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Chef Norihito Endo places nigiri sushi onto a lacquer tray at Ebisu Endo in Tokyo.
Chef Norihito Endo straddles the modern and traditional at sushi restaurant Ebisu Endo in Tokyo.
(Irwin Wong / For The Times)

14 outstanding places to eat and drink while traveling in Tokyo

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Are you headed to Japan this year?

The country reopened for tourism in October, all but predetermining a flood of travel in 2023. Yes, screeds will be written by December about how no one wants to see any more shots of noodle bowls and tonkatsu in their social media feeds. For now, though, glimpses into one of the world’s most thrilling culinary destinations still feel uplifting.

I spent a week in Tokyo in March as part of a story about the city’s influence on L.A.’s evolving sushi culture, particularly some of our best omakase chefs and their inspired return to fundamentals. It was part of an all-in project by the Food team covering all things sushi in Los Angeles.

The current generation of omakase chefs in Los Angeles are returning to the essence of the cuisine. A trip to Tokyo confirms what’s been driving their pursuit for excellence.

May 4, 2023

But I couldn’t not eat and drink broadly and with abandon in Tokyo. Let me state clearly: I claim no expertise in the city’s foodways. What I have is the privilege of discerning Japanese friends on the ground in both Tokyo and Los Angeles, who graciously offered guidance at every turn. I thank them profoundly, and it seems fair to pass some of that generosity along.

Any experience or research into Tokyo reveals two swift realities: There are a million ways to eat well, and reservations at in-demand restaurants are a cutthroat sport. Plan as far ahead as possible, enlist a hotel concierge to help with bookings weeks out and know that it’s totally fine if you can’t get into the three-star temples you were mooning over. I didn’t, and I can’t stop thinking about how staggering my trip was.


“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” cemented in the world’s mind that Tokyo is a seat of shokunin — craftspeople who devote themselves entirely to their chosen field, always intent on mastery and improvement. The city is definitely a place to chase obsessions: Mine include tea, coffee, tempura and pizza, and I encountered greatness.

Consider this, then, a very personal rundown: There’s no ramen, no izakaya, no French luminaries. It’s one way to embark on a place that can overwhelm with choice. Note that I’d include Koji Kimura’s singular eight-seat sushi bar, which I wrote about extensively in my Tokyo-L.A. essay, but his restaurant is currently closed while he opens a second location in Shanghai. Keep an eye out for his return, and plot a reservation accordingly.

This is your guide to what the best sushi city in America has to offer, from the ultimate California roll to spectacular omakase.

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Interior of Ebisu Endo, a sushi restaurant in Japan.
(Irwin Wong / For The Times)

Ebisu Endo

Japanese Sushi $$$$
Norihito Endo grew up in a sushi-ya: His father is also a chef, and for several years he trained as a soccer player in the U.K. before returning to Japan to learn under globally revered chef Takashi Saito. At his own eight-seat omakase bar, in a building on a quieter block of the dense Shibuya shopping district, Endo navigates between tradition and modernism. Angeleno food obsessives familiar with top-tier bars like Morihiro, Sushi Kaneyoshi and Sushi I-naba will recognize his format. Before and between courses of textbook nigiri he serves small, intense dishes that change with seasons and whims; the meal I had included soba with deliciously intense bottarga; eel grilled on the spot until its skin crackled; and cucumbers marinated in shio koji and sliced into rounds as thin as half dollars. The restaurant has fantastic pairings featuring sake or, more unusually, high-quality tea. Endo’s presence is focused but warm — he converses in English with a posh British accent — and his ascending reputation attracts an energetic mix of locals and visitors.

1-Chome-17-2 Ebisuminami, Shibuya City, Tokyo
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Tetsuyasu Kobayashi discusses tamago at his Ginza sushi bar Sushi Kobayashi.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Sushi Kobayashi

Japanese Sushi $$$
Tetsuyasu Kobayashi has been making sushi for half his life, in Japan and recently in France, before opening his first restaurant in December — a six-seat bar on the ground floor of the Seiwa Silver Building in Ginza. His style of omakase honors Edomae disciplines: Expect seasonal seafood cured, marinated or cooked with respect to tradition, and shari seasoned with akazu, an enjoyably sour vinegar that stains the rice coppery brown. At lunch the menu typically focuses on nigiri; dinner can include small plates that express a range of cooking techniques. This isn’t a grand affair. Visitors looking for a mid-priced absorption into the rigors and pleasures of sushi classicism, served at a calm but no-nonsense clip, will hopefully find Sushi Kobayashi as rewarding as I did. In its first months, Kobayashi is a one-man operation, so try calling for a reservation midafternoon when he has time to answer the phone.

