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Tokyo Dining Out

Dining Out Overview

Staying well fed in Japan can be an expensive proposition, but it doesnt have to be: If menu prices shock you, you can always stop at a noodle shop for a tasty and filling meal of udon (white wheat noodles), soba (buckwheat noodles) or ramen (Chinese noodles). Also, many expensive and famous restaurants have very reasonably priced lunch menus, featuring many of the same wonderful dishes they charge more for in the evenings.

Yakitori (skewered chicken) from the outdoor food stands are a must if your visit is during warm weather. Definitely try the sushi. According to locals, the quality of a sushi shop can be gauged by how crowded it is, so stay away from places that are nearly empty. Other traditional dishes are sukiyaki, shabu-shabu (thinly sliced beef dipped in assorted sauces) and tempura.

Tokyo is also famous for its beer gardens—nighttime rooftop restaurants open during the summer months. Guests guzzle down beer and munch on fried snacks as the sun goes down over the city and the skyline lights up. Almost all of the department stores in Tokyo have beer gardens.

When you enter a Japanese eatery, youll be happy to discover that the language barrier that makes Tokyo so perplexing at times is not a big problem in restaurants—many have plastic displays of menu items for you to point at, and English-language menus are increasingly common.

Restaurants are generally open 10:30 am-9:30 pm, and some close for a few hours between lunch and dinner.

Below is a sampling of restaurants in town. Expect to pay within these general guidelines, based on the cost of a dinner for one and not including drinks, tax or tip: $ = less than ¥2,000; $$ = ¥2,000-¥5,000; $$$ = ¥5,001-¥8,000; and $$$$ = more than ¥8,000.

FAVORITE RESTAURANTS

Ginza Sushi Kou—This sushi restaurant has a rather intimidating appearance, but has been attracting sophisticated sushi lovers for more than 100 years. Private rooms are available. Daily for lunch and dinner. $$$$. Most major credit cards. 6-3-8 Ginza (Chuo-ku, near Ginza station on various lines), Tokyo. Phone 3571-1968.

Hotel De Mikuni—This is an exquisite French restaurant in a homelike setting, always serving seasonal specialties. (Closes once every two months for maintenance, so call ahead.) Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations suggested. $$$$. Most major credit cards. 1-18 Wakaba (Shinjuku-ku), Tokyo. Phone 3351-3810.

Kakiden—Because it has been serving authentic Japanese cuisine (kaiseki) for more than 25 years, there is as much ritual to this restaurant as there is good food. The decor is elegant and quiet, tea ceremony-style. Guests sit on traditional tatami mats, but tables are available. Tatami-mat banquet rooms are available. Daily for lunch and dinner. $$$$. Most major credit cards. 9th Floor, Yasuyo Building, 3-37-11 Shinjuku (Shinjuku-ku, near Shinjuku stations south exit), Tokyo. Phone 3352-5121.

Kakiyasu—Delicious Matsuzaka beef, sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. Open daily for lunch and dinner. $$$. Most major credit cards. Ginza 2 Chome Melsa Building, 4th Floor, 2-7-18 Ginza (Chuo-ku), Tokyo. Phone 3564-0212.

New York Grill and Bar—This new restaurant is on the top (52nd) floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku. The view from every window is spectacular, especially at night. As the name suggests, the restaurant offers a selection of food that youd find in a top New York restaurant—from grilled steaks to lobster dishes. The menu changes constantly. High ceilings and an art-deco-inspired design add drama to your meal. Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $$$$. Most major credit cards. 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku (a 10-minute walk from JR Shinjuku station), Tokyo.<