Ginza Kojyu is one of the best places in Tokyo to experience kaiseki dining. The cozy interior creates the feeling of a meal prepared in someone’s home, with the servers describing each dish as diners watch it being prepared at the counter. The seasonal menu emphasises traditional Japanese cuisine, along with a few experimental dishes. The restaurant is quite small and relatively affordable, so it’s best to reserve a table in advance.
Ishikawa offers an all-round intimate dining experience, from the attentive staff who help customers find their way to the restaurant’s hidden alleyway location to the chef who typically comes around to tables ensuring all diners are satisfied. Guests are presented with several fixed courses which typically consist of an appetiser, soup, sashimi, and a grilled main. Seating is offered in elegant private dining areas or along the cypress-wood counter with a view of Chef Hideki Ishikawa at work. The kimono-clad servers are a nod to the neighbourhood’s history as a prominent geisha district.
Joël Robuchon is the eponymous restaurant from world-renowned chef Joël Robuchon, who owns numerous successful ventures around the world. Robuchon offers an outstanding take on modern French cuisine. The restaurant offers several set menus, along with an excellent selection of à la carte options. Be sure to save room for the delicious Kyoho grape mochi with fresh almond ice cream, soya milk and honey coulis.
L’Effervescence, a French term that translates to ‘bubbles’, ‘that which makes people gather’, or ‘lively’ depending on the context, befits this restaurant perfectly. The dishes here exude a touch of playfulness, such as its upscale take on the McDonald’s takeaway apple pie made with wild boar or sage and matutake mushrooms, served in a red takeaway box. The restaurant is known for its exquisite desserts, including its caramelized apple and kuromoji ice cream served with muesli. The setting in an elegant Japanese style, and an excellent menu of French wines complement the innovative menu.
L’Effervescence, 2-26-4 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 5766 9500
Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa’s culinary training in Italy, France and Switzerland is evident in his creative use of Japanese ingredients and European cooking techniques. Narisawa is deeply passionate about the environment, and this is reflected in his dishes, which are designed to mirror the Japanese seasons. The restaurant is particularly well-known for its unusual ‘Bread of the Forest and Moss Butter’, which rises at the table while guests enjoy their other courses.
Narisawa, Minami Aoyma 2-6-15, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +813 5785 0799
Nihonryori RyuGin achieves a perfect balance between time-honoured Japanese cooking techniques and fresh, original dishes. The menu is limited to a seasonal full-course degustation set, along with à la carte options available at certain times of night. Many dishes present a playful mixture of hot and cold, particularly the restaurant’s signature dessert which incorporates fruit served both frozen with liquid nitrogen, and boiling hot. ‘Ryugin’ means ‘singing dragon’ or ‘dragon song’ and the mythical creature can be seen in various aspects of the restaurant’s décor, from the plates to the artwork on the walls.
Quintessence’s culinary philosophy is based on three principles: respecting the product by only using premium ingredients, pursuing the cooking process by pushing the boundaries of current culinary practices, and attention to detail in the seasoning process to enhance the subtle flavors of the food. Before opening Quintessence, Chef Shuzo Kishida worked at L’Astrance restaurant in Paris, where he learned the restaurant’s now-signature technique of cooking the meats for an extended period of time at a low temperature. Menus are ‘carte blanche’, with the chef deciding upon the featured dishes each day based on seasonal ingredients.
Quintessence, Barbizon 25 5-4-7 Shiroganedai, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 5791 3715
Sukiyabashi Jiro is arguably one of the best places in Tokyo to eat traditional sushi. The veteran restaurant has served Barak Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in addition to being named among Asia’s 50 best restaurants in 2014. The tasting menu of about 20 small courses is prepared by 89-year-old master chef Jiro Ono. There are only 10 tables in the restaurant’s simple interior and dining typically happens quickly, based on the idea that high-quality sushi should be served and consumed as soon as possible after being prepared.
Sukiyabashi Jiro, Tsukamoto Sogyo Building, Basement 1st Floor, 2-15, Ginza 4-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, +81 3 3535 3600
With only four tables in the dining area, every diner feels like the guest of honor at Takazawa. The restaurant’s simple interior is modelled after the settings of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, during which the host prepares tea for just a few guests. Chef Takazawa works in the kitchen while his wife, Akiko, serves dishes and entertains diners. Takazawa is famous for his innovative presentation, including a vegetable dish served in a flowerpot-like bowl with delicate seasoning mimicking the soil.
Sushi Saito offers outstanding sushi in a warm, welcoming environment. Widely considered to serve some of the best sushi in Tokyo, the atmosphere at this three-Michelin-starred restaurant is surprisingly relaxed considering the high calibre of its food. Chef Saito is happy to chat with the customers, explain the menu, and even pose for photos. With only eight seats, reservations are absolutely essential. Saito uses aged fish and carefully controlled temperatures to create his tender sushi. Unlike many sushi restaurants, Saito adds freshly grated wasabi, soy sauce or lemon as needed, rather than leaving the decision to diners. The restaurant is well-known for its tuna and squid.