What started as a two-table restaurant in 2005 doubled its size (the restaurant now accommodates 10 diners each evening) just two years ago. Takazawa serves pricey multi-course menus in what might be called a contemporary kaiseki style, blending Japanese tradition with up-to-the-minute avant-garde technique. The most famous dish might well be a candlestick-shaped mold of foie gras crème brûlée with pear sauce.
In Japan, ramen is almost a religion. There are few ramen shops more highly regarded than Ippudo, the first example of which was opened in the Fukuoka, in southwestern Japan, in 1985. There are now more than 40 outposts of Ippudo around Japan, under the direction of "Ramen King" Shigemi Kawahara — who took that title after three consecutive first-place best-ramen wins on Japanese TV — but the Fukuoka original is a must-visit. The essential dish: a delicious, satisfying bowl of nuanced tonkotsu (pork-based) broth dressed with gloriously filling noodles and various other savory accents.
This hard-to-find restaurant opened in Shibuya in 2008. Located in a little pedestrian alleyway next to a 7-Eleven and marked only by a small wood sign, DEN is a multi-course, set-menu bonanza of seriously good food and playful cheekiness. A leaf holding a huge dewdrop covers one dish; a Kentucky Fried Chicken box with the chef’s own visage contains a fried chicken wing stuffed with umeboshi plums, sticky rice, and shiso; and the meal may all end with a gardening spade covered with a “dirt” dessert. Make sure you don’t miss the thinly-sliced Kuroge beef from Kyushu, served practically melted into roll-your-eyes-perfect bamboo-shoot rice.
A three-Michelin-star establishment behind the Bishamon temple in Tokyo's so-called geisha district, Ishikawa is a showcase for the talents of its eponymous chef–owner, Hideki Ishikawa. Known for his modesty and concern for his customers, Ishikawa eschews modern culinary trickery and composes daily-changing menus from first-rate ingredients, which he treats simply and with great skill. His past triumphs have included bamboo-shoot dumpling soup with wakame seaweed; steamed rice with clams, sea urchin, and wasabi blossoms; quail and wild mushroom shabu shabu; and a deep-fried "sandwich" of sea bream and monkfish liver between thin slices of lotus root.
Jiro Ono still dreams of sushi (as the title of his 2011 biopic suggests). He was the first sushi chef to earn three Michelin stars, and has repeatedly been hailed as the best sushi chef in the world — yet at 90 years old, he still says "Even at my age, I haven’t reached perfection." His 10-seat, modestly decorated, sushi-only restaurant, hidden away in a Ginza subway station, has become a gastronomic shrine of international repute. If you, too, dream of sushi, this may be the best restaurant experience of your life.
Interested in learning more about the best restaurants in Asia? Check out The Daily Meal’s list of the 101 Best Restaurants in Asia.