Restaurants in Tokyo
Deciding what to eat in Tokyo can be a bewildering experience, and not just because you might be at a loss working out what's on the menu, or even on your plate. The problem is that, with at least 80,000 restaurants in central Tokyo (compared to New York's 15,000 and London's mere 6000), you're swamped with choice. Virtually every type of cuisine is on offer, from African to Vietnamese, not to mention endless permutations on Japanese favourites such as sushi, ramen, tempura and yakitori . With so much choice there's no need to panic about prices: for every mega-expensive restaurant there's a cheap noodle bar or shokudo (eating place) dishing up curry rice, the Japanese equivalent of beans on toast.
Food crazes come and go with astonishing rapidity. For the moment Chinese and Korean cuisines are in and there are cafÃƒÂ©s dishing out bagels all over the place. Ever reliable are the noodle bars, shokudo and chain restaurants , where the Japanese go when they need to fill up without fear of the cost. Tokyo has a plethora of such places, with many clustering around and inside the train stations. Bento shops , serving set boxes of food, are also good and plentiful, especially at lunchtime in shopping areas.
For Japanese fast food , head for Yoshinoya , which serves reasonably tasty gyudon (stewed strips of beef on rice), and Tenya , which offers a similar low-cost deal for tempura and rice dishes. You'll find plenty of McDonald's and KFC s around town; a good local chain is Mos Burger , serving up rice burgers, carrot juice and green konyaku jelly (a root vegetable). Also check out the various chain cafÃƒÂ©s for their light meal options, and leaf through the pub, izakaya and live music listings, too - many places, such as Ebisu's What the Dickens and Takodanobaba's Footnik serve good food too.
At any time of the day or night, convenience stores such as Seven-Eleven, AM/PM and Lawsons sell a wide range of snacks and meals which can be heated up in the shop's microwave or reconstituted with hot water. For more upmarket goodies, make your way to the basement food halls of the major department stores.
Tokyo has several restaurant chains worth checking out. For Indian food, Moti , with outlets in Roppongi and Akasaka, and Samarat , in Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ueno, are longtime local favourites. For good Italian dishes, head for Capricciosa , with branches all over the city - its sign is in elongated katakana on a green, red and white background. La Verde is another Italian operation that gets good reviews. The Seiryumon Taiwanese/Chinese restaurants are notable for their outlandish decor rather than the authenticity of their food. Among the Japanese chains to look out for are: Tapa , a lively izakaya specializing in ozara (big plate) cuisine; Sushisei , a classy sushi restaurant with branches in Tsukiji, Akasaka and Roppongi; Kushinobo , the folk craft-decorated kushikatsu (deep-fried morsels on skewers) restaurants; and Tsunahachi , which is the place for tempura. The La BohÃƒÂ¨me , Zest and Monsoon chains (you'll find branches in Harajuku, Shibuya, Nishi-Azabu and Daikanyama) are all run by the same company and can be relied on for value and late-night dining in chic settings.
If you can't decide what to go for, make your way to the restaurant floors of the major department stores and shopping malls , such as Ebisu's Yebisu Garden City, where you'll generally find a wide choice of cuisines and dining atmospheres under one roof, often with plastic food displays in the windows and daily specials. Also, don't overlook the good-value family restaurants , such as Royal Host (in Shinagawa and Takodanobaba, among other locations) and Jonathan's , which serve both Western and Japanese dishes and have easy-to-choose-from picture menus; Jonathan's Harajuku branch, on the corner of Omotesando and Meiji-dori, is open 24 hours.
To keep abreast of the latest restaurants, browse through the weekly freesheet Tokyo Classified , the monthly Tokyo Journal 's cityscope listings and the bi-monthly magazine Eat . The best Web site is the Tokyo Food Page at www.bento.com/tokyofood.html , while Tokyo Q ( www.nokia.co.jp/tokyoq/ ) also has a useful database of restaurants, plus weekly reviews and izakaya recommendations. The Zagat Survey of Tokyo Restaurants (Ã‚Â¥1500) is the most up-to-date guidebook; you can also check out their listings on www.zagat.com/index.asp?localeID=5 . Where we give telephone numbers for the restaurants listed, it's advisable to book ahead . The listings give the closest subway or train station to the restaurant.