People say the best time to visit Japan is in the Spring for hanami, the cherry blossom viewing festival; or in the Fall, to see the country’s beautiful Autumn foliage. But a true foodie knows Winter in Japan means two things:
- Ramen tastes even more amazing than usual (cold weather, hot bowl of noodle, go figure).
- Tsukiji Fish Market in the Winter time is a FIESTA! (Fish fatten up in the winter time so it’s one of the best time of the year to get sushi and sashimi). Plus, with the traditional marketplace moving sometime in 2016, another reason to go visit now.
While I adore my previous summers in Japan, which were filled with cold soba noodles and sweet kakigori in the sweltering summer heat, I love wintery Japan. It is the perfect season for warm comfort food. I’m looking at you ramen, oden, and fried-everything. Plus, this time around, winter fashion was in full swing and Japanese girls really rock the furry coats and beanie look–some great
food fashion for thought!
Below, you’ll find a round-up of the foods I chomped on and places I visited during my recent January 2016 trip. I’ll be introducing some of my favorite eats around Tokyo, as well as particularly delicious cold-weather-eats! Thank you to all that ate with me and showed me amazing restaurants, ありがとうございます.
This is Part I of my Tokyo Eats Winter Guide–I’ll have Part II coming soon!
Bills — Australian Breakfast Whiz Bill Granger’s Tokyo Spot
Bill Granger whips up phenomenal honey ricotta hotcakes. Pair it with an Australian Breakfast platter, you have yourself a breakfast some celebrities call ‘the best in the world.’ The line for Bills can be ridiculously long, so go early (or late! I’ve had breakfast for dinner before).
My To-Do List in Harajuku/Omotesando:
- Take the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku station–do some shopping down the insanely packed Takeshita Dori. This is where the colorful fashion of Harajuku really displays itself!
- Walk further up Harajuku for around 5 minutes (0.3 miles), you’ll be right next to Meiji-jingu Shrine. Worth a visit, and if you go in the New Years time, hatsumode (the first shrine visit of the year) is not to be missed. Yoyogi Park is right next door–great for runs and general gatherings. If you’re lucky, you might even spot famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami here!
- Now go past Meiji-jingu mae and head up Omotesando–the glitzy equivalent of NYC’s 5th Avenue. Do you appreciate gorgeous brand-name stores? Not only is this Tokyo’s hub for high fashion, brand-name architects have created masterpieces here. Read about New York Times’ great feature on it here.
- Tokyu Omohara Plaza, the futuristic building you see at the beginning of Omotesando is worth a visit! Head up to the top where there’s an outdoor patio with great views. Bill Granger has his Tokyo outpost here–his restaurant Bills is known to have insanely long lines! But honestly, the scrambled eggs and honey ricotta pancakes are worth the wait!
- When you’re done with shopping, check out the Aoyama area which is further down Omotesando. There are a bunch of cafes and small boutique shops to browse through as well! Check out Tamawarai if you’re hungry, a great one Michelin soba restaurant around this area.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Sushizanmai — High Quality (no-line!) Sushi in Tsukiji
Sushizanmai is one of my favorite go-to’s in Tsukiji Fish Market. You don’t have to wait for hours to eat sushi (I’m looking at you Sushi Dai ) but it is arguably one of the best sushi-ya around. Its quality of fish and service is consistently fantastic, making it a definite must-go.
中華そば 井上 Inoue — Shoyu Ramen Stand in Tsukiji Outer Market
Okay, so even after a whole sushi omakase, my friend Daniel and I still had our eyes set on the other prize: 中華そば 井上 Inoue, possibly the best soy-based ramen stand in Tokyo. It’s on the outer perimeter of the market; once you find a line of people waiting to eat ramen standing up you’ve got the right one.
My To-Do List in Tsukiji Market Place:
- GO GET SUSHI. Sushi Dai, Sushi Daiwa, Sushizanmai (where I went this time), etc. Anywhere, and I promise you, always fresh. Get the omakase, which is the chef’s choice, and prepare for a sushi feast.
- Share a piping hot bowl of shoyu-ramen at the amazing 中華そば 井上 Inoue. You won’t regret it–the salty and flavorful soup is wonderfully warm and filling. The perfect winter breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Wander around the market and grab some snacks to go. Tamagoyaki, fried oysters, rice balls, pickles, you name it they have it!
- Want traditional chopsticks or bowls? Go kitchenware shopping. Tsukiji might not be Kappabashi, the Kitchen Town of Tokyo, but it is still a popular place for some kitchenware shopping, especially if you’re on the hunt for some good deals. Simple chopsticks, bowls, and sushi-making essentials can all be found here if you look hard enough!
Kimuraya Bakery — The Original Anpan (sweet red azuki bean stuffed bread) Bakery!
Right by the Ginza station is Kimuraya Bakery, the birthplace of Anpan. This beloved Japanese bread stuffed with sweet red azuki bean paste can be found in all convenient stores and pan-ya (bakeries). But don’t miss the ones at Kimuraya because the heritage of their Anpan is unrivaled!
Angelina — A Little Slice of Paris in Tokyo (Mont-Blanc Since 1903!)
Apart from phenomenal Japanese cuisine, Tokyo boasts just about all my favorite world-class restaurants and patisseries as well. For example, Angelina is a Paris-based tearoom that has a Tokyo location in Ginza. If you are a sweet tooth, you’ll adore Angelina’s trademark Mont-Blanc.
Maru 銀座圓 — No-Frills Kaiseki Restaurant in Ginza
Maru is a restaurant find I’m super excited about! Courtesy of my friend Mizuha, I was able to have a multi-course meal here. Simple, affordable, but 100% delicious kaiseki cuisine, Maru is a small tucked-away restaurant in Ginza. The staff is great with English and give you a nice little menu for reference (trust me, super helpful when you’re confused about what you’re eating in a kaiseki meal!)
My To-Do List in Ginza:
- Take a walk down Ginza’s main shopping avenue, and visit one of the large department stores (Wako, Mitsukoshi, etc.). If high-end fashion is not your cup of tea, head downstairs to the basement where you’ll find just about the best depa-chika (literally means basement of department stores). They have amazing food selections that put food courts in all other countries to shame!
- Take an afternoon tea/dessert break. Whether it’s Kimuraya Bakery’s original Anpan, or Angelina’s Mont-Blanc, spare an hour or two for some tea-drinking and people-watching in Ginza.
- Heard of Jiro Dreams of Sushi? Go take a picture in front of the storefront, or better yet, dine there! The subject of the famous documentary, Sukiyabashi Jiro is located in the Ginza station. You can seek out its humble storefront and take a quick picture. Or, if you make a reservation three months in advance, have a three Michelin Stars dining experience!
- Treat yourself to a traditional Japanese dinner in Ginza, where world-class fashion and dining merge into one. Maru, the restaurant I introduced above, is a great place to try affordable kaiseki if you want. Otherwise, I adore Kakiyasu, a great sukiyaki restaurant that serves phenomenal A5 beef.
Visiting Tokyo? Have a question? Send them my way! Thanks for reading Part I of my recent Tokyo food adventure. I’ll be back with Part II soon!