Japan

Restaurants in Japan

Most restaurants in Japan serve local dishes, which consists mainly of rice, miso, fish, noodles, and seasonal vegetables. The local diet is relatively healthy, which is why Japan has a much lower obesity rate than other developed nations. However, in recent years international cuisine has become incredibly popular; it’s now possible to find Japanese restaurants that serve anything from American food to Italian to French cuisine.

However, when in Japan, eat as the Japanese do. Tokyo in particular – which boasts some of the best restaurants in Japan -- is a food lover’s paradise. It contains more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world. Don’t leave without stopping at Daiwa Sushi. Wait times can easily exceed one hour, but it’s worth it: the sashimi melts in your mouth. Japanese restaurants are also known for their noodle dishes, and it would be a crime to leave the country without sampling at least one bowl of ramen and udon.

The brilliant fortysomething chef Yoshihiro Narisawa weds French finesse and Spanish avant-garde savvy with kaiseki aesthetics and a passion for local ingredients.

Located on the edge of Aoyama National Cemetary, Kaotan Ramen has a notably shabby exterior and simple interior: a long, worn wooden table and benches across from an enclosed kitchen with an order window.

Sequestered on a side street between the edgy fashion districts of Harajuku and Aoyama, this tiny, cheerful yakitori restaurant provides welcome relief for famished shoppers roaming nearby Omotesando Hills. Free-range Nagoya Cochin chicken, a tender breed, is the specialty here.

Considered one of the finest unagi (freshwater eel) houses in Japan, Michelin-starred Nodaiwa is located in a free-standing, three-story wood and plaster storehouse that was relocated from the country to its present location among the skyscrapers.

Tsukiji Market, the largest fish market on earth, is home to outstanding sushi and tempura eateries that open as early as 5:30 a.m. and close by early afternoon. Take a right from the central square to reach the row of tiny restaurants.

"When I'm in Tokyo, I often go to a place called Dora in Shinjuku, the city's business district. Dora is a classic izakaya, which roughly translates as "pub." It attracts a high-energy crowd, and at night the booze is always flowing.

Located inside the indoor mulit-attraction extravaganza called Namjatown, the stadium's riotous kitschy sprawl is part pinball-like pachinko parlor, part nostalgia ride through 50's Japan.

Just two years after its opening, self-taught chef Carme Ruscellada's first reataurant in the village of San Pol de Mer north of Barcelona earned a Michelin star. In 2004, Ruscellada opened San Pau in Tokyo, and it quickly earned two stars.

Specializing in fish caught just hours before it's served, Yanmo is tucked away in a basement in the trendy Aoyama shopping district, offering counter seating in front of the grill, traditional low-tables on a raised wooden platform, and a private room in the back.

Said to be the inspiration for the Japanese restaurant scene in Quentin Tarintino's Kill Bill Voume 1, Gonpachi is a warehouse-sized, multi-level traditional restaurant which attracts both tourists and celebrity diners such as Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga, and President Bush.

A modern, dimly-lit space with seating at a wooden counter or at tables with views over Tokyo (lncluding an impressive angle on Tokyo Tower), this robatayaki (charcoal grill) restaurant cultivates an upbeat atmosphere with drum-based Japanese festival music playing in the background.

Amid a cluster of skyscrapers, a reproduction of a Loire Valley chateau houses French culinary star Joel Robuchon's Tokyo outpost.

Offers an excellent maiko show and dinner (in which apprentice geishas perform and serve) for intimate groups.

Recommended by Noriko Townsend, one of T+L's 2010 A-List travel agents.

The locale has an entire wall of color-coordinated mini sake containers behind its handsome circular bar. Try to order their junmai and daiginjo with bites of pork-cheek yakitori, sautéed sea urchin and watercress, and fugu (blowfish) roe preserved in sake lees.