Visitors to Tokyo are spoiled for choice when it comes to food. Even if you stick to Japanese dining, there is a smorgasbord of cooking styles, regional delicacies and thousands of years of culinary culture to explore.
Plus, Japanese chefs have embraced Western food of all stripes with the same passion and meticulous attention to detail. Here are our resident editor's picks for the must-visit, crème de la crème of Tokyo restaurants this year.
With just 10 seats per day and a reputation as one of the best restaurants in Asia, if not the world, this Japanese-French fusion restaurant is another difficult to snag reservation, but oh so worth the trouble. From the open kitchen, Chef Yoshiaki Takazawa creates playful dishes with both visual and gustatory impact, drawing on techniques from Japanese, French and molecular cooking. Meanwhile, his English-speaking wife Akiko runs the dining room, giving the whole operation a unique and intimate feel. The chef is also a licensed sommelier and will entertainingly pair wines with your course. Email for reservations well in advance, set the number of courses and prepare to be wowed.
LUXOS recommends: Giving yourself extra time to find the place, as it's a bit hard to spot
It's been nearly five years since the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi made 89-year-old Jiro Ono the world's best-known sushi chef, but reservations at his tiny Ginza restaurant are still among the most sought after in town.
There are no menus as Chef Ono selects only the freshest and highest quality fish each morning and creates a course to highlight the flavors. The precision service is timed to place each piece of sushi before you at the exact right temperature, so eat up. It is a fast-paced, mostly silent ceremony at the shrine of sushi, but totally deserving of each of its Michelin stars.
LUXOS recommends: Having your hotel call for reservations as soon as your trip dates are set. If you don't get lucky, try the second branch in Roppongi, run by Chef Ono's son.
Photo courtesy of Ukai-tei
Michelin-starred Ukai-tei is a treat for all the senses, starting with the plush ambiance of dining in a 150-year-old home relocated from Kanazawa and decorated in a blend of Western and Japanese antiques. Their specialty is wagyu beef raised on their dedicated farm, cooked in from of you on a teppan grill and served with a selection of seasonal ingredients and fresh seafood. After dinner, you will be escorted to a separate salon to enjoy dessert.
LUXOS recommends: The abalone and steak course.
Photo: writer's own
In the posh neighborhood of Azabu-juban, you'll find El Bulli-trained Chef Yamada combining the new fangled techniques of molecular gastronomy with the timeless traditions of kaiseki, Japanese haute cuisine. Although it has been open a few years now, this tiny, understated restaurant still has the air of a new discovery and its 12 seats attract the in-the-know of Tokyo's foodie crowd. Over 10 or more substantial courses, Chef Yamada will make you forget any notion that molecular gastronomy is just frothy, style-over-substance showmanship, especially when paired with his well-curated list of Spanish and French wines.
LUXOS recommends: Saving room for dessert, it's a showstopper!
Tucked behind the Bishamonten Zenkokuji Temple, chef Hideki Ishikawa is creating innovative Japanese cuisine that focuses on creating harmony among seasonal ingredients so their inherent flavors can shine. His sake collection mainly covers the region of Niigata, where the chef was born, and pairs exquisitely with dishes like eel soup with plum sauce and steamed rice with blackthroat perch. An absolutely flawless kaiseki experience and about as Japanese as it gets.
LUXOS recommends: Eschewing the private room in favor of the counter for a more interactive experience with the chef
Joël Robuchon Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Joël Robuchon
When you dine at the restaurant of a chef with as many stars and ribbons as Joël Robuchon, you know it is going to be good, but his Tokyo property has the added frisson of being an 18th-century castle incongruously placed in the middle of the upscale neighborhood of Ebisu. Decorated in sleek black, champagne and crystal, the ambiance is fairy tale, the Japanese-influenced French menu is heavenly, and the service is as flawless as you have come to expect.
LUXOS recommends: The new Food & Life course, which Robuchon designed to be completely vegetarian and gluten free without sacrificing flavor or luxury