Japan's biggest city is also its most eclectic when it comes to food. Tokyo is filled with unique restaurants with chefs that are pushing the boundaries of what people know about food. However, while French fusion or deconstructed Italian may be a thrill for local Tokyoites, most visitors from aboard that come to Japan are looking for a taste of traditional Japanese fare. While culinary creativity is everywhere molding foreign tastes into the culture, there are still those who keep true to the old ways in Tokyo.
For those on the hunt for the freshest and best sashimi in town, the Izakaya neighborhood of Tokyo is famous for it. While it won't be hard to find a good sashimi shop just walking the streets, Aoyuzu Tora is the best around. They offer an affordable funamori that allows visitors to sample all of their finest cuts of fish. However, Aoyuzu Tora is also locally famous for their turtle dishes as well, such as turtle soup, turtle steaks and turtle sashimi. Diners can enjoy the laid back atmosphere of their public dining room or call ahead to reserve a private dining room so they can just go crazy ordering off the menu.
This restaurant that has been in business for the past 160 years is for the true traditional Japanese foodie. While the establishment has been updated with modern technology, the food remains very much the same. They specialize in kaiseki cuisine that is popular among many traditional Japanese restaurants due to their long history of isolation. Kaiseki is basically food by the seasons. The menu changes each season with new dishes utilizing the best of what is available during that time. It keeps food local and assures that it is at its freshest. Depending on the season, visitors can try the red snapper with mushrooms and vegetables in tangy sauce or the duck hot pot. However, the restaurant rarely reuses the same dishes over the years, so the menu is constantly changing, but always good.
Yanmo is famous for its traditional grilled fish and rice. There are few meals better for crunching a budget in town and none more traditional. Fish and rice has sustained Japanese culture since the beginning and it has only gotten better as more became available to this island nation. Yanmo's most popular items continue to be salted mackerel and grilled salmon; both will only cost diners 1,000 yen. However, those feeling greedy and have a big hunger can order the Yokubari lunch (which literally means 'greedy') for only 3,000 yen. Yokubari serves both a variety of grilled fish and sashimi over a heaping bowl of rice with ice cream for dessert.
Like grilled fish over rice, udon is another staple for the cheap and traditional. These thick noodles are sold in small shops all over town. Norabow in Tokyo Station serves up this cheap staple in a number of delicious and creative ways. Visitors can get a simple udon in hot spiced broth or try their more creative and filling incarnations like the tori-ten oroshi udon, cold noodles covered with grated radish, ginger and topped with either dark or white meat fried chicken, or the curry cheese udon. For those that can't decide, guests can't go wrong with their daily special of warm udon soup topped with some form of tempura.
100 Yen Sushi
Some may be familiar with the convention of "revolving sushi" restaurants in Japan, where little plates of sushi constantly turn on a conveyor belt around diners as they pluck out what they want. 100 Yen Suishi is one such place in the Shinzuku district, where conveyor belt sushi is at its most popular. Here diners can choose what they want from the never-ending parade of goodies, all while watching the trained sushi chef work his magic. Each little plate costs, like the name suggests, 100 yen so diner can eat their fill. This is a particularly good dining place for foreigners that are left wanting by the notoriously limited portions in Japan.
Not all on the hunt for traditional Japanese food has to limit it to the stunning lunch and dinner items; after all, there is always room for dessert. The Japanese are absolutely stunning bakers. Not only do their bakers excel in execution and flavour, but the presentation of their baked goods cannot be rivaled. While visitors are more likely to see French cakes and other pastries these days, the city is not without its traditional treats. Yamamotoyama has a long history in Tokyo, dating back to 1690 when they opened their doors as a tea shop. Today, it is still very much a tea shop, famed for both their tea and oddly enough their seaweed. Guests can head in for a hot pot of fresh brewed tea paired along with a number of little cakes, cookies and other sweets. Some of which are not traditional to Japan, but those splitting hairs can stick to traditional treats like red bean paste-stuffed mochi, sugar-covered amanatto, steamed Uiro or sticky stick-skewered dango.