7 Famous Restaurants In Tokyo With A Fascinating History
Many of these restaurants are hundreds of years old, and have definitely made their mark on Tokyo's rich culinary landscape
All eyes are on Tokyo right now, thanks to the Olympic Games. It's also the city with the highest number of Michelin restaurants, with a fascinating culinary history to boot. Here, we highlight some of the more interesting legacy restaurants, a few of them are even birthplaces of certain classic Japanese food.
Kaminarimon Sansada was established in 1837, and is known as the oldest tempura restaurant in Tokyo. The story goes that its founder, Sadakichi Mikawaya, who came to Tokyo from Mikawa, started catching fish from the pond in front of his house and deep-frying them with sesame oil. This became his signature dish at his restaurant, which still operates today using his original recipes. Its most popular dish, however, is kakiage, a combination of ingredients fried in batter.
1-chōme-2-2 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Yoshoku is essentially a Japanese take of Western ingredients that arose during the Meiji Restoration. Think hamburger, stew and fried chicken, but Japanese style.
Rengatei in Giza was one of the first eateries in Japan to serve yoshoku. Beginning as a French restaurant in 1895, it is said to be the birthplace of two popular Japanese dishes: tonkatsu (pork with Worchestershire sauce, rice and cabbage) and omuraisu (egg omelette stuffed with fried rice).
Open since 1879, Ishibashi is one of the oldest restaurants in Japan to serve sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, two popular local hotpot dishes. A Michelin-starred eatery, it was also the first restaurant in the country to start serving beef.
They are famous for Kuroge sirloin beef, with a secret sauce made with a recipe passed down through the generations. Ishibashi remains popular today, frequented regularly by politicians and celebrities.
3 Chome-6-8 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 101-0021, Japan
This acclaimed eatery was founded around 1760, and became well known for its chicken sukiyaki. In 1891, the owner’s wife became an early pioneer of the food waste movement and used the diners' leftovers from chicken sukiyaki to mix them in with rice and egg, giving birth to oyakadon. The name of the dish means "parent and child". Tamahide is currently run by the eighth generation of the family, and remains the benchmark in all of Tokyo for oyakadon.
1 Chome-17-10 Nihonbashiningyocho, Chuo City, Tokyo 103-0013, Japan
Izuei Honten boasts a culinary history of about 300 years, and is one of the oldest restaurants serving unagi (Japanese freshwater eel). This place started off as a food shack during the Edo period, and has since grown into a restaurant beloved by locals and tourists. It has been serving customers for nine generations and has since opened three other branches across the country.
2 Chome-12-22 Ueno, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0005, Japan
This is the first Western-style bar in Japan, and was opened around 1880. Kamiya Bar has three storeys: the first is for single drinkers, the second for families and groups, and the third is a special area to enjoy Japanese cuisine.
Its signature cocktail is the brandy-based Denki Bran, meaning "electricity". When the drink was first launched in 1893, electricity had just been introduced, and it was fashionable to attach the name ‘denki’ to anything. The way Denki Bran tingled one’s tongue also reminded drinkers of electric pulses.
1 Chome-1-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku
Opened in 1954, this cosy spot near the famous Sensoji Temple is considered the oldest onigiri (Japanese rice ball) shop in Tokyo. Their acclaimed onigiri is made with fillings from all over Japan, and wrapped with Edo-mae seaweed known for its rich flavour.
Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku is now run by the third generation of the founder’s family and featured in the Michelin Guide 2019. Fun fact: Yadoruku means "lazy good-for-nothing" and was coined as a playful jab at the founder’s husband.
3-9-10 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan