Lukas's Tokyo Dining Guide
Lukas Kratochvil is a gourmet and restaurant critic living and working in Japan. Based in Tokyo, he appraises the city's dining spots and the occasional upscale wine or sake bar.
The Tokyo metropolis offers an overwhelming number of dining opportunities, representing nearly every cuisine on earth. Lukas gives you guidance on where to get started, and what to expect at a restaurant when you arrive to dine.
Maximize your dining enjoyment by getting reliable advice and the very latest on Tokyo's dining establishments from a connoisseur of both food and drink. Includes information based on genre, area, price, and atmosphere.
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Japanese Restaurants in Tokyo
Michiba Washoku Tateno - Enthusiastic about the famous kaiseki set menu experience, but put off by the price tag? There is a solution: lunch at Michiba Washoku Tateno in Ginza, offering a premier kaiseki experience priced embarrassingly low. Greeted by the jovial chef, we were led to our table in a private area. I was accompanied by first time visitors to Tokyo anxious to test the compatibility of their palates and classical Japanese cuisine.
Yasai Kaiseki Nagamine - Japanese kaiseki vegetarian restaurant in Ginza.
Yasai Kaiseki Nagamine ("yasai" meaning vegetable in Japanese) is a relatively new addition to the Tokyo restaurant scene, but its owners know a thing or two about vegetables, having run a vegetable wholesale business for 60 years. And their expertise shows.
Araki - Araki is a sushi restaurant in Tokyo's Higashi-Ginza district, run by owner-chef Mitsuhiro Araki.
Daisan Harumi - Kazuo Nagayama has been pleasing the palate of his customers, nay disciples, for 45 years. He has also written several books on sushi and designs all of the crockery at Daisan Harumi. He made his own wasabi grater and harvests his own nori (seaweed). An artist through and through, his obsession with detail has infected his no less able long-time assistant Kawashima-san.
Sukiyabashi Jiro - is the honten (main branch), in Ginza, of a restaurant that also has (an inferior) branch in Roppongi, run by the son of the owner of the main branch. The Roppongi branch accepts non-Japanese speakers, but the Ginza branch does not. The owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, Jiro Ono, was born before World War Two in the Taisho Period of Japanese history, making him one of the great-grandfathers of the sushi scene in Tokyo. He has been officially dubbed a "national living treasure" for his work on behalf of Japanese cuisine.
Fuku - You will never know just how good grilled meat on skewers can be until you visit Fuku, a yakitori (grilled chicken) restaurant in Yoyogi Uehara. The approach sounds deceptively simple: source the best free range chicken, add the appropriate amount of salt and grill it over bincho-tan (white charcoal). In the real world, it rarely translates into the level of jaw-dropping perfection celebrated at Fuku.
Aronia de Takazawa - Aronia de Takazawa defies classification. Yoshiaki Takazawa, Aronia's young chef, calls it 'New French,' but the reality is less simple than that. Using cutting edge techniques and working with quality ingredients from many of Japan's regions, Takazawa has created a modern and genuinely original cuisine which will surprise, dazzle and delight any curious palate.
I would normally only describe the highlights of the evening, but at Aronia, every dish is a highlight.
Joel Robuchon Restaurant - Joel Robuchon Restaurant is a modern French restaurant featuring cuisine actuelle in Tokyo's Ebisu district.
Yonemura - If you want to dazzle your friends with sophisticated modern Japanese cuisine and a touch of French culinary wizardry, do yourself a favour and do not take them to Yonemura, the Tokyo branch of a Kyoto restaurant. I eagerly anticipated my visit to this Michelin starred establishment marketed as 'Japanese-French fusion,' but essentially serves modern Japanese food with some nods to foreign influences. Sadly, the overall experience can only be described as underwhelming.
Hal Yamashita - "Japanese fusion" is a tired, overused term often applied to restaurants that will frequently disappoint while kicking your wallet where it hurts. Hal Yamashita is a delightful exception to the rule, celebrating fusion cuisine at the highest level. Your wallet will leave the scene of the crime bruised but not beaten, and you will feel that it was worth the expense. I freely admit that I am prejudiced where restaurants in the Midtown complex are concerned - in a nutshell, overpriced and underwhelming (Union Square, anyone?). It was therefore with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation for lunch at Hal Yamashita.
Le Bourguignon - Le Bourguignon is a small restaurant close to the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo. Its facade resembles that of a house in Paris, and it is no less appealing from the inside where a warm, cosy interior welcomes patrons. Service is friendly but a little stiff and on the slow side. Luckily, this minor imperfection is forgotten the moment the amuse bouche touches your palate: gougere (choux pastry) stuffed with salted pork back rib meat and cream sauce. A small but potent example of Burgundian culinary art, the full, charred pork flavour and the decadent cheesy cream sauce combine beautifully with the sweet, buttery pastry. It may have enough calories to sustain a mountain climber for a day but it is absolutely delicious.
Japanese Restaurants out of Tokyo
Kasuke - Ordinarily this column focuses on Tokyo's culinary world, but a recent dining experience in the countryside was of such quality that I feel obliged to share it with you.
Kasuke is a restaurant located within a collection of beautifully designed villas making up the Hoshinoya Hotel complex in Karuizawa, a ski and hiking resort one train hour from Tokyo. Located in the midst of Karuizawa's lush greenery and lakes, Hoshinoya's main purpose is pure relaxation. To me, however, the main attraction was the food and sake.
Italian Restaurants in Tokyo
Canoviano Cafe - Canoviano Cafe is a modern Italian restaurant with a focus on fresh, organic ingredients, impressively reminding patrons that contrary to popular belief it is easy to be both health-conscious and a decadent gourmet. Located in the Tokyo Midtown complex, the sleek, minimalist design manages to exude both style and comfort, with friendly staff on hand to guide you through the six course set lunch. We started off with a supremely refreshing dish of cold capellini with white fruit tomato sorbet and Japanese white peach.