With more Michelin stars than any other city it would be a culinary crime not to fine dine in the Nippon capital.
Famed for its focus on top-notch produce and meticulous attention to detail, Tokyo’s epicurean scene is unrivalled on the global stage. From omakase institutions to fiery robata restos and exclusive kaiseki counters, delectable fine dine options await at every turn. But we think these eight gourmand greats are just the chopstick pick of the bunch. Loosen that belt, Betty-san...
On the menu: Top-notch teppanyaki
Hotplate pyrotechnics go gangbusters in this 150-year-old merchant house gussied up in lacquered woods and Art Deco lilts. The melt-in-your-mouth marbled black Wagyu cuts are flipped in front of your eyes and seasoned to suit your particular palate. But don’t stuff yourself silly with steak, you’ll want to save space for the divine desserts, which are served in a separate, old-school salon.
Or for tatami-style, garden-side grazing try tofu-centric sister spot Tofuya Ukai.
Ukai-tei Omotesando, 5/F, Omotesando-Gyre, 5-10-1 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 5467 5252, ukai.co.jp
Tofuya Ukai, 4-4-13 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3436 1028, ukai.co.jp
On the menu: Too pretty to eat plates
After sharpening his skills at Copenhagen’s Noma, Chef Koichi Hashimoto has returned home to add some delicacy to the Japanese capital’s dining scene via such kitchen wizardry as origami cranes made from celeriac sheets, mini models of vegetable patches, and mushrooms suspended in dew-like edible droplets. As delicious as it is delightful, but with just 16 seats in the concrete-chic space you’ll have to book your charming 10-course taster waaaay ahead.
Celaravird, 2-8-10 Uehara, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3465 8471, res essential, celaravird.com
On the menu: Sublime sushi
Jiro Ono might get the international attention, but veteran nigiri sensei Keiji Nakazawa is the top local pick for paper-thin, Edomae-aged and umami-packed raw n’ rice bites. His venerated omakase counter treats just ten lucky diners to 30+ sake-accompanied courses. Can’t get in at dinner? Try the no-res lunchtime bara chirashi set – just arrive before noon as they only make 20 a day.
Sushi Sho, Yorindo Bldg, 1-11 Yotsuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo. +81 3 3351 6387, book well ahead
On the menu: Neo Nippon
Local and visiting gastronomes make the pilgrimage for Seiji Yamamoto’s imaginative, worth-the-hype daily-changing degustations. Or if you’re not down for the degustation, come after 9pm when you can order a la carte. Post-sup, the 'poison salt' made from fugu (blowfish) makes for one daring, conversation-starting souvenir.
Nihonryuri RyuGin, G/F, Roppongi Bldg, 7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo. +81 3 3423 8006, nihonryori-ryugin.com
On the menu: Finessed French
2015 was a milestone year for the Gallic great, which ditched its intimate Aoyama address for pared-back and sized-up new digs in Jingumae, and subsequently earned its first Michelin accolade. Gone is the classic dining room, replaced by a counter-ringed open kitchen where in-the-know epicureans watch Kawate and co. magic up three hours-worth of impeccable and inventive tasters.
Florilège, B/1, Seizan Gaien, 2-5-4 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 6440 0878, aoyama-florilege.jp
On the menu: Mild molecular gastronomy and top drops
It’s Japan via elBulli behind the metal door at this exclusive, alleyway shoebox run by humble genius Chef Yamada, who formerly manned the pans at the Spanish culinary laboratory. Now he cooks whatever seasonal sets take his fancy and pairs them with a stunning selection of Euro wines. Just try not to order that third bottle – you’ll want to stick around for the lovely post-meal tea ceremony.
Yamada Chikara, 1/F, 1-15-2 Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 5942 5817, yamadachikara.com
On the menu: An understated kaiseki education
Humble simplicity trumps showy pretense at this quietly elegant blond wood beauty run by spotlight-eschewing Hideki Ishikawa. Whether you opt to dine privately or at one of the seven counters, you'll sample a seasonal selection that might feature tempura horsehead snapper, spear squid and tofu soup, or a perfectly balanced hotpot. Even the humble side of rice is elevated to salivating new heights.
Ishikawa, Takamura Bldg, 5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 5225 0173, kagurazaka-ishikawa.co.jp
Blink and you’ll miss this unsigned, bargain three-Michelin basement haven of white marble and sensational seasonal veg and seafood alongside sakes sourced from Gifu and Tochigi.
Esaki, UG1/F, Hills Aoyama, 3-39-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3408 5056, lunch Sat, dinner Mon-Sat, aoyamaesaki.net
Having spent the better part of her 'study years' flitting from Sri Lanka and South Africa to Iceland and Italy, Eleani joined LUXE fresh from freelancing for TimeOut Melbourne and Fairfax media.