Sample Traditional Fare
No trip to Tokyo is complete until you’ve wrapped your chompers around some of the best traditional cuisines Japan has to offer. Sushi, sashimi, yakitori and tempura are just a handful of the mouth-watering morsels that you’ll find on almost every corner in the city. While there is definitely no shortage of delicious sushi spots, some of the city’s freshest sashimi and bite-sized sushi morsels can be found in the stalls that surround Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish Market.Sushi aficionados should pull up a seat one of Tokyo’s many kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) joints for a contemporary twist on a classic.
Just across the river, in Tsukishima, you’ll find what has become known as Tokyo’s monjayaki capital. Over 70 restaurants in the area compete to serve up the city’s best monjayaki – a thinner, crispier, tasty cousin to Japan’s better-known savoury pancake dish, okonomiyaki.
Keeping it Classy
With more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in the world, it’s fair to say this metropolis is a culinary capital of the world. And the best part about Tokyo’s Michelin-starred cuisine is that it doesn’t always cost a small fortune; there are plenty of options to suit those on a shoestring budget too. Crowds are a given at the world’s first Michelin-starred Ramen restaurant, Tsuta, but it’s still not to be missed.
But just because dining spots have a reputation, it doesn’t mean they are big – usually, it’s the opposite in Japan and it’s not uncommon for popular eateries to have as little as eight seats. Many restaurants are family-owned and Tokyo’s culinary stars have a great passion for serving smaller groups of people. Teeny-tiny, in-demand spots can book out months in advance, so if you’ve got a Must-Eat list for Tokyo, you might need to book weeks and sometimes months in advance.
Where to drink
It’s a city that never sleeps, and once the sun goes down, locals flock to the streets as an abundance of neon illuminates Tokyo’s gleaming skyscrapers. But forgo the predictable night spots and experience a slice of local nightlife at Golden Gai – just a short meander from Tokyo’s fabled Shinjuku station. Don’t expect bars or eateries as you know them: this quaint maze of alleyways is packed with pint-sized bars and informal eateries known as izakayas. The oft-rickety nature of the Golden Gai’s bars add to their charm, but Albatross (picture above) is in a league of its own. Enjoy cocktails and a serious dose of good tunes from the ’60s and ’70s.
If it’s something a little more refined you’re looking for, bartender Gen Yamamoto’s traditional take on contemporary concoctions has quickly garnered an international following. Seasonality has always been key to Japanese cuisine, and Yamamoto’s cocktail philosophy embraces this. Bookings are essential as the teeny-tiny bar only seats a handful of guests.
Air New Zealand offers a variety of options into Japan on the 787-9 Dreamliner. Fly daily from Auckland non-stop to Tokyo’s Narita Airport and three times per week to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Or fly non-stop to Osaka three times per week between 27 October 2017 to 26 March 2018.
To plan and book your Japan holiday visit Air New Zealand’s 12-day itinerary guide.