” fried chicken wings, famous pickled salad (now with a crispy ant from Nagano) and wagyu beef shoulder served on rice, the entire meal is one surprise after another. Den is super-popular with foreign chefs and foodies; none other than Noma’s René Redzepi said Hasegawa’s suppon (soft-shell turtle) soup was the best he ever had. In addition to the delicious and interesting food, the hospitality extended by Zaiyu and his staff makes for an extra-special experience.
photo credit: Margaret Lam
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2-2-32, Jimbocho, Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 03-3222-3978
6   Hajime
Prior to deciding to work as a chef in 2008, Osaka native Chef Hajime Yoneda made his living as an engineer and enjoyed painting on the side. His decision obviously paid off, as ever since he opened the restaurant’s doors, Hajime has been a sensation. Yoneda makes good use of his background, employing modern techniques to create dishes that combine nature and science. His preparations are meticulous, the flavors are well-balanced and harmonious, and his dramatically presented plates reflect a distinct aesthetic sense.
photo credit: Kabun Ko
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1 Chome−9−11, Eobori, Nishi Ward, Osaka, +81 6-6447-6688
7   Hyotei
Established over 400 years ago, Hyotei is one of the oldest restaurants in Japan. It offers its patrons the ultimate dining experience, from an elegant Zen environment to an exquisite traditional kaiseki-ryori and unmatchable service that represents Japanese omotenashi (the spirit of Japanese hospitality) at its best. Their traditional Japanese breakfast is very popular, and their signature hyotei tamago, a soft-boiled egg made with their own special recipe, is not to be missed.
photo credit: Japan Times
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35 Nanzenji Kusagawacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, +81 75-771-4116
8   Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi
Referred to as Jiro Roppongi, this is the second outpost of the legendary sushi restaurant SukiyTokyoabashi Jiro Honten in GinzaRoppongi, Minato-Ko, . Run by Jiro’s youngest son, Takashi Ono, the restaurant provides a more foreigner-friendly environment (the staff speaks good English) and is easier to reserve. While it would be unrealistic to say Takashi Ono has achieved the same level of craftsmanship as his father, his style of sushi making is derivative of his father’s. The experience includes both tsumami (snacks and sashimi courses) as well as nigiri sushi. While it isn’t quite the same as visiting his father’s landmark restaurant, it’s a terrific alternative for those who want to sample Jiro-style sushi under the same brand name.
photo credit: Katie Keiko Tam
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Roppongi Hills Keyakizaka Street 3F, Roppongi 6-10-1, Minato, Tokyo, +81 3 5413 6626
9   Ryugin
There are now a number of chefs who serve this style of creative kaiseki, which revolves around implementing modern techniques with artistic presentations superimposed on a traditional kaiseki meal. But when Chef Seiji Yamamoto first came onto the scene, Ryugin was the only restaurant that offered this type of cooking. Everyone marvels at Yamamoto’s signature dessert –a 196-degree strawberry (or seasonal fruit) served with 99-degree strawberry jam. Now that this is one of the most famous restaurants in the city, Chef Seijo has opened branches of Ryugin in both Taipei and Hong Kong.
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Roppongi 7 -chome 17-24, Tokyo, Minato, +81 3-3423-8006
10   Ishikawa
Featuring exceptional hospitality and impeccable food prepared with extreme care, Ishikawa, located in Kagurazaka, has become one of the most popular traditional kaiseki restaurants among international travelers. Chef Hideki Ishikawa utilizes high-quality seasonal ingredients, and his execution is always spot-on, accentuating the flavors with his own techniques. His rice course is consistently eye-catching, and customers feel pampered, as Chef Ishikawa scoops out every bowl of mixed rice for his guests. The leftover rice, made into onigiri (rice balls) to take home, is the best breakfast one could ask for.
photo credit: Margaret Lam
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Takamura Building 1F, Kagurazaka 5-37, Shinjuku, Tokyo, +81 3-5225-0173
11   Sushi Mizutani
The small shop run by Chef Hachiro Mizutani has been one of the most revered sushi restaurants in Tokyo for many years. Chef Mizutani learned his trade while working at Sukiyabashi Jiro, and the sushi he serves is in the Jiro tradition. If you book one of the nine seats seats at his counter, do not be surprised if you find that Chef Mizutani has a dual personality: He is very intense and rarely speaks during the sushi service, and he does not allow guests to take pictures. But after the service is over, he will come around from behind the counter to laugh and joke with his customers, and even take photos with them.
