Arrived in Tokyo early afternoon and dinner was not scheduled until 9:30PM, so elected to have a late lunch near my hotel at this famous tonkatsu shop. The restaurant conveniently stays open between lunch and dinner, and so at 2:30PM I was able to get a seat at the counter without having to wait. I picked the ¥ 2,800 set: a perfectly cooked cutlet of pork with fresh cabbage, rice and miso soup. Of course I enjoyed a couple of Asahi beers on tap to wash it down with, a nice way to unwind after a ten hour flight. Bairin’s tonktatsu might not be the best in Tokyo but it is reliably good. This was my fifth or sixth visit to this shop, and found it as enjoyable as ever. Good first meal of the trip.
First time visit for me at this reasonably new sushiya (opened in February 2015) in a quiet part of Shibuya, about 10 minutes from the station. Total of nine seats at the counter of this beautiful restaurant. Chef Kurosaki is friendly and the vibe is relaxed. The sushi is modern in style: slightly smaller pieces, shari mildly seasoned with akasu. Ingredient quality is very high and the sake list is stellar. Very enjoyable omakase of about 7 otsumami and 15 pieces of nigiri plus loads of very good nihonshu came to ¥35,000. The style of the sushi here is not my absolute favorite, but I’m still very glad to have tried this shop which I think is underrated. It is certainly better than its 3.96 Tabelog score suggests.
Sushi Zanmai Honten
Haven’t visited the honten in a few years, and since my hotel is only a 15 minute walk to Tsukiji it was convenient to walk there for breakfast, so I decided to pop in for a quick bite. Ordered the 5 piece maguro set, plus a few additional pieces (kohada, sanma, some others I can’t remember). About 10 or 11 pieces of nigiri + 2 draft beers (don’t judge, I was on vacation) came to ¥4,200. In my mind, I had the impression that the quality of the sushi at the honten is better than other Zanmai locations. Now, I’m not so sure. It was pretty bad, and I doubt I’ll return. Cold shari, no vinegar flavor to be found, very underwhelming neta. Bleh.
Third visit to this fantastic Tsukiji sushiya, once again doing the full nighttime omakase at lunch. Keita-san keeps getting better and better, and this was probably my favorite meal of the trip. Everything was absolutely delicious. Keita’s shari might just be my favorite; quite sour, seasoned with akasu, served on the warmer side. Total cost for the full omakase (7 or 8 tsumami, 16 or more nigiri) and plenty of nihonshu: a ridiculously low ¥19,000. Keita just earned (a well-deserved) Michelin star, so I imagine that pricing will be going up soon. Even when prices go up I’ll keep returning to this wonderful shop.
Second visit to this legendary sushi shop in Shimbashi, this time at dinner. About 5 otsumami, 20+ pieces of very large nigiri, and a couple of maki, with lots of nihonshu for a total of ¥22,000. What a bargain! I was so full by the end that I actually struggled a bit to complete the meal (the jet lag didn’t help). Shimizu-san’s sushi is still one of my favorites, and my favorite style. Big, bold, sour akasu shari, emphasis on hikarimono and shellfish, no nonsense atmosphere and service. Shimizu-san doesn’t try to source the very highest quality maguro, he’s more interested in preparing good quality ingredients as best as possible, allowing for a very high quality experience at a reasonable price. As always, his kohada prep was out of this world. On this visit, the katsuo sashimi was also insanely good. A sushi shop I’ll continue to visit every time I’m able to. Superb meal.
Seventh visit to this small Ginza sushiya, at lunch on a Thursday. I was actually supposed to be having lunch at Hirosaku, a kappo shop in Shimbashi, but the chef was taken ill and had to close the restaurant for the day. Luckily, a quick phone call to Taichi and I was able to secure a last minute seat. Sat in front of Taichi-san who is without a doubt one of my favorite sushi masters. Super-skilled, friendly and with a wicked sense of humor. I love the atmosphere so much at Taichi and always have a great time there. Ordered the nigiri-only omakase. Fifteen or so pieces of nigiri + a toro maki, a kanpyo maki, and some nihonshu came to ¥14,500. Insane C/P as always. Taichi-san has a similar philosophy to Shimizu-san: source the highest quality ingredients within a reasonable price in order to provide great sushi without having to charge ridiculously high sums of money. Once again the sushi was fantastic. All pieces were great, and as per usual the shellfish pieces were standouts.
