Nobu Matsuhisa’s favourite Tokyo restaurants

The chef, restaurateur and hotelier shares his selection of the Japanese capital’s culinary highlights

Nobu Matsuhisa
Nobu Matsuhisa | Image: Jeremie Souteyrat

You’ll find more Michelin stars in Tokyo than in Paris. Much of this is because of the ingredients: when you put the freshest fish available in the hands of some of the most talented and creative chefs, the results are incredible. In addition, many of the finest Michelin-starred establishments, such as the three-star Sukiyabashi Jiro, have just eight or 10 seats, and some do only one seating per meal, which makes getting a reservation very difficult – even for me.

Pork cutlets from Maisen
Pork cutlets from Maisen
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Obana, which also has a Michelin star, is far from the centre of town, but the unagi served there is excellent. The fact that each dish is prepared at the time of ordering makes it a little time-consuming, but it’s a very authentic dining experience. Also unmissable is the tonkatsu – deep-fried breaded pork cutlets – at Maisen, which is in a former second world war bathhouse. The understated atmosphere is ideal for enjoying the kurobuta pork, which is perfectly tender, with just the right crispiness.

Jiro Ono, chef at Jiro Sukiyabashi
Jiro Ono, chef at Jiro Sukiyabashi
Horseshoe-shaped counter at Tenko
Horseshoe-shaped counter at Tenko

There are so many local specialities to be tasted in Tokyo, and one of the best is the tempura at Tenko. Unlike showy teppan cooking, the food is produced in a very thoughtful Zen way here, by two generations of the same family, and it’s brought in sequence, beginning with tea, appetisers and miso soup, before the tempura of shrimp, eel and seasonal vegetables. It’s in a former geisha house, and a seat at the horseshoe-shaped counter is the one to get.

Eel from Chikuyotei
Eel from Chikuyotei
Shabu-shabu from Imahan
Shabu-shabu from Imahan

For the juiciest pork gyoza and the best noodles, try Tohryu for a casual lunch, or Chikuyotei in Ginza for traditional unagi [eel] with rice. It’s been in business for 130 years, and the tatami rooms are very popular, so you need to book in advance.

Made-to-order desserts from Toshi Yoroizuka
Made-to-order desserts from Toshi Yoroizuka
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I’d also recommend a dinner of sukiyaki and shabu-shabu [thinly sliced meat dishes] at Imahan in Ginza, which has small, private rooms. At the opposite end of things is Sarashina-Horii in Azabu-Juban, where it is all about the food and people eat very fast. It makes fresh soba daily and serves them either hot or cold; the version with grated radish and shrimp is absolutely delicious.

To cap off any meal, make a stop at Toshi Yoroizuka in Roppongi, where beautiful desserts are made to order, much like a sushi chef does at a counter, and where watching the exquisite preparation is as rewarding as the final pastries.

Click here for more of Nobu Matsuhisa’s Tokyo recommendations

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