• Maru Aoyama – izakaya comfort with kaiseki roots

    Tucked away on a side street off Aoyama-dori, a few blocks from Omotesando subway station, Maru is a rare combination of casual yet sophisticated dining, serving high quality izakaya or bistro fare with a refined kaiseki, or haute cuisine sensibility. We discovered Maru and its warm, stylish basement premises well over a decade ago, and have kept returning over the years. While its style in both food and presentation is consistently high, the most surprising thing about this chic yet… Read more »

  • lanterns at Il Ghiottone

    Il Ghiottone – Italian cuisine with a Japanese twist

    When I was growing up, going out for Italian food in Tokyo basically meant going for pizza. But in the decades since, Japanese chefs have taken Italian cuisine to a different level — not only in terms of variety and quality but also in presentation. These days, you can find top-notch Italian restaurants in most major Tokyo neighborhoods, some boasting one or more stars from Michelin. Meanwhile, the standard pizzerias of yesteryear in Japan these days offer not just classic… Read more »

  • Ryan – a trendy soba restaurant in Shibuya

    Shibuya, with its blaring signs, constant traffic clamor and frenetic crowds is not usually the first neighborhood I think of when looking for a place to have a satisfying meal in a pleasant environment. But recently, I have had good reason to head there not once, but twice, for both lunch and dinner – the improbably named Ryan. Situated on a side street just off Miyamasuzaka, an avenue which winds its way uphill from Shibuya station towards Aoyama, Ryan is… Read more »

  • Waketokuyama – refined Japanese cuisine in elegant surroundings

    As a young chef, Hiromitsu Nozaki, proprietor and head chef of Waketokuyama, which specializes in kaiseki or Japanese haute-cuisine, trained at various traditional restaurants, including one that specialized in fugu, or blow fish. His background, however, provides no clue to Mr Nozaki’s spectacular success since setting out on his own, with three restaurants under his wing, countless TV appearances and dozens of books to his name. He has even written a book on how to prepare Japanese baby food. Mr… Read more »

  • chojuan facade

    Chojuan – Eating Soba Noodles in Style

    Soba noodles, which are made of buckwheat, have been a favorite fast-food meal of busy Tokyoites ever since the early days of the bustling capital, in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was still known as Edo. Today, time-pressed diners in Tokyo can still duck into one of many soba stands found all over the city, slurp their noodles at the counter and be gone within minutes. But those who prefer to eat their soba in a more relaxed… Read more »

  • Ginza Honokawa

    Just a few blocks behind Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel is a cluster of eateries by the train tracks and highway in a thoroughfare known, fittingly, as Korido-gai, or Corridor Road. The pizza, seafood, grilled chicken and countless other joints crammed together along Korido-gai are mostly cheap and cheerful watering holes where salarymen take refuge after a day’s work. One notable exception is Honokawa, a Japanese restaurant with its roots in Osaka serving Kansai-style Japanese cuisine, which is generally lighter and more subtle in… Read more »

  • Shirosaka – a Japanese restaurant with a difference

    Ever since the world woke up to the delights of Japanese cuisine, many western chefs have begun incorporating Japanese ingredients and ways of preparing food into their own cooking. It is no longer surprising to find wasabi, dashi (bonito stock) or yuzu (tangy citrus) in dishes served by creative French or Scandinavian chefs or to find sushi-like offerings on the menus of decidedly western food establishments. The affection has been mutual, with more Japanese chefs, particularly those who have worked… Read more »

  • Akasaka Toda

    The first thing that strikes you on descending the staircase to Akasaka Toda, tucked down a vibrant sidestreet in the entertainment and business district of Akasaka, is a feeling of comfort. The soft lamp light and the understated entrance live up to the restaurant’s simple but well appointed premises, spread over a series of koshitsu, or private rooms, with tables seating from 4 people up to larger groups of 10 or more. Shigenao Toda is a low-key chef and now restaurateur… Read more »

  • A Taste of Fukui in Aoyama – Bouyourou

    Fukui prefecture, on Japan’s west-central coast , is one of those places that conjures up images of rough oceans, rugged cliffs and punishing winter weather. Sandwiched between its more famous neighbors – to the south, Kyoto prefecture, and to the north, Ishikawa prefecture – Fukui seems to have little going for it, except for the bounty of its moderately long coastline, which stretches 400 kilometers along the Sea of Japan. The waters off the coast of Fukui are rich in… Read more »

  • Eclectic Japanese cuisine at Kafuka

    It is unusual for japonica to write twice about the same restaurant but Kafuka deserves a follow-up. We recently managed to secure seats there at short notice, and were rewarded with an eclectic meal that was both impressive and entertaining. Chef Ito, who greeted us with a friendly smile and a warm “konbanwa,” or “good evening,” served a tasting menu of creative dishes and comfort food that was a steal at Y6,000. From where we sat at the counter, we were… Read more »

  • Fruit-Flavored Soy Sauce

    Shoyu, or soy sauce, is an essential seasoning in Japanese cuisine that has found a place on tables around the world together with popular Japanese dishes, ranging from sushi and tempura to teppanyaki. But even with the growing eclecticism of contemporary cooking, which has encouraged creative chefs from San Francisco to Stockholm to experiment with Japanese ingredients such as wasabi (Japanese horseradish) and yuzu (Japanese citron), it is still rare to find shoyu or shoyu-based seasonings in western-style meals. Toshihiko… Read more »

  • Kodaiji Wakuden

    It takes some nerve to start a restaurant business in Kyoto, particularly if you are an outsider. As home to Japan’s imperial court and nobility for over 1,200 years, Kyoto is also the birthplace of Kyo-kaiseki, an elaborate, multi-course meal widely considered the pinnacle of Japanese haute cuisine. What’s more, the people of Kyoto who see themselves as the ultimate arbiters of culinary sophistication, are notoriously dismissive of those who hail from anywhere else. So, it must have been a… Read more »