Next up in our Team JINS Insider Travel Secrets series! We have for you some of our favorites from Japanese BBQ to Ramen, your foodie dreams will be fulfilled. Take a look and see what we think are the Top 5 best places to eat and drink in Japan.
1. Okaru, Osaka
Cuisine Type: Okonomiyaki
If ever you were curious of what “Japanese Pizza” looks and tastes like — you’re in luck when you try “Okonomiyaki.” A popular dish made of Japanese yams and cabbage added to wheat flour dissolved in water, then grilled into a round shape along with thin slices of pork. Our favorite place to visit for this delicious meal is at Okaru in Osaka. A quaint yet cute restaurant serving Okonomiyaki styles like Buta-dama (pork), Niku-dama (beef), Ika-dama (squid), Tako-dama (Octopus), “Kaki-Dama” (oyster) and more. It’s truly a spot to visit as it’s a veteran of cooking Okonomiyaki, founded in 1946. A fun part about Okaru is after everything is cooked for your Okonomiyaki, you can ask them to create a fun design with the mayonnaise.
2. Ushigoro, Tokyo
Cuisine Type: Yakiniku BBQ
Tucked in the alley of Nishi Azabu, you will find the restaurant Ushigoro, one of the best yakiniku (Japanese barbeque) restaurants in Tokyo. Foodies can argue what’s better or not, but we swear this IS the best quality meat we’ve ever tasted. Pictures cannot describe the premium quality of the beef. Like many Japanese yakiniku places, fresh meat is served and it is up to you/waiter to grill the beef to your liking.
Order the JPY10,000 course (~$100), which starts off with the wagyu sashimi plate and thick slices of beef tongue topped with assorted seasonal namul. Then comes the selected lean beef, shabu shabu style beef, sukiyaki, lean beef steak and other amazing meats. The presentation of the meat for each dish is definitely picture-worthy. You will be very full (not necessarily a bad thing!) but the wonderful flavor of the meat will melt in your mouth with each bite.
You won’t be able to eat at any other yakiniku restaurants after tasting what Ushigoro has to offer.
3. Ichiba no Chubo, Tokyo
Cuisine Type: Sushi/Seafood
The warren of streets surrounding Tsukiji – Tokyo’s main wholesale market – are filled with sushi joints, ramen stands, coffee shops and assorted other restaurants tucked between the stalls and knife makers. Walking around during morning hours, one might often wonder where the people who work inside the market have their meals. The gentrification of Tsukiji has brought such an influx of tourists that the early market is now closed to outsiders. Visitors are limited to the outer parts of the market and the food stands. Restaurants are jammed. Ichiba no Chubo opens at 6 a.m. Tucked into a corner near the heart of the inner market, the restaurant manages to feed many types of people until it finally closes at 10 p.m. Workers stagger in during the early hours, hungry and tired. Come lunchtime, people feeding the bureaucracy surrounding the market stop in for lunch. At night, it’s filled with people in the know. Ichiba no Chubo is a hidden gem. It’s an adventure to find the place, and the very freshest fish in Tokyo the reward. The secret is out.
4. Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Cuisine Type: Bar/Hard Liquor
The name Mandarin Oriental has become a byword for high end hotel glamour and that’s certainly the case with their Tokyo outpost. Looking out over the historic Nihonbashi district, the stylish and spacious 37th floor bar has staggering views out over the city and plays host to live jazz most nights, of a suitably chilled out variety. They have an extensive wine list and the bartenders mix an excellent cocktail (their classic martini is exemplary). The service is smooth as a just waxed floor and as ultra efficient as you’d expect cigars aficionados might want to inspect the bar’s impressive humidor. Seductive as all these things are, and they really, really are, it’s those views that leave the deepest impression.
5. AFURI, Tokyo
Cuisine Type: Ramen
The name “AFURI” came from the name of a mountain, Mount Afuri, in the Kanagawa prefecture of Japan. The shop is named after the mountain as it uses water collected from the wells of Mt. Afuri. The yuzu ramen at Afuri (阿夫利) is simply an excellent bowl of noodles, among the best you will find in Tokyo. The shio (salt) and shoyu (soy sauce) versions of the yuzu-flavored broth are light and refreshing, with a nice citrus taste. The grilled pork (cha shu) is excellent – the meat is tender and has a nice char color on the surface. Add a soft boiled egg, a Japanese leafy green called mizuna, some bamboo shoots, a piece of seaweed, and noodles made with water from Mt. Afuri in Kanagawa Prefecture and you have one delicious meal.
Now that you’ve seen the top 5 best places to eat and drink in Japan, it’s YOUR turn to make your foodie dreams come true! Don’t forget to enter our Japan Trip contest going on right now — for official rules see our blog post here. Enter either on your Instagram (tagging @JINSeyewear and #JINSeyewear, #contest, #flyustojapan) OR on our Facebook page here. The contest ends this Saturday, 12/31! Good luck!