Kushikatsu Tanaka1/3
Photo: Keisuke TanigawaKushikatsu Tanaka
Kushikatsu Tanaka2/3
Photo: Keisuke TanigawaKushikatsu Tanaka in Daikanyama
Oreryu Shio Ramen3/3
Photo: Oreryu Shio Ramen

8 best chain restaurants in Tokyo

From seafood lunch sets to curry, these ubiquitous chain restaurants are great for your appetite AND your wallet

By Kasