I’ve lived in Japan for over ten years and I am often asked if I ever get sick of Japanese food. But how can I when I live in one of the most cosmopolitan food cities on the planet? Tokyo has more Italian restaurants than New York!
Award-winning pizza at Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa
Japanese chefs are famed for their discernment and reverence for the best seasonal ingredients. However, these qualities are not exclusively saved for Japanese cuisine. The same spirit of foodie fussiness can be applied to a French galette, a neopolitan pizza, or a rare yet exceptionally delicious wagyu hamburger.
My advice to people visiting Tokyo is to leave room for non-Japanese foods. If someone told you they were visiting London and only planned on eating yorkshire pudding and jellied eel while disregarding all the kebabs and Indian food, you’d think they were crazy. Japan, however, has a culinary tradition famous enough that most tourists scoff at the idea of having a hamburger in Tokyo.
I often hear other expats complaining of Japanese food burn out. I simply put on my know-it-all hat and rattle off a list of my favorite international restaurants in Tokyo for when you’ve had just about enough kelp in your diet.
Chez Le Mak's casual dining whisks you away to Europe
There is an area of Shinjuku called Kagurazaka that is home to a French secondary school and university that has been around since before World War II. It is still fully functioning and, over the years, plenty of French, Spanish and Italian restaurants have sprung up. The small neighborhood is home to several Michelin starred restaurants. Between small Japanese temples, you’ll come across wine bars, boulangerie, tapas and highly specific French regional cuisines. You can enjoy galettes and ciders from Brittany or tapas and vermut from Barcelona. There is even a Japanese yakitori shop where all the staff are French university students practicing their Japanese. A little further south, in a pocket of Shinjuku is Chez Le Mak, a casual restaurant serving beautiful, authentic French cuisine.
At some point in your exploration of Tokyo you will come across Ginza, whether it is after a day at nearby Tsukiji Market or a high end shopping day. There are a staggering number of restaurants in this area for the homesick traveler. As well as Japanese cuisine, there are French, Spanish, Chinese, Indian and Mexican options. Ginza has some of the city’s broadest range of dining options, but tends to be a bit more on the costly side, too.
Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa serves world-renowned pizza
Alternatively, Nakameguro attracts a hip, craft beer-drinking crowd. The area surrounding the station is packed with coffee roasteries and more restaurants than you could possibly dine at in a single visit to Tokyo. In this neighborhood, you will find Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa. This recreation of a Neapolitan backstreet trattoria was created by Hisanori Yamamoto, a three time winner of the World Pizza Cup competition held in Naples, Italy, and offers over 40 styles of brick oven pizzas.
With all the dining options available to you in Tokyo’s many neighborhoods there is no reason not to indulge when you start missing the flavors of home. Once satiated, you’ll be back on the sushi in no time.
About the author
Richard is a snowboarding, food blogging, graphic designer who has been living in Japan for over a decade with his partner.