Time Out Hong Kong takes on Tokyo for the Love Tokyo Awards. Here are the results!
Konichiwa! Recently, TOHK was honoured with the chance to take part in Time Out Tokyo’s very first Love Tokyo Awards, and we couldn’t have been more excited to visit one of our Time Out siblings. Before we arrived, the awesome editors at Time Out Tokyo narrowed down a list of the best restaurants, cafes, bars and shops in the city, and we got to spend a few days cruising through the city to find the cream of the crop.
We start our first day around Tokyo Skytree, where we stop into a cute café called Oshiyage Nyanko. Here, everything is cat themed. Literally. From the napkins with the corners cut out into cats ears to the food and coffee, everything has an adorable yet tasteful cat touch. Our lattes come out with possibly the most adorable 3D latte art we’ve seen – it was so well done we almost didn’t want to drink the coffee in fear of destroying the foam. If you’re a cat lover, this place is definitely for you.
Next we head to glitzy Ginza where we go to a kissaten (essentially, a Japanese diner) for a cup or three of coffee. Not your typical coffee shop, Café De L'Ambre has been open since 1948 and they pride themselves on their aged coffee beans, some of which have been aged for over 10 years. The aged coffee results in a rich cup of java unlike any we’ve tasted before. We're so taken by their blends that we order an iced variety, which is cooled over a massive block of ice in their freezer. We thoroughly enjoyed our kissaten experience here and will definitely be back for more next time we're in town.
After coffee, it’s time for dinner. We head over to Kitafuku Ginza for a very special crab meal. It's a small restaurant up on the third floor of a building – very Hong Kong in that way – and we know we're in for a treat when we step into this beautifully serene restaurant. We're sat in a private tatami room where a chef comes in and out and cooks our crab for us tableside. He even brings the live crustacean out for us to see before it's cooked – and it's quite possibly one of the biggest crabs we've seen. The chef's next move takes us by surprise, as he places the crab on our table and proceeds to cut its limbs off as it's still moving! The slight shock doesn't deter us from the anticipation of tasting this fine creature. We got to try our crab many ways, from sashimi-style to half-cooked and fully cooked – we even got to eat the heart. It's a delicious dinner, and we'll definitely put this on our list for next time.
To finish off our first day we hit up a well-known bar in Ginza called Star Bar. The drinking den is tucked away in the basement of a building you'd easily pass by if there wasn't a sign outside to indicate the entrance. We enjoy a classic old fashioned as we take in the bar's atmosphere, and it's a winner. Star Bar has been listed as one of Asia’s 50 best bars, and we completely understand why.
Our second day of touring the nominated venues starts off with an early lunch at Ecoda Hem, a quaint Vietnamese restaurant in the neighbourhood of Ekoda. Although not located in the most central spot in Tokyo, it's well worth the venture as it boasts authentic Vietnamese dishes in a cute semi-alfresco setting. We opt to sit outside to take advantage of the beautiful Tokyo weather as we're served the diner's signature banh mi and Vietnamese iced coffee. A lovely change of culinary pace, we enjoy every bite in this relaxing restaurant.
As we trek back into central Tokyo, we stop off in Kichijoji to visit a super cool sneaker shop called Skit that would get any hypebeast excited. The neighbourhood itself is a hidden gem filled with cute vintage shops, cafes and Inokaishira Park, where you can ride a swan boat or take a stroll through the autumn leaves. The shop hosts a bunch of sneaker brands from Nike, Adidas to Puma and Vans. If you’ve been looking for a particular rare sneaker or limited edition shoe that they don’t sell in regular sneaker stores anymore, you might just find it at this spot.
After a cheeky spot of shopping we head to a hip coffee shop in Ikejiri-Ohashi called, amazingly, Good People and Good Coffee. The shop triples up as a pop-up retail space and art gallery. It's a great addition to a neighbourhood which has been given the term ‘coffee town’ dotted as it is with a number of awesome cafes that follow the third-wave coffee trend that's been a huge hit in Japan.
Next up is a special shop called Roundabout in the Yoyogi-Uehara neighbourhood just west of Yoyogi Park. We can’t get over the seemingly endless number of cute neighbourhoods in Tokyo, which each have their own unique vibe. This particular shop is focused on offering interesting items from around the globe, from jewellery and dishware to clothing and shoes. It's a really well curated selection. We definitely wouldn't mind one of their cosy wool jackets for colder days or their a piece of their beautiful coffee equipment to spruce up our daily cup.
For dinner, we head to a quaint French restaurant called Les Chanterelles. We dine bar-side with a view of the chef working in his kitchen which was a great experience. Unlike the stress-filled kitchens portrayed by some TV chefs, chef and owner Yusuke Nakada is calm with his kitchen and floor staff, preparing everything with acute attention to detail. As the name of the restaurant implies, all the dishes here have a touch of mushroom, with a huge number of varieties kept in house. The food was as stunning as the service, another reminder that Tokyo has some of the best French food outside of France itself.
To finish off our adventure through Tokyo’s best, we have a final drink at Bar Oak. The bar is situated in the historic Tokyo Station Hotel, but it’s not your typical hotel bar. We go for one of Bar Oak's barrel-aged cocktails offered at the bar that's a mix of cognac and amaretto liqueur. The bar is a beautiful place to hang out, with knowledgeable staff and an exceptional service. We would love to come back for a second visit when their master mixologist – who's been working at the hotel since 1958 – Sugimoto-san is working the bar.
Who knew you could see the very best of Tokyo in just 48 hours? We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the city and are extremely grateful for the opportunity to visit some of Tokyo's finest institutions. A congratulatory shout out to the winners of the Love Tokyo Awards, first to Kitafuku Ginza for winning best restaurant – having the chance to dine there was nothin short of an absolute pleasure. Higashiya Ginza took home the prize of best café – this is definitely on our list for the next trip to Tokyo. Congrats also to Bar Oak for being crowned best bar – having a drink here was a beautiful experience. The impressive Isetan Shinjuku won best shop – if anyone hasn’t been into Isetan then they haven't really shopped, being one of the city’s best department stores for just about everything and anything you could want. Thanks also to Time Out Tokyo for having us and for their ace hospitality – we hope to return the favour one day!
For more information on the Love Tokyo Awards visit lovetokyoawards.com.