photo credit: Margaret Lam
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8-7-7 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo +81 3-3573-5258
12   Harutaka
Having spent 10 years working for the legendary Jiro Ono, Chef Harutaka Takahashi serves one of the best examples of sushi “Jiro style”: slices of the highest-quality fish and a well-calibrated shari molded with the most skillful of hands. Unlike his mentor’s restaurant, which serves only sushi, Takahashi serves a full array of tsumami (cold and hot appetizers) to start the meal, all magnificently prepared. Reviewers say that Chef Takahashi’s sushi has gotten better and better over the years, and for those who like this style of sushi (larger slices of fish and vinegary rice), the experience is much more relaxed than at Sukiyabashi Jiro.
photo credit: Margaret Lam
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8-5-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, +81 3-3573-1144
13   L’Osier
L’Osier was established in Ginza, Tokyo, in 1973, making it one of the oldest French restaurants in Tokyo and a throwback to the nouvelle cuisine era. Management recently appointed executive chef Olivier Chaignon to oversee the kitchen, a change that has not had a negative impact on the food. Chaignon has maintained the historically high standards: Every stunningly presented dish is a perfect composition offering layers of mouth-watering flavors. Reviewers often comment about the luxurious space and flawless service.
photo credit: L’Osier
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Ginza 7-5-5, Chuo, Tokyo, +81 3-3571-6050
14   Kitcho
Kunio Tokuoka is the third generation in his family to act as chef at Kitcho; he follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as he creates a once-in-a-lifetime kaiseki experience in an elegant, breathtaking space in Arashiyama, on the outskirts of Kyoto. Each dish is an exquisite combination of flavors, colors, shapes and imagery, with kaiseki accents and correlated with the seasons. Even the smallest details of the meal are thought through and perfected. This is one of the most expensive kaiseki restaurants in Japan, but reviewers enjoy the food so much that complaints about the experience are rare.
photo credit: Kitcho
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58 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, +81 75-881-1101
15   Quintessence
An alumnus of L’Astrance in Paris, Chef Shuzo Kishida follows the same principle of cooking in three processes: “Respecting the products, precision cooking and attention to detail and seasoning properly.” Only one tasting menu is available, and the whole meal is a gastronomic journey based on a progressive development of flavors. Chef Shuzo is a fan of slow cooking in the French style; his signature main dish – which features meat taken in and out of the oven 20 to 30 times and cooked at a low temperature for an hour – showcases his innovative cooking techniques.
photo credit: WBPStars
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Shinagawa Gotenyama 1F, Kitashinagawa 6-7-29, Garden City, Tokyo, +81 3-6277-0485
16   L’Effervescence
Located deep inside the Tokyo district of Nishi Azabu, L’Effervescence is surrounded by bamboo, and you arrive through a stone-paved entrance that makes the bustling city of Tokyo fade, for a time, into a mere memory. Chef Shinobu Namae, an alumnus of Michel Bras Toya and The Fat Duck, combines innovations with a Japanese aesthetic to great effect. Dishes like his signature whole baked turnips and a salad made with over 40 local vegetables reflect his ability to optimize natural flavors. Chef Namae also shows creativity and playfulness with his apple pie in progressive versions. Patrons can enjoy the exemplary food, attentive service and elegant surroundings at both lunch and dinner.
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2 Chome-26-4 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo, +81 3-5766-9500
17   Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros
In this restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Tokyo, Michel Troisgros has done an exemplary job of transporting his signature cuisine acidulée from Roanne, France, to Tokyo. The impeccable service allows diners to enjoy long meals without feeling suffocated. The restaurant is perfect for business and casual lunches alike, and is especially wonderful when the sunlight streams through its giant windows. This is a perfect example of what can be achieved when a chef marries nouvelle French cuisine with superior-quality Japanese ingredients.
photo credit: Hyatt Regency Tokyo
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Hyatt Regency Tokyo, Nishishinjuku, 2-7-2, Shinjuku, Tokyo, +81 3-3348-1234
18   Ukai-tei Ginza
Ukai-tei Ginza, the famous teppanyaki specialty restaurant, is known for using extravagant inredients, such as caviar, whole giant abalone, lobster and wagyu beef. The raw and cold appetizers are of superb quality, and the grilled foods are skillfully prepared by experienced chefs on a teppanyaki grill-top right in front of the customers. But this is not entertainment: The whole package – impeccable service and a luxurious décor paired with the finest food – makes for a memorable meal that can’t be found outside Japan.
