Visiting Tokyo in the wintertime is one of Japan's best-kept secrets. So many people avoid travelling in the winter due to the cold but if you layer on those coats and scarves, you'll be treated to a Japan which is sometimes only seen by locals and those few tourists who make the effort to brave the elements. Winters in Tokyo are meant for soaking in hot springs, visiting Mount Fuji on a clear day and best of all, eating delicious winter food! Dining in Tokyo can be had for as little as under $20 or as much as over $100. I've been sure to include various price points in this list so whether you're looking for a cheap lunch or a luxurious dinner there is something for everyone!
1. Kawakamian, Omontesando | 15$
In the winter months, buckwheat seeds are freshly harvested, making the colder months one of the best times to enjoy freshly made soba noodles. Although they are still delicious throughout the year, the flour is often refrigerated and if you've never tried FRESH soba noodles this restaurant will change your life! Lunch sets range from ¥1,000 - ¥1,999 making it one of the cheapest yet most delicious meals you can have in Tokyo!
2. Uoshin, Shibuya | 25$
This small izakaya uses only seasonal fish and vegetables. Because of the variety of fish they use, some of which are caught exclusively for their shop, this restaurant gets extremely busy during the dinner hours, so prepare for a wait - but don't let that deter you. Their menu changes almost daily and as such it is handwritten every day depending on what fish were caught in the morning. If it's on offer when you visit be sure to try the salt crusted crab - it's to die for!
3. Otakoh, Shinbashi | 25$
Oden is a type of Japanese stew made by simmering various ingredients together. It is the perfect antidote for a cold or if you can't shake that chill from the winter’s air. Although you can get oden at convenience stores around Japan, this restaurant takes it to another level! The broth they serve is BLACK! It’s so dark because they use the same soup stock for such a long time and it accumulates that desirable umami flavour from all the ingredients dipped in and out over the months its cooked. This results in one of the most unique Oden dishes you’ll have anywhere in Japan.
4. Genkai Shokudo, Shinjuku | 40$
Nabe is a variety of Japanese hot pot which is unique for the winter months. Genkai Shokudo makes their Nabe special using only chicken bone which give it an extremely rich flavour. The collagen inside of the bones is an outstanding source of nutrients and good for curing dry winter skin. Their restaurant has been open for 88 years and over this time they have perfected their recipe. Topped with a soft boiled egg, this soup will surprise and delight you!
5. Nishiguchi Oyster Bar, Shinjuku | 40$
Autumn and winter are the seasons for oysters! There is plenty of factory farms which make them available all year round, but truly fresh oysters are best enjoyed in the later months of the year. This restaurant serves up locally sourced oysters in the most laid-back, calming environment. I love just listening to them snap open the oysters, like a kind of gentle metronome. They make for a delicious lunch or even an afternoon snack.
6. Shangrila's Sercret, Roppongi | 50$
Mushrooms are to winters in Japan, like candy canes are to North Americans. Japanese winter mushrooms are full of umami flavour and when cooked in a hot pot, that flavour seeps into every nook and cranny of whatever is dipped into it! Shangrila's Sercret in Roppongi is a classy restaurants that’s the perfect place to spend a winter's evening chatting with friends over delicious food.
7. Tenmatsu, Tokyo Station | 80$
Although vegetables might not seem like the most exciting dish to go out of your way to eat, vegetables in Japan are something altogether extraordinary and not like any ol' grocery store vegetable you might cook at home. Tenmatsu is a tempura restaurant which serves up some really unique seasonal veggies in the most textural tempura batter. Visiting here throughout the year will bring all sorts of different taste experiences so there is always something new to try.
8. Shichi Jyu Ni Kou, Tokyo Station | 80$
Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. These fantastically organized little plates of heaven are made with the best seasonal ingredients. The combinations of flavours is meant to evoke the essence of the seasons. Each tiny dish is like a bouquet of flower, layered, colourful and full of texture. The modern interior design of this restaurant is perfected juxtaposed with the ancient, traditional aspects of the meals.
9. Ebihara, Kagurasaka | 100$
Wasyoku Ebihara creates its dishes like a ballet. The flavours dance over your tongue like a group of performers all working together to create a beautiful piece of art. Their kaiseki courses are set menus and use local, seasonal ingredients cooked to perfection. You’ll receive wave after wave of tiny little dishes, each one bringing in a new taste sensation.
10. Sushi Bando, Shinjuku | 120$
Sushi Bando is a restaurant serving up more than just a meal. They deliver an experience. The sushi craftsmen buy uniquely selected fish fresh from the market every morning. The cuts you'll be served are far different from the ubiquitous selection at most sushi restaurants. They employ top-notch cooking techniques and interesting ingredients which add subtle flavours to the fish. This is one of those bucket list restaurants and although it doesn’t come cheap, it’s a great treat for a celebration or a last meal to commemorate your trip.
Our friends at T5PG helped me put together this list and if you’re planning a trip to Tokyo you absolutely should check out their site for more amazing restaurant recommendations!