8-Chome-2-10 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo
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A plate of broiled mackerel nigiri sushi with horseradish and onion at Hanamaru Ginza, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Japan.
(Irwin Wong / For The Times)

Nemuro Hanamaru Ginza

Japanese $$
For lunch, on a day when there’s time in the schedule for a bit of a wait in line, it’s fun to seek out one of Tokyo’s better kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants, which I’m not sure ever exactly translate outside the native context. Nemuro Hanamaru Ginza comes from a chain out of Hokkaido, the source of some of the world’s most prized seafood. Scan a QR code for the seating queue the minute you arrive. This location on the 10th floor of the Tokyu Plaza Ginza building adds visual drama to the experience; you spend half the time staring out the windows at the eye-level urban landscape and the other half gazing at the selection of the super-sized, reasonably priced and solid-quality nigiri rolling by. If you spy scallops, grab them.

5-Chome-2-1 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo
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Shredded carrot tempura at Tempura Kondo.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Tempura Kondo

Japanese $$$
The admiration for tempura chef Fumio Kondo parallels the veneration around Jiro Ono: Both are masters grounded in tradition who also believe in refining and advancing techniques in pursuit of perfection. Kondo famously calls tempura a “steamed food.” The batter he developed is so sheer and enveloping that seafood and vegetables cook to precise tenderness as the exterior fries to a crackle. Kondo’s signature dish is a hunk of sweet potato he bobs in oil for half an hour or so until the inside is fluffy and the skin nearly shatters; it’s an addition to one of three dinnertime omakase options that begin at around $100, and it’s absolutely worth it. Another marvel: julienned carrots whooshed through the wok for 30 seconds until they emerge in a greaseless tangle, more delicate than any shoestring fries you can ever imagine. A hotel concierge scored this improbable reservation for the two of us — thank you, Ai Watanabe at the Tokyo Edition — and if you are fortunate to land a seat you too might wonder like me if you’ll ever have tempura this extraordinary again.

5-Chome-5-13, Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo
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Taranome, or buds from the angelica tree, served at Tempura Yokota in Tokyo.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Tempura Yokota

Japanese $$$
While not as rarified as Kondo (and not aiming to be), Yokota is a long-established tempura specialist in Tokyo’s central, restaurant-rich Azabu-Juban neighborhood; it serves an omakase that frames the genre beautifully. Small, brightly flavored dishes of seasonal seafood and vegetables punctuate the meal, but, as in a sushi omakase, the beauty of the experience is in the sequence of tempura cooked in the moment and delivered piece by piece. Expect delicacies like springtime taranome (crisp, earthy-sweet angelica buds) and finely battered abalone served with a splotch of liver sauce. With every arrival, the chef recommends the appropriate dipping salts or sauce. Tempura at its highest craftsmanship is underrepresented in Southern California, and arguably the United States in general, and I left wishing we had a place like this in Los Angeles to help unstitch narrow thinking around what fried food can be.

3-Chome−11−3, Motoazabu, Minato City, Tokyo
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A variety of sushi styles, including pressed sushi, presented as a tasting-menu course at Tenoshima in Tokyo.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)


Japanese $$$
Ryohei Hayashi trained in formal kaiseki traditions in Kyoto, but at his tasting menu restaurant in Tokyo’s Minami-Aoyama neighborhood (known for its high-end shopping) he follows his own exuberant, unorthodox ideas around culinary form. The small dining room, with six counter seats and several tables, is dim and serene. Hayashi carries over a few staples from his seasonal, seafood-focused menus — delicious pressed sushi with mackerel and noodle soup made with iriko dashi (dried anchovy stock) among them — but he clearly has a playful streak. Dinner might begin with a delicious, full-of-crunch fried pufferfish sandwich, and the lone meat course is often a meticulously globe-shaped take on menchi katsu (minced beef cutlet). Among the extra-kind staff is Erika Aoki, who previously worked at Travis Lett’s now-closed MTN in Venice. She steered me, rightly, toward Hayashi’s thoughtful beverage pairings, which included an IPA from Kyoto Brewing Company to go with the fish sandwich.