First visit to this famous Shinjuku institution. A huge shop that sits 82 customers over two floors. Don’t let the name fool you, Torishige doesn’t serve chicken (not that I saw anyways), it is all about pork (and some beef) offal, mostly served on a stick. I ordered the ¥8,500 omakase - a 2.5 hour long feast. Highlights: grilled pork intestines, half-raw pork liver on a stick, sashimi of raw pork liver, and fallopian tube with a raw egg and lemon, grilled pork tongue on a stick, and the best uterus I’ve had. The restaurant was packed, with long lines to get in (thankfully I had a reservation) and the atmosphere is boisterous, and very loud. The shop in my opinion is deserving of its 4.27 Tabelog ranking, and well worth a visit. The only downside is that a 2.5 hour long meal gets a bit tedious for a single diner in such a loud environment. Having said that, the food is so good that I’d happily return.
Visited this hundred-year-old inner Tsukiji market shop one last time for breakfast the day before Tsukiji inner market shut down, and as always, ordered the "half and half” (karakuchi and tomato fumi curries split order). Giant plate of curries served with rice and cabbage. Very filling, very cheap, pretty damn tasty.
This new tonkatsu shop (opened in August 2018) is my new go-to for tonkatsu in Tokyo. Without a doubt the best tonkatsu I’ve had. I visited at lunch and picked one of the cheaper lunch sets at around ¥3,500. They also offer a full omakase menu priced around ¥8,500, which I will be sure to try on my next visit. Tonkatsu is elevated to fine cuisine here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this shop earned a Michelin star next year. I have a feeling the shop might become hard to book as well. Very high quality pork cooked to perfection, amazing rice, beautiful small counter (restaurant only sits 15 total) on the fifth floor of a nice building in Ginza 5-Chome. More expensive than your typical tonkatsu meal, but so tasty that I found it well worth the premium price.
Finally got around to visiting this famous standing izakaya in Kachidoki, just across the Sumida river from Tsukiji. Visited right at opening time (4pm on a weekday) before heading to a yakitori-ya later. Ordered a bunch of their classic dishes: nama yuba, the very instagramable uni-raw beef roll, the crab salad, and a few other items. Washed it all down with Dassai 50 nihonshu. Verdict: good food, but overhyped by online reviewers. The raw beef uni roll looks better than it tastes. Everything was good, nothing was great. Also not a fan of eating while standing, to be honest. If I found myself in the neighborhood and there was no wait, I’d eat there again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to go back.
Happy to have found a new go-to yakitori spot in this part of the city. Previously my go-to spot for yakitori was Fuku in Yoyogi Uehara, but as I usually stay in Ginza, Toranomon, or Tokyo station that shop is not exactly convenient. Mashiko, on the other hand, is conveniently located a 5 minute walk from Shimbashi station. Small shop, with about 8 seats at the counter and one private table for 6. Super-serious shokunin-type chef/owner - this guy takes yakitori very seriously and is 100% focused on his task. His assistants appeared to be a bit scared of him. The restaurant doesn’t accept reservations, opens at 5:30 PM, and was completely full by 5:31. If you want to eat there, get to the shop 15 minutes before opening time. Zero English spoken, but ordering omakase (which is the only option available - no okonomi orders are accepted) should be easy enough. About 12 skewers of really fantastic yakitori + some nihonshu came to ¥4,500 per person, a very good value. I visited with a Japanese friend, it will be interesting to see if they allow me to visit on my own next time. If they do, this might just become my new regular yakitori spot.
Taichi (8th visit overall, 2nd visit on this trip)
My first visit to Taichi earlier in the week was not planned, this one was. I always like to have lunch at Taichi as a final meal before heading to the airport to fly home. This time, Taichi-san was not working, so his sous-chef made my sushi. Thirteen pieces of nigiri + 1 maki for ¥7,000. Such a good deal! The assistant (don’t know his name) is talented and will be a great sushi chef one day. He’s not quite there yet, though - the sushi was definitely a step down in taste from Taichi-san’s. He made some obvious beginner mistakes, like forgetting to apply nikiri to a piece. Overall, the lunch was still absolutely delicious, and at that price point, it is hard to complain. A great way to end a very quick but immensely enjoyable trip to Tokyo.