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Photo: Corny

Places

The local chefs’ favorite restaurants in Tokyo

Tokyo boasts the most three-starred restaurants in the world and offers over 90,000 eateries. So where do you chow down next time you’re in town? We asked local chef Luca Fantin, who has lived in Tokyo for 10 years and has been voted the world’s best Italian chef.

Luca Fantin, whose eatery is ranked number 18 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, was voted the world’s best Italian chef by Identitá Golose in 2015.

It’s no great secret that Tokyo is every other gastronaut’s favorite destination. The Japanese capital conjures culinary ecstasy, thrilling discerning diners with airs of haute cuisine and frissons of back-alley ramen.

Japan fostered an Olympic-grade food obsession by inventing the elaborate art of kaiseki and myriad other cuisines, with ancient tea ceremony rituals and frugality as sources of inspiration. Perfection is a virtue here and chefs are celebrated artists, and in line with haikus, the year is divided into 72 seasons, allowing for subtle menu changes that remind perceptive gourmets of how Mother Nature gives birth to new delicacies roughly every five days. 

Lauded chef Luca Fantin was voted the world’s best Italian chef by Identitá Golose in 2015 and is currently celebrating his tenth anniversary in the Japanese capital, so he knows a thing or two about the city’s dynamic dining scene. His eaterie, Il Ristorante Luca Fantin, is ranked number 18 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. 

Tanakada

Hot pot sounds like the kind of thing that college students whip up in their jerry-rigged dorm room kitchens, right? Well, think again, because there are alternative hot pots like those at Tanakada where this pseudo-DIY dish is delicate, sophisticated and composed of refined ingredients, with a smattering of chic accoutrements.

Tanakada

Sara Building 1F, 3-17-26, Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku

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Towa

Chef Takaaki Tsuneyasu has a thing for beef – Wagyu beef that he purportedly loves more than anything else. At Towa, launched in the spring of 2018, his seasonal menu is a lip-smacking, multi-course omakase adventure that offers some next-level creativity and features filet, rib roast, sirloin and various other choice parts of brand name cow.

Towa

2F, 4-11-25, Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku

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Crony

Chef-owner Hichihiro Haruta has an impressive résumé that includes international gastro-hits such as Oslo’s Maaemo, Paris’ Ledoyen and Copenhagen’s Kadeau. His cooking is like your childhood home, that is, if it had a kitchen full of fancy equipment and access to precious seasonal ingredients.


Crony

MB1F, Nishiazabu FT Building, 2-25-24, Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku

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Ginza Sasuga Rin

Good handmade soba noodles are pure art – a tangle of pleasantly chewy, grayish-brown buckwheat strands that are a standalone dish and particularly pleasant and cooling in the summertime served cold. Chef Dairin Arai has been making soba noodles since the age of 18. He also makes thick wheat udon noodles, but it’s the soba you’re going to want to order.

Ginza Sasuga Rin

1F Glass gate Building, 1-19-12, Ginza, Chuo-ku

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Narisawa

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa calls his cooking innovative Satoy-ama cuisine, referring to the term for that area of arable land between the mountain and the sea where small-scale agriculture is carried out. It translates into vivid tableaus such as an edible mossy landscape and a lily pond with an exquisite, minute, deep-fried ayu (a river fish).

Narisawa

Minami Aoyama 2-6-15, Minato-ku

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Toritama

A traditional yakitori joint hiding in plain sight under a highway overpass, this is the kind of unassuming place that’ll make you think you’ve stumbled upon Tokyo’s last untouched culinary gem. Toritama is a badly kept secret that attracts aficionados of skewered chicken in part because it serves some 30 different cuts of the bird (the yolk of unlaid eggs, grilled in their membrane is a real rarity), compared to normal yakitoriyas that dole out an unambitious dozen or so.

Toritama

6-22-19 Shirogane, Minato-ku, Tokyo

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