How Tokyo´s cuisine changed the way I see food

JUAN MARTINEZ

January 8, 2017

How Tokyo´s cuisine changed the way I see food

“While themed restaurants focus more on a unique experience for the customer, traditional and local restaurants have only one thing in mind: Quality and tradition.”

It´s not a secret that Japanese cuisine is one of the best in the world, if not the best. And while modern and fusion cuisine is gaining some ground in Tokyo, traditional cuisine is still at its top game. Not only because of its fresh elements, but because in Japan food is considered an art that can be represented in the way we eat a meal, the whole experience surrounding the food or the taste of each element in the food. A completely new experience for any food lover.

yakitoris-tokyo-street-food
a mix of different Yakitoris in a local bar in Tokyo

I had Japanese food before my trip to Tokyo and I´m not talking about only simple all you can eat sushi bars, but also ramen in Dusseldorf, gyoza in Singapore and Japanese curry rice in England. I felt I had a relatively good knowledge about Japanese food already, so during my trip to Tokyo food probably wouldn’t be my main focus.

However, ever since the first bowl of ramen in a pedestrian street in Tokyo, I experienced directly how food in local restaurants completely changes the experience. Not only the taste of the food, but the whole experience around it showed me that a trip to Tokyo wouldn´t be complete without trying everything they had to offer.

When I travel, I usually stick to a single meal I enjoy, as I know that same meal won´t taste the same back home. However, in Tokyo I felt completely the opposite. I wanted to get everything I had already had somewhere else before and compare its taste. In five days, I tried many kinds of ramen, sashimi and sushi. As well as small bites like onigiris or gyoza. At the end of my trip I realized that a trip to Tokyo can easily become a huge food experience.

While in many parts of the world restaurants are based on food taste and service to the client, Tokyo takes a restaurant experience to a new level, where simple café visits can turn into a story to tell back home. Like in the Owl Café, a place where you can pet an owl while drinking your favourite hot beverage, or a Maid Café, where young Manga-dressed women serve you alcoholic drinks while singing kids songs – by far one of the weirdest experiences of my life.

Restaurants in Tokyo will also take you through fantastic experiences: Alice in Wonderland and ghost town themed locations will transform the way you eat and experience food and while the famous robot restaurant is known and recommended worldwide, I personally think that for the same amount of money (80 USD without meals) you can go to more unique places and have a yet more extraordinary experience.

Chefs prepare their food in front of their guests
Chefs prepare their food in front of their guests

Tradition is still the most important thing when it comes to food

Tokyo is known as the city with the most Michelin stars in the world and that is no surprise. While themed restaurants focus more on a unique experience for the customer, traditional and local restaurants have only one thing in mind: Quality and tradition.

Japanese chefs prepare themselves their whole life to prepare a single dish and restaurants are passed on through generations of a single family without changing a thing on the menu. And while you don’t need a guidebook to find a place where the taste of your meal will take you to another dimension, Tokyo is a city which is constantly evolving and where a normal building can hide one of the best local bars in the city, which can just as well disappear again a couple of months later.

I never thought Tokyo would change the way I see food so much and although I need to accept that Tokyo is not inexpensive at all, I also want to point out that if you are going to spend some bucks in this futuristic city, you should at least do it for food and let this city change the way you taste food too.

Insider Tip: Tokyo can be pricey, but a restaurant visit is a great way of experiencing another side of the city. Private companies offer food tours around the main districts, but a combination of tours, spontaneous visits to local restaurants and following food recommendations is probably the perfect combination to turn a short trip to Tokyo into a completely unique food experience without spending too much.

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