1-Chome-3-21, Minami-Aoyama, Minato City, Tokyo
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A chef works the grill at Kyobashi Isehiro in Tokyo.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Kyobashi Isehiro

Japanese $$$
Yukari Sakamoto — the author of “Food Sake Tokyo” who was born in Japan and raised in Minnesota, and whose wonderful walking market tours increased my understanding of the culinary landscape tenfold — suggested this yakitori shop near Tokyo Station as a local favorite. The restaurant has specialized in grilled chicken skewers for more than 100 years; during the pandemic it relocated across the street to a newer building with excellent ventilation. Staffers move customers efficiently through the dining room. You might have a brief, seated wait before your table is ready; you’ll likely be in view of chefs overseeing meats sizzling in billows of smoke behind glass. Order skewers in sets, with the meal perhaps filled out with soup and salad. Be sure to try tsukune (meatballs); smoky, multi-textured cuts of thigh; and pounded spirals of chicken wrapped around green onions.

1-Chome-4-9 Kyobashi, Chuo City, Tokyo
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A lunchtime bento, which includes rice covered in shredded nori, at the Yamamotoyama tea shop in Tokyo's Ginza district.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Yamamotoyama Fujie Sabo

Japanese Teahouse $$
The Yamamoto family established a tea shop in Tokyo, technically when the city was still called Edo, in 1690. You might guess the age of the business (wild to think it predates the founding of the United States) by the character and the complexity of the steam-processed green teas served at its Chuo City store, but you wouldn’t know it from the modern, minimalist surroundings. This is an ideal stop for a lunchtime bento filled with rice covered in crisp shredded nori, grilled salmon or beef sukiyaki, pickles and other side dishes. Yukari Sakamoto pointed out to me that Yamamotoyama has long served wagashi (traditional sweets) from nearby Nihonbashi Nagato, another store with several centuries of local history, as a way to foster community synergy.

2-Chome-5-1, Nihonbashi, Chuo City, Tokyo
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Cold soba noodles with dipping sauce and a side of tempura at Dashin Soan in Tokyo.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Dashin Soan

Japanese $$$
It is difficult to find exceptional handmade soba in the U.S. A recommendation for great soba in Tokyo sent me on a 40-minute subway ride and walking journey east of the city’s center, to the peaceful Daizawa neighborhood. Lush, calm gardens surround Dashin Soan, making a short wait pleasant. The restaurant staff grinds buckwheat flour daily for the soba made each morning; hot or cold, dipped or submerged in broth, they are taut and nutty-earthy and everything one could hope for from a noodle. The eyes feast on stunning ceramics. A side of shrimp and vegetable tempura completes a deeply sating lunch.

3-Chome-7-14 Daizawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo
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The Bismarck — topped with sausage, mushrooms and a signature runny yolk — at Pizza Studio Tamaki in Tokyo.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Pizza Studio Tamaki

Pizza $$
Primacy in the school of Tokyo-style Neapolitan pizza frequently comes down to two names: Seirinkan, chef-owner Susumu Kakinuma’s two-story restaurant where the decor is inspired by Jules Verne, the Beatles are always playing, and the pie options are a margherita and a marinara; and Pizza Studio Tamaki, an unassuming corner hangout in a residential section of the Minato ward opened in 2017 by Tsubasa Tamaki, a protégé of Kakinuma. Ardent pizza lovers should make it to both places, but if time allows for only one pizzeria visit I vote PST. It is some of the best pizza I’ve had in the world. As with the finest adaptive American styles, Tamaki makes the form his own: He shapes the dough into a starburst pattern and adds a dash of extra salt; emerging from the wood-burning oven, the crust is airy and crackly and pronounced in a way I’ve never before tasted.

Go ahead and over-order: Try a margherita, the Tamaki with smoked mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, and the Bismarck with sausage, mushrooms and an egg placed like a bull’s-eye with its yolk running into the cheese. The last pie might sound familiar to Angeleno pizza obsessives: Tamaki’s version inspired the rendering at Pizzeria Sei in Pico-Robertson. It is very worth seeking out the original.

