With 160,000 restaurants and more Michelin stars than any other city in the world, Tokyo’s dining scene can seem intimidating at first. Factor in secret locations and menus exclusively in Japanese and the faint-hearted traveler may wonder if they should’ve just stayed home with some instant ramen instead. Luckily, Tokyo is full of outstanding food and with a little wandering, hidden gems are numerous and waiting to be found. Hold off on the tourist trap food tour and peek into these top spots where locals go to fill their bellies.
The best category to start with are the izakayas—informal Japanese gastropubs, literally translating to “a place to linger with sake.” One of particular authenticity and excellence is Shinsuke in Yushima, a family run izakaya open since 1924. Sake choices are locally-sourced and the best food orders are also the most simple: sashimi of saba mackerel, deep-fried sardines (iwashi no ganseki), and yuba uni (silky soymilk skin with a dollop of urchin). Look out for a door marked with a sugidama, a ball of cedar branches, the sign of sake brewers.