It doesn’t get more Harajuku than the colourful Kawaii Monster Cafe. The decor at this adorable restaurant resembles a trip to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Vibrant, kaleidoscopic colours decorate every surface, making everything look like a piece of edible candy. By day it’s a more ‘casual’ cafe and by night, the lights go down and dinner is accompanied by short dance performances. The dishes, like rainbow pasta or Colourful Poison Parfait Extreme, are incredibly photogenic.
Crepes are a staple of the Harajuku street food scene. You can’t walk more than a few paces without spotting someone chowing down on one, smiling as they gleefully stuff their face. Marion Crepes is arguably the most famous of the many establishments in Tokyo now selling them. In fact, it claims to be the shop that started it all in Harajuku! There are over 70 types of crepes available at Marion. Try the Mega Marion, an epic sugar rush of whipped cream, ice cream, brownie, cheesecake, banana, almonds, custard cream and caramel sauce.
Visitors can try their hand at making dinner themselves in this popular okonomiyaki restaurant. Okonomiyaki is a classic Japanese dish, often compared to a hearty pancake made of flour, egg and cabbage mixed with an assortment of meats and toppings. There is a variety of ingredients available, including meat, seafood, vegetables, and cheese, making the meal fully customisable. Lucky for tourists, English menus are available.
Afuri is a beloved ramen chain with shops all over the country. Their generous bowls are a blend of flavours and colours, with the signature dish being their famous yuzu ramen with chicken. Traditional flavours like shio (salt) and shoyu (soy sauce), as well as vegan ramen, are also available. The restaurant usually gets pretty busy throughout the week, but when there’s a line it tends to move pretty quickly so you won’t be hungry for long.
Sushi Bar Yasuda is owned by Naomichi Yasuda — a prominent chef featured on VICE and an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. The intimate space is just big enough to fit him and about eight guests each night. Located a 15-minute walk from Omote-sando Station, this tucked-away spot is home to some of the most delicious and lovingly prepared sushi in the city. Reservations are required.
If you’re looking for a sushi experience that’s more affordable (but no less famous), make a stop at Gonpachi NORI-TEMAKI. It’s owned and operated by the same team behind Gonpachi, the Roppongi restaurant that inspired the House of Blue Leaves from Kill Bill Vol. 1. Their Harajuku location specialises in temaki, otherwise known as hand-rolled sushi. This casual eatery features many types of gorgeous, seaweed-wrapped rolls and interestingly offers cauliflower as a substitute for rice.
As the name implies, Deus Ex Machina will rescue your hunger pangs in unexpected ways. It is part-bar, part-cafe and part-motorcycle-slash-apparel shop all in one. This is one of many Deus Ex Machina concept stores around the world (and the only one in Japan). The decor includes framed art prints and actual motorcycles. Deus Ex Machina serves everything from booze to burgers, with their toasted sandwiches (including pulled pork and spicy chicken) and coffee coming especially recommended.