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Ginza, 5−15−8, Chuo, Tokyo, +81 3-3544-5252
19   Sushiso Masa
Having worked at a restaurant called Sushi Sho, Chef Masakatsu Oka incorporated the name of his mentor’s place into his own when he opened this simple location in the basement of a building just off one of Roppongi’s busiest intersections. But the similarities stop with the name, as Oka has developed his own original style: he utilizes different parts of a fish or shellfish in two or three different treatments, such as sashimi, grilled and sushi. Oka is known for serving the smallest pieces of sushi of all the masters working in Tokyo; an omakase dinner easily turns into a meal made up of 30 to 40 morsels. Chef Masa is extremely friendly and loves to interact with his guests, so diners will feel comfortable and relaxed over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour dinner.
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Seven Nishi Azabu B1F, 4 Chome-1-15, Nishiazabu, Tokyo, +81 3-3499-9178
20   Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon
One of the most iconic French restaurants in Tokyo, Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon has been serving high-quality French cuisine here since 1994. Starting with the castle-like exterior and luxurious décor, it goes on to dazzle diners with every detail and impresses them with extravagant and pristine ingredients, prepared in meticulous fashion. The classic Robuchon dishes are served here, along with new ones incorporating the finest Japanese produce, seafood and meat. This is one of the most expensive French restaurants in Tokyo, but well worth the price.
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Roppongi Hills Hillside 2F, Roppongi 6-10-1, Minato, Tokyo, +81 3-5772-7500
21   Mikawa Zezankyo
With his 56 years of experience of dipping the most perfectly selected pieces of seafood from Tokyo Bay into delicate batter and then frying them perfectly, Chef Tetsuya Saotome’s restaurant has become the temple of tempura in Tokyo. In fact, reviewers often refer to him as the “Jiro of tempura.” The offerings are almost entirely seafood, and the ingredients are of such high quality that you can still savor their fresh flavor under the tempura batter. The strong note of sesame oil means bolder flavors, something that is typical in more traditional tempura restaurants. Chef Saotome is also a visual artist: his hand-drawn menu, the giant, hat-shaped copper ventilator above his workspace, and all of his ceramics and dishware are pieces of art that diners can appreciate while enjoying the food.
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1-3-1 Fukuzumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo +81 3 3643-8383
22   Les Créations de Narisawa
Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa’s cooking places an emphasis on two important principles: season and nature. Narisawa uses the finest ingredients and prepares them using very innovative techniques. His 10-course meal allows diners to experience a series of dishes that reflect a journey through a variety of seasonal landscapes. Sustainability, another important focus for this chef, is often reflected in the presentations, names, imageries and elements of the dishes.
photo credit: Ivan M
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2-6-15 Minami Aoyama, Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo, +81 3-5785-0799
23   Sushi Yoshitake
Chef Masahiro Yoshitake’s original style of sushi, friendly personality and approachable service have won him a lot of international fans. The omakase at Yoshitake begins with lots of scrumptious appetizers, like uni served atop soft tofu, tender octopus, thinly sliced hirami (flounder), seared bonito and the house signature: abalone with abalone liver sauce. This is a great choice for those who want more than just the classic sushi experience.
photo credit: Ivan M
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Tin flow building 3F, Ginza, 8 Chome−7−19, Ginza, 8 Chome−7−19, +81 3-6253-7331
24   7 Chome Kyobashi
7 Chome Kyobashi, under Chef Shigeya Sakakibara, is famous for its light tempura batter and high-quality ingredients, all cooked with extreme precision. Unlike at most tempura restaurants, the chef’s tempura is served with just lemon juice and salt, and without tentsuyu (the dipping sauce that the typical accoutrement for tempura). This is also one of the most expensive restaurants in Tokyo, if not all of Japan. Shigeya-san is the fourth generation of his family to run this restaurant.
photo credit: Aiste Miscuivite
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Audiometer Ginza Building 6F, 5-5-9 Ginza, Tokyo, +81 03 3572 3568
25   Obana
Obana is a small unagi (freshwater eel) specialist that was established at the beginning of the Meiji era (1868–1912) in Minami-Senju. While it is far from the city and does not allow reservations, unagi lovers do not mind the long trip and are happy to wait in the queue for the chance to eat there. Obana practices Kanto-style unagi preparation, meaning that the freshwater eels are slaughtered at the belly and steamed first before grilling, resulting in very soft and tender eel meat. From usaku (grilled eel in vinegar sauce) to umaki (eel egg rolls) and shirayaki (unagi on rice in lacquered box), Obana offers an authentic unagi experience that has barely changed since the restaurant opened over 100 years ago.
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5-33-1 Minamisenju, Arakawa, Tokyo, +81 3-3801-4670
26   Shima
Unlike most of the steakhouses, Shima is homey and cozy and more like a casual, family-run, Western-style restaurant. From classic starters, such as salmon carpaccio, beef tartare, fresh oysters and onion soup, to the wagyu steaks and desserts, every dish is prepared with care and attention. If you reserve a seat at the counter, Chef Oshima Manabu will show you various slabs of wagyu, sourced from a family farm in Kyoto, and you will choose the type, weight and cooking temperature you prefer. Chef Ohshima will then trim and cook the steak right in front of you, working with his wife and son. The graciousness with which the family receives diners makes them feel like they are enjoying food at a friend’s home. An excellent way to prolong the experience is to order the house signature steak sandwich – filled an inch thick with steak pieces, enough to be shared with two of three people – to have for lunch the next day.
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Nihonbashi MM Building B1, Nihonbashi, 3−5−12, Chuo, Tokyo, +81 3-3271-7889
27   Ginza Koju
Ginza Koju is classic example of a Japanese restaurant designed to appeal to both local diners and international visitors. Applying culinary techniques associated with the core of the traditional kaiseki experience, Chef Toru Okuda creates dishes that appeal to urban sensibilities while maintaining Japanese artistry in the presentation of the food. The counter seating allows diners to watch Chef Okuda’s preparation of the dishes, while the private rooms are ideal for group dining and celebration. Ginza Koju became so popular with visiting French diners that Chef Okuda has opened a restaurant in Paris named Okuda.
photo credit: Margaret Lam
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Carioca Bldg. 4fl., 5 Chome-4-8 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, +81 3-6215-9544
28   Aragawa
Tucked away in a dark alley of Shinbashi, Aragawa is one of the most famous steakhouses in Tokyo, featuring well-marbled Sanda wagyu beef. The décor is modest, the menu is simple, and the service is bare-bones. One goes primarily for the prized beefsteak, cut into 2- to 3-centimeter pieces for sirloin and 5 to 6 centimeters for tenderloin, and grilled on skewers over binchotan charcoal. If the steak is not enough to impress you or your guests, the hefty price tag certainly will.
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Onarimon Odakyu Building, Nishishinbashi, 3 Chome−23−11, Minato, Tokyo, +81 3-3438-1867
29   Hashiguchi
This chef does not allow his customers to take photographs of his food, nor will he allow Michelin inspectors to review his restaurant. Nevertheless, Sushi Hashiguchi in Akasaka is one of the most sought-after sushi restaurants in Tokyo. Chef Hashigushi serves only six customers at a time, and a typical omakase includes both tsumami and nigiri sushi, all prepared by the chef himself. Unlike some sushi restaurants in Tokyo that attract foreign diners by serving lots of big-money fish like fatty tuna, this is a good choice for diners who are interested in sampling perfect examples of a more esoteric selection of high-quality, seasonal fish.
photo credit: Tablog
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1-5-20 Motoakasaka, Akasaka Minato Tokyo, +81-3-3478-358
30   Sushi Kaneseka
With an atmosphere that is much more casual and relaxing than at other high-end sushi restaurants, and a selection of fish that typically includes some of the fattiest tuna in Tokyo, Chef Shinji Kanesaka’s restaurant is a popular choice among foreign diners. The staff speaks good English, making it easy for those who travel from overseas to communicate. His original Kanesaka-style sushi became so popular that a number of his apprentices went on to open their own successful restaurants; two prominent ones are Sushi Saito and Sushi Iwa. Chef Kanesaka has expanded his empire to include restaurants in Singapore and Macau.
photo credit: Aiste Miscuivite
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Misuzu building B1F, Ginza 8 -chome 10-3, Chuo, Tokyo, +81 3 5568 4411