1-Chome-24-6 Higashiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
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A cocktail of pureed momotaro, Scotch and shiso at Gen Yamamoto in Tokyo.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Gen Yamamoto

Cocktails $$$
The flight of seven small cocktails began with Gen Yamamoto vigorously muddling hassaku, a nubbly-skinned Japanese citrus in the orange family, and pairing it with Marc de Champagne, a French distillate that’s in the same arena as Italian grappa. It was unlike anything I’ve had before. The day’s creations also included juiced kiwi coupled with soju and sprinkled with matcha, followed by pureed Momotaro tomatoes spiked with Laphroaig and sharpened with shiso. By the end, I knew I’d never had a drinking experience that more matched my personal tastes.

Yamamoto, who worked for Daniel Boulud in New York before opening his place near the Roppongi District, mixes drinks solo behind an eight-seat bar fashioned from 500-year-old Mizunara oak. He isn’t much for conversation; he’s too consumed preparing the moment’s fruits (and sometimes vegetables, like sweet potatoes in the fall) and combining them in judicious amounts with unlikely, spot-on spirits. A low-alcohol meditation on fruit served in stunning glassware isn’t everyone’s vibe, but I kept thinking: Couldn’t a talent and an approach like this change the game in Southern California?

1-Chome-6-4 Azabujuban, Minato City, Tokyo
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Eureka, a sake bar in Tokyo owned by Marie Chiba.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)


Japanese Bar Bites $$$
Friends who know of my ever-deeper interest in sake all pointed me to sake expert and author Marie Chiba’s new, small, always-packed bar, which opened in October. Once you’re seated, Chiba and her team tend to simply start pouring: They’ll likely start with something light and sparkling and then follow with doburoku, a slightly effervescent and cloudy, almost milky style that nearly disappeared from Japan and is finding popularity again. There is no formal drink menu: Throw out a few words for the qualities you enjoy in sake (or wine even, if sake is a new language) and see what comes. For a finale I was led to an aged brew with sherry qualities that were novel and wonderful to me. Bar snacks — blue cheese and ham katsu, chilled noodles, a lamb burger — will be welcome as the rounds add up.

4-Chome-11-28 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
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The Signorina cocktail at Koffee Mameya Kakeru
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Koffee Mameya Kakeru

Coffee Cocktails $$
Tokyo’s eastern Kiyosumi-Shirakawa neighborhood, once a transportation hub in the city’s Edo period, emerged as one of Tokyo’s centers of coffee culture over the last decade as roasters took up residence in converted warehouses. Mameya is a name synonymous with coffee obsession. In a space that splits the difference between laboratory and industrial-minimalist speakeasy, owner Eiichi Kunitomo, head barista Miki Takamasa and their team serve coffee flights in several variations.

Taste through cold brews, lattes, espressos made with some of their favorite beans of the seasons, but don’t overlook the cocktail selection. The “Signorina” — cold brew, tequila, Lillet Blanc and liqueurs of elderflower and haskap (honeysuckle berries) — blew away any espresso martini I’ve ever sipped, though there’s also a complex version of that ubiquitous drink flavored with chamomile and lime. A coffee-geek moment I savored: When I bought a bag of beans to brew at home, Kunitomo asked me about the grinding and brewing equipment I use, wrote out a personalized recipe and attached a tiny sample of the coffee ground to his preferred size as a visual cue.

2-Chome-16-14 Hirano, Koto City, Tokyo
Phone number: 81-3-6240-3072
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Staffers wrap confections in the front area of Higashiya in Tokyo's Ginza district.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Higashiya Ginza

Teahouse Confections $$
This elegant, upscale sweets and tea shop specializes in a modern approach to wagashi, traditional Japanese confections often made with rice flour, pounded fruits and red bean paste. Higashiya’s small, spherical creations are like nothing I’ve tried: They have a soft, fine sandiness that soon dissolves on the tongue. Improbable, not-at-all-sugary combinations like matcha and raisin or chestnuts and brandy meld into exquisite third tastes in which the separate ingredients are indistinguishable. Tiny dates stuffed with cultured butter and walnut are also amazing. A staff member who speaks English will gladly delve into deep-cut Japanese teas, including some aged varieties, that are little known outside the country.

A word about taking home the sweets: Employees will warn you they are highly perishable. A Japanese friend to whom I gifted a box returned to her Tokyo apartment and raved about the contents, but the wagashi I attempted to bring back to Los Angeles did not survive the trip with their specialness intact. Some things are meant to be savored at the source.

1-Chome−7−7, Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo
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