Eating one’s way through a city, when the locale in question is culinary powerhouse Tokyo, Japan, a lifetime is not enough. But this scale only entices those who are craving and hungry. In this delicious journey, each meal is its own reward.
Kerwin Go, executive chef at Sala Bistro, People’s Palace, and Blackbird – all consistent hits in the Manila dining scene – has been making the culinary pilgrimage to Tokyo every January for the last four years, squeezing in trips during the cooler months (one springtime encounter with the local police about his tattoos have since kept him from wearing short sleeves when visiting) whenever possible.
“It’s the passion of the Japanese people that makes their dining scene unlike anywhere else. They always take pride in what they do. Some restaurants specialize in one thing and have perfected it through the years,” Go muses. He is currently developing a new restaurant concept that should be in the pipeline soon. “Their dedication to perfection is what I incorporate at work.”
When asked for his top picks, he quips, “In Japan, meals in whatever budget category are always good. It can be as expensive or cheap as you want it to be.”
That said, Tokyo’s gastronomic landscape can be overwhelming. Go maximizes his trips by planning which part of the city to visit based on recommendations from friends and blogs. From there, he explores it on foot, a controlled way of getting lost that still leaves room to discover eats off the beaten path. He reveals to The Edition which spots keep him coming back.
The benchmark for good sushi and sashimi
Colin Mackay introduced me to Roppongi Fukusuzhi, a small restaurant in the heart of Roppongi that is run by Masami, who he went to university with. Every trip, we visit her and her husband, who works behind the sushi counter. Lunch is the best time to go. Order their chirashi and say hi to Masami; she sings her greetings.
Everyone loves tempura
…with a bit of sauce and rice. At Tempura Tsunahachi in Shinjuku and Ten-ichi in Ginza, ask for counter seats so you can see the chefs at work.
If you want a quick tempura meal in between shopping, head over the Tenkuni in Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku.
For the best gyoza
Harajuku Gyozaro is a no frills restaurant on one of the side streets along Cat Street in the Omotesando area.
Have yakitotri and beer after a day of walking around
Head to Piss Alley in Shinjuku, choose one of the many small stalls serving yakitori, and just point to order. Think Little Tokyo in Makati but more choices.
If you prefer your grilled chicken parts in a restaurant setting, Birdland in Ginza has a Michelin Star.
No breakfast in the hotel?
Head to Gontran Cherrier for lovely croissants and bread or Bill’s for pancakes.
Okay, maybe just buy the city’s tumbler for your collection. Head to Blue Bottle or Café Kitsuné for your caffeine fix. They serve awesome java, too.
Have a picnic in the park
This is best enjoyed during springtime, when the sakura are in full bloom. Buy your bento boxes in the basement of Isetan in Shinjuku. It has everything you want.
There’s always time for a Negroni
I love going to the UA bar in Shibuya. A recent discovery is Bar High Five in Ginza.
Interview by Marbbie Tagabucba
Illustration by Mags Ocampo