Guided food tours are a great introduction to the cuisine of a new city!
The sheer abundance of restaurants in Tokyo is mind-boggling. When it comes time for dinner, making a decision can seem impossible!
Food tours to the rescue. They will lead you to some of the best food in the city, in places you would probably have never discovered on your own. Plus, it takes the guess work out of finding a great restaurant!
I did a tour with Oishii Tokyo. They offer several tours through different neighbourhoods, with dining options to suit everybody. The tour I chose focused on izakaya dining in the Ebisu neighbourhood, a Tokyo neighbourhood known for its abundance of good food.
The guide, Kanako, was fantastic. She spoke perfect english due to a stint studying in England and had a great knowledge of the neighbourhood. Kanako led our small group to a few hidden gems and introduced us to some incredible food.
First stop on the tour was a yakitori restaurant which was 50 years old. Marked by material hanging above the door, which is a traditional sign. These have been replaced with modern neon signs in many places.
Yakitori is meat or vegetables cooked on skewers over a flame. We had two skewers; one pork, one chicken, served with Japanese mustard and chilli powder. They look simple, but they were surprisingly tender and delicious. The place was tiny and we sat right in front of the chef. We watched him cooking the skewers over a little tray of coals, turning the sticks with his bare fingers almost touching the flames.
Around the corner and up a steep flight of stairs was a hidden sashimi restaurant. Here we tried an assortment of sashimi; tuna, rock trout, yellow tail and some others I didn’t recognise. The sashimi was super fresh and served with shiso, a japanese herb which tastes similar to mint. Alongside the fish we tried three types of sake; sweet, dry and super dry.
Moving on to the next place, we stopped at a small door with a yakitori sign out the front. It wasn’t very impressive looking from the street. Once the door was opened it was a different story. Inside was an undercover narrow alleyway lined with tiny restaurant after restaurant, all specialising in different things; yakitori, soba, ramen and sushi for example.
All the restaurants were open onto the alleyway and people were seated all along the alley. This made for a great people watching experience. We stopped at a small restaurant and tried an assortment of small dishes; lightly fried tofu with spring onions, an avocado and prawn dish, noodles with pork and bean sprouts, and okonomiyaki.
- Okonomiyaki is a ‘japanese pancake’. It is a batter cooked with cabbage and other vegetables, topped with spring onion, sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes. It is a speciality of Osaka but can be found anywhere.
Filling up fast, we trekked on to a ramen shop. This particular shop was unusual because all the staff were women. Ramen, a rich salty noddle soup, is usually prepared by men.
We finished up at an icecream parlour. The flavours here were very interesting. I tried chocolate ginger, sweet yellow potato and sugar crusted cookie dough. I really liked the unusual flavours, very japanese! A great way to finish off the evening!
I highly recommend doing a food tour. The places I visited I would never have found, or entered, on my own. It was a great way to experience japanese cuisine.