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The 14 Hottest New Restaurants in Tokyo

Where to find perfectly grilled yakitori, ace ramen, and classic French bistro fare

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Here now, Eater returns to Tokyo, Japan, to focus on 14 newish restaurants that have been garnering some serious buzz. Once again, Japan Times food writer and prolific Instagrammer Robbie Swinnerton has kindly offered up his picks for the hottest openings of the past year or so.

Many of the city's favorite foods are presented among his picks, like yakitori (Yakitori Imai), ramen (Ginza Kazami, Muginae), and sushi (Higashi-Azabu Amamoto). Some culinary essentials recently relocated, infusing them with new energy (Sakurai Tea Experience, DEN) while one spot flew so under the radar that even though it opened in November 2015 it's still incredibly hot right now (Miyasaka).

Looking for the essentials? Head to the 38. But for the buzziest openings right this minute, dive into the Eater Heatmap to Tokyo:

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Ginza Shinohara

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Shinohara’s arrival in Tokyo was for many people the opening of 2016. After a decade in the hills above Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, chef Takemasa Shinohara’s restaurant had become a place of gastronomic pilgrimage where diners indulged in his creative takes on traditional cuisine featuring local wild ingredients such as bear, boar, and other game. His move to the capital has been near-seamless, and seats at his counter are now among the most prized reservations in the city.

Bistro Marx

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It was only a matter of when, not if, avowed Japanophile chef Thierry Marx brought his Michelin-two-star Parisian expertise to Tokyo, and he’s made up for lost time by opening two places at once. His eponymous compact fine-dining restaurant is the showcase for his modernist chops, but it’s the bistro next door that really has the city buzzing. The hottest tables are those on the open-air terrace that boast views (weather permitting) down over the iconic crossing in the heart of Ginza.

The progeny of the always-excellent Esquisse, Argile is in the same Ginza building (two floors down) but its look is very different: textured clay walls, lots of timber, and little natural light. The man in charge is Teruki Murashima, who worked under chef Lionel Beccat at Esquisse from the outset. The menus are simpler and the prices more affordable. What’s not to like?

A post shared by Keiko.K (@kelko_u) on

Esquisse Cinq

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For the past four years, Kazutoshi Narita has been the man responsible for the exquisite dessert courses at Esquisse. Now he has his own place to showcase the patisserie skills that first brought him to prominence in Joël Robuchon’s Atelier group. Besides his choice of seasonal desserts, he also offers chocolates — with home-grown flavors such as yuzu persimmon — along with an array of colorful macarons.

Ginza Kazami

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Before opening his superb little ramen counter, Hidenori Ohata worked for a while at nearby Kagari (a chef favorite), but his ideas at Kazami are all his own. Just try his warming, umami-rich sake kasu (sake lees) ramen, or his fragrant shio (salt) noodles, to which he adds a dash of Noilly Prat vermouth to offset the seafood flavor he derives from five kinds of dried fish. Tucked away down a narrow Ginza alley, there is no finer or classier ramenya in the city right now.

Higashi-Azabu Amamoto (東麻布 天本)

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Chef Masamichi Amamoto has pedigree aplenty. He spent nine years as second in command at Umi, the superb sushiya in Aoyama. He has also spent time in the kitchens at two of the most revered traditional Japanese restaurants, Shinohara in Shiga (which has now relocated to Ginza) and Gion Sasaki in Kyoto. So there was huge anticipation when he opened his self-named restaurant in Higashi-Azabu, combining the two aspects of his training. The two Michelin stars he won in only a few months are a testament to his skills.

A post shared by Satoko (@stk_hnd) on

Mixology Experience Roppongi

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Self-styled “grand mixologist” Shuzo Nagumo has a new location to add to his growing stable of bars. Alongside many of the idiosyncratic creations that have made his name — foie gras vodka, a blue cheese martini, and the excellent tom yum cooler — expect to find Roppongi-only numbers such as a milk-washed hop gin tonic and his umami sour, topped with freshly shaved katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Marrying style and consummate poise with Nagumo’s eclectic drinks roster, the Mixology Experience is a welcome addition to Roppongi’s nightlife options.

Miyasaka

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Even in the hierarchical world of traditional Japanese cuisine, few chefs pay as many dues before striking out on their own as Noboru Miyasaka did. He spent 11 years apprenticing in Tokyo before moving to Kyoto for another decade at the legendary three-Michelin-star Mizai. When he finally returned to open his own restaurant in Aoyama last November, he launched it with such discretion that it flew under the radar. One year in, he has two Michelin stars to his name, and these days seats at his minimalist eight-seat counter are at a premium.

Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience

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Japan’s national drink, green tea, can be frustratingly hard to find in Tokyo. That makes Shinya Sakurai’s specialist tearoom, Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience, such an essential port of call. Book a seat at his beautiful counter and sit back as he or one of the other resident tea masters whisks up sharply bitter powdered matcha, steeps delicate sencha leaf tea, or brews aromatic roasted hojicha. It’s far from a traditional tea ceremony, but the effect is both energizing and wonderfully calming.

Koffee Mameya

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Omotesandō Koffee is dead: long live Koffee Mameya. Coffee guru Eiichi Kunitomo’s much-loved espresso counter disappeared when the old building was torn down. Now, a year later, it’s been reincarnated in the same spot, but with a new name, a sharp new look, and a new approach. These days Kunitomo curates beans from a range of roasters, most in Japan but some as far afield as Melbourne or Hong Kong, and the focus is less on espresso and more on hand-drip.

A post shared by rin-ha (@rin_ha) on

Yakitori Imai (焼鳥今井)

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Grillmaster Takashi Imai began his career at Bird Land and its offshoot Bird Court, but he made his name at the intimate self-named grill that he ran solo in the Sendagi area until last year. Now he's resurfaced with a very different type of operation: The new Yakitori Imai is sleek and modern, with a crew of black-clad waiters and a spacious open kitchen. Alongside his excellent chicken, Imai offers premium meats such as French pigeon and Basque pork, plus a range of grilled vegetables from a second grill. A very welcome addition to the increasingly essential Jingumae district.

Leaving his iconic Jimbocho address behind, dynamic chef–owner Zaiyu Hasegawa has moved his essential Japanese restaurant to the Jingumae district. The look is very different — much brighter, more spacious, and more open — but the welcome is as warm as ever. Hasegawa’s innovative cuisine remains both complex and satisfying, with ideas and influences that are audacious and humorous. Expect foie gras in your appetizer and ants in your salad, along with his signature “Dentucky Fried Chicken.”

Sincere (シンシア)

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Chef Shinsuke Ishii is back. After a year in limbo following the sudden demise of Bacar, the hugely popular super-bistro in Shibuya where he made his name, he finally has a place worthy of his skills. Sincere is a major step up in terms of both scale and style, with more tables, a larger kitchen, and a bigger team working under him. And while he still keeps many of his signature dishes on the menu — from his brilliant seafood cocktail to his trademark cubic brioche breads — his Japanese-inflected French cuisine is even better than ever.

Homemade Ramen Muginae

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“Our passion for ramen makes the town a better place.” Muginae more than lives up to its (English) slogan: everything about this newcomer on the southern side of the city shouts quality. Homemade noodles, free-range chicken broth, a blend of artisan soy sauces, and zero chemical flavor enhancements — it all adds up to a superb ramen that more than justifies the train ride out from the center of town and the inevitable hour-long lines.

Ginza Shinohara

Shinohara’s arrival in Tokyo was for many people the opening of 2016. After a decade in the hills above Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, chef Takemasa Shinohara’s restaurant had become a place of gastronomic pilgrimage where diners indulged in his creative takes on traditional cuisine featuring local wild ingredients such as bear, boar, and other game. His move to the capital has been near-seamless, and seats at his counter are now among the most prized reservations in the city.

Bistro Marx

It was only a matter of when, not if, avowed Japanophile chef Thierry Marx brought his Michelin-two-star Parisian expertise to Tokyo, and he’s made up for lost time by opening two places at once. His eponymous compact fine-dining restaurant is the showcase for his modernist chops, but it’s the bistro next door that really has the city buzzing. The hottest tables are those on the open-air terrace that boast views (weather permitting) down over the iconic crossing in the heart of Ginza.

Argile

The progeny of the always-excellent Esquisse, Argile is in the same Ginza building (two floors down) but its look is very different: textured clay walls, lots of timber, and little natural light. The man in charge is Teruki Murashima, who worked under chef Lionel Beccat at Esquisse from the outset. The menus are simpler and the prices more affordable. What’s not to like?

A post shared by Keiko.K (@kelko_u) on

Esquisse Cinq

For the past four years, Kazutoshi Narita has been the man responsible for the exquisite dessert courses at Esquisse. Now he has his own place to showcase the patisserie skills that first brought him to prominence in Joël Robuchon’s Atelier group. Besides his choice of seasonal desserts, he also offers chocolates — with home-grown flavors such as yuzu persimmon — along with an array of colorful macarons.

Ginza Kazami

Before opening his superb little ramen counter, Hidenori Ohata worked for a while at nearby Kagari (a chef favorite), but his ideas at Kazami are all his own. Just try his warming, umami-rich sake kasu (sake lees) ramen, or his fragrant shio (salt) noodles, to which he adds a dash of Noilly Prat vermouth to offset the seafood flavor he derives from five kinds of dried fish. Tucked away down a narrow Ginza alley, there is no finer or classier ramenya in the city right now.

Higashi-Azabu Amamoto (東麻布 天本)

Chef Masamichi Amamoto has pedigree aplenty. He spent nine years as second in command at Umi, the superb sushiya in Aoyama. He has also spent time in the kitchens at two of the most revered traditional Japanese restaurants, Shinohara in Shiga (which has now relocated to Ginza) and Gion Sasaki in Kyoto. So there was huge anticipation when he opened his self-named restaurant in Higashi-Azabu, combining the two aspects of his training. The two Michelin stars he won in only a few months are a testament to his skills.

A post shared by Satoko (@stk_hnd) on

Mixology Experience Roppongi

Self-styled “grand mixologist” Shuzo Nagumo has a new location to add to his growing stable of bars. Alongside many of the idiosyncratic creations that have made his name — foie gras vodka, a blue cheese martini, and the excellent tom yum cooler — expect to find Roppongi-only numbers such as a milk-washed hop gin tonic and his umami sour, topped with freshly shaved katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Marrying style and consummate poise with Nagumo’s eclectic drinks roster, the Mixology Experience is a welcome addition to Roppongi’s nightlife options.

Miyasaka

Even in the hierarchical world of traditional Japanese cuisine, few chefs pay as many dues before striking out on their own as Noboru Miyasaka did. He spent 11 years apprenticing in Tokyo before moving to Kyoto for another decade at the legendary three-Michelin-star Mizai. When he finally returned to open his own restaurant in Aoyama last November, he launched it with such discretion that it flew under the radar. One year in, he has two Michelin stars to his name, and these days seats at his minimalist eight-seat counter are at a premium.

Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience

Japan’s national drink, green tea, can be frustratingly hard to find in Tokyo. That makes Shinya Sakurai’s specialist tearoom, Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience, such an essential port of call. Book a seat at his beautiful counter and sit back as he or one of the other resident tea masters whisks up sharply bitter powdered matcha, steeps delicate sencha leaf tea, or brews aromatic roasted hojicha. It’s far from a traditional tea ceremony, but the effect is both energizing and wonderfully calming.

Koffee Mameya

Omotesandō Koffee is dead: long live Koffee Mameya. Coffee guru Eiichi Kunitomo’s much-loved espresso counter disappeared when the old building was torn down. Now, a year later, it’s been reincarnated in the same spot, but with a new name, a sharp new look, and a new approach. These days Kunitomo curates beans from a range of roasters, most in Japan but some as far afield as Melbourne or Hong Kong, and the focus is less on espresso and more on hand-drip.

A post shared by rin-ha (@rin_ha) on

Yakitori Imai (焼鳥今井)

Grillmaster Takashi Imai began his career at Bird Land and its offshoot Bird Court, but he made his name at the intimate self-named grill that he ran solo in the Sendagi area until last year. Now he's resurfaced with a very different type of operation: The new Yakitori Imai is sleek and modern, with a crew of black-clad waiters and a spacious open kitchen. Alongside his excellent chicken, Imai offers premium meats such as French pigeon and Basque pork, plus a range of grilled vegetables from a second grill. A very welcome addition to the increasingly essential Jingumae district.

Den

Leaving his iconic Jimbocho address behind, dynamic chef–owner Zaiyu Hasegawa has moved his essential Japanese restaurant to the Jingumae district. The look is very different — much brighter, more spacious, and more open — but the welcome is as warm as ever. Hasegawa’s innovative cuisine remains both complex and satisfying, with ideas and influences that are audacious and humorous. Expect foie gras in your appetizer and ants in your salad, along with his signature “Dentucky Fried Chicken.”

Sincere (シンシア)

Chef Shinsuke Ishii is back. After a year in limbo following the sudden demise of Bacar, the hugely popular super-bistro in Shibuya where he made his name, he finally has a place worthy of his skills. Sincere is a major step up in terms of both scale and style, with more tables, a larger kitchen, and a bigger team working under him. And while he still keeps many of his signature dishes on the menu — from his brilliant seafood cocktail to his trademark cubic brioche breads — his Japanese-inflected French cuisine is even better than ever.

Homemade Ramen Muginae

“Our passion for ramen makes the town a better place.” Muginae more than lives up to its (English) slogan: everything about this newcomer on the southern side of the city shouts quality. Homemade noodles, free-range chicken broth, a blend of artisan soy sauces, and zero chemical flavor enhancements — it all adds up to a superb ramen that more than justifies the train ride out from the center of town and the inevitable hour-long lines.

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