Leading up to our trip to Japan, I was flooded with recommendations, tips and stories on conquering the overwhelming but magical city of Tokyo... the word, "overwhelming," came up a bunch in describing the crowds (they're everywhere!) and sheer volume of incredible, mind-blowing restaurants (they're A LOT!). Before I travel, I always start with researching things I want to eat and where I want to eat it (for Japan, I referred to recs by friends who live there, favorite chefs of mine who travel there often, the Michelin and Bib Gourmand guides, and articles by Time Out Tokyo, Roads & Kingdoms, and The Japan Times), and I save them in my maps app, so I can just pull it up when I'm in the area and see what's delicious that's close by to the site (or store :) I'm at.
Here were some of my favorite eats in Tokyo:
Being at Akomeya in Ginza is like being a kid at a candy store. Akomeya is one part specialty food store (imagine all the soy and yuzu sauces in the world, every kind of rice, and the prettiest assortments of sweets and pastries) and one part restaurant in the back. Like most things Japanese, the aesthetic is clean and simple and the food, perfectly prepared. We went for the set lunch menu (which always focuses on a different rice region -- we lucked out with Niigata) and it was delightful (once you have rice in Japan, you just can't look back!).
I'm a sucker for hidden corners and alleyways filled with one of a kind shops and restaurants, and Japan is filled with them. Another dear friend of mine who lives in Tokyo, Mina, took us out to Ebisu Yokocho for dinner. Ebisu Yokocho is an indoor alley filled to the brim with people drinking beer and eating everything from yakitori and sushi to fried chicken and braised beef cheek at izakayas lined up and down, both sides, of the alley.
Tip: the space is VERY tight so be prepared to make new friends.
After braving Takeshita street, a gyoza treat at Harajuku Gyoza is much deserved. Yes, you'll have to line-up but everyone lines up for anything super delicious in Japan.
Also in Shinjuku (although a little out of the way) is the Park Hyatt. This being my first time in Tokyo, just had to do it (it's the hotel where Bill Murray's character stays at in Lost in Translation). And no, Sausalito wasn't playing ;) but the band that was, was pretty darn good.
Nakajima is a Michelin star restaurant that specializes in fresh sardines. The dinner prices are insane and the hostess is cruel, but the lunch special is the craziest deal you'll ever find (I'm talking 900 yen per dish deal!) and the food is so worth it.
It was strawberry season so we got the strawberry shortcake (man, do the Japanese kill the shortcake game!) and this new fave, a layered crepe fruit cake at Harbs Cafe.
I've had Savoy (and Seirinkan, below) bookmarked for years, after seeing David Chang rave again and again on Instagram about how it's the best pizza in the world. They're actually now featured in his new show on Netflix, Ugly Delicious. Both offer only two pizzas: marinara and margarita, and you wonder why it's taken you so long to get your butt to Tokyo.
On this trip, it was confirmed that my love of food comes from my mom. She's the only one that can out hunger and out eat me. Every single night, before heading back to our hotel, we'd hit a 7/11, Lawson's, and/or Family Mart (it's alllllll about the convenience stores in Japan) to pick up a few snacks to cap off the night and to start the next morning right. After two weeks in Japan, I think we tried every chip, onigiri, pastry, and ice cream... no regrets because there's always Whole 30 waiting for you at home, amirite?!
After almost two weeks in Japan, my parents were craving hard for some Chinese food so we hit Yokohama Chinatown's Saikoh Shinkan. My dad can speak Mandarin so the manager loved us and treated us like family, which was so sweet.
Another local friend highly rec'd a pre-dinner snack at Isomaru Suisan for the kani miso (translated as "crab brains" but not really brains, so don't worry) -- a delicious creamy crab mixture with scallions, garlic and other goodness loaded on top of a crab shell that you charcoal grill at your table, on top of other items like squid and shrimp. Wow.
Japan is known for taking pretty much every cuisine and perfecting it via tireless training like no one else. I had heard that the Indian food in Ginza was incredible and that Dhaba (in the Bib Gourmand guide), a Southern Indian joint, was the place to hit. Unfortunately, we walked in on a crazy booked up Friday night but the host was so unbelievably helpful and got us a table (only in Japan!) at another really well-known spot for Northern Indian called Gurgaon.
Very worthy mentions, not captured in pics: AFURI (ramen), Nodaiwa (unagi), Kagari at Ginza Echika Fit (ramen), Sushi Zanmai, Ganso Zushi Asakusa (for fun conveyor belt sushi), and the ebi (shrimp) filet sandwich at... McDonald's (trust me!).