If you ignore that sneaky cad the all-day breakfast, meals tend to be defined by the time of day at which they’re served. But if you're one of those mavericks looking for lunch at midnight, dinner at 6am or a greasy 1am breakfast to soak up the remains of a night on the town, these Tokyo establishments have got you covered with round-the-clock Peking duck, noodles, sushi and more.
For late-night Peking duck
Crisp, fatty meat, hoisin sauce and a sliver of greenery all wrapped up in a pancake for easy hand-to-face delivery – there's no denying Peking duck is delicious at any hour of the day. If that’s what you’re after, head to China Café Eight for a relatively cheap late-night serving of this classic Chinese dish. There’s a bit of a wait, mind – Peking duck orders take 20 to 30 minutes to prepare – but there are plenty of smaller dishes (from ¥210) to keep you awake in the meantime, and shaoxing wine to send you right back to sleep again. The authenticity of the dish might leave purists wanting, but when a 2am duck craving strikes, you could do a lot worse.
For a taste of the Izu islands
The clue to the cuisine is in the name – this Ikebukuro restaurant specialises in food from Hachijojima, the former penal colony that's actually part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. Expect a large range of distinctive ingredients from the remote Izu island, including ashitaba (a large, leafy plant endemic to Hachijojima), jelly ear fungus and tobiuo (flying fish), plus the noxious muroaji no kusaya – fermented horse mackerel, which is even offered as an unorthodox pizza topping here. The restaurant also stocks shochu liquor produced on the island, as well as the mineral-rich Ashitaba-hai cocktail: the perfect drink for the health-conscious boozer.
For an early morning catch
Sushi Zanmai's main branch is in Tsukiji, where visitors can whet their appetites with a tuna-butchering show, but it also has two restaurants in Shibuya: one close to Tokyu Honten Department Store and another opposite the east exit of Shibuya Station. Covering two floors, the latter boasts a more easy-going atmosphere than its siblings, so if you’re craving nigiri-zushi, toasted salmon or raw, marinated chunks of tuna in a relaxed setting, this is the place.
For Korean soup to warm the soul
The speciality here is seolleongtang, a milky Korean soup that’s made from pretty much every piece of the cow you’d care to mention, including stewed ox bones, innards and brisket. The result is a hearty, soothing broth that’s not too hard on the stomach at 6am. Start by tasting the soup before seasoning with salt and pepper, then add your choice of garnishes such as kimchi. Complete the meal with a portion of rice and you've got the perfect cure to a hard night’s drinking.
For budget dining
Located in a prime spot next to Uguisudani Station, Shinanoji is a haven for drink-filled revellers waiting for the first train home. A cross between a bar and a budget eatery, it offers a number of cheap meals, including shiratakini (a type of noodle salad), doteyaki (beef flavoured with miso and mirin) and aji-furai (deep-fried horse mackerel). Most of the items on the menu cost less than ¥500, and the place is so retro that even the 'napolitan' pasta is served with a bowl of miso soup on the side. If you’re travelling in a pack, there’s an area with horigodatsu (sunken floor) seating that’s perfect for small groups.
A 24-hour coffee shop is perhaps the perfect business model – caffeine-fuelled customers can stay up all night long ordering cup after cup, while stragglers stumbling home from a hard night’s clubbing can start the process of sobering up. If your 1am craving is for a cup of Joe rather than a midnight feast, then head to Edinburgh. Perched on the outskirts of Kabukicho, it offers as many as 20 varieties of coffee, including high-end brews such as ‘Hawaii Kona’ (¥1,380) and ‘Royal Blend’ (a snip at ¥3,000). Servings are generous and you can squeeze two cups out of a pot, while they also have free Wi-Fi.
For an old-school izakaya
This well-worn izakaya is all of 30 seconds’ walk from Shibuya Mark City, and – together with next-door neighbour Yamaga Shiten – has space for more than 300 customers. Favourite dishes include yakitori, motsuyaki (roast giblets) and various other charcoal-grilled meats, which are best supplemented with tasty sides such as potato salad and tako butsu (octopus chunks). The quality of the food can be a little hit-and-miss, but there are other enticements too: from 10am to 6pm, draught beer costs a piddling ¥250 a glass. Just remember to pace yourself, yeah?
For the K-pop crowd
A well-known stop for K-pop junkies, Hyungboo attracts a seemingly constant stream of customers, who dine amidst walls plastered with the photos and autographs of Korean and Japanese celebrities. If you’re not there for the stars, go for the food – the restaurant offers an overwhelming selection of Korean fare, including hotpot favourites gamjatang and budae jjigae, keranchimu (Korean-style steamed custard pudding), jijim and yakiniku, as well as an excellent set menu consisting of more than a dozen different dishes for ¥3,500.
For a Turkish breakfast
Sometimes, only a kebab will do. When the appetite takes hold, duck into Kader, a Turkish restaurant not far from Roppongi’s main intersection, for a beef kebab topped with crunchy salad. If you’re hankering after something sweet, round off your meal with a bite-sized square of baklava; or for something a little different, try some menemen, a traditional Turkish breakfast of scrambled egg with tomato.
For satisfying a soba craving
This late-night soba spot may be cheap, but it doesn’t compromise on quality: those noodles are made from 100 percent buckwheat flour, ground in-store using a traditional stone mortar. Choose between thick or thin noodles, complemented with all-you-can-eat wakame seaweed. Located next to Tokyu Honten Department Store, Sagatani attracts both the early risers grabbing breakfast on their way to work, and late-night party-goers crawling home after a night out drinking. Wherever you’re off to afterwards, if you fancy an early-morning bowl of soba, this is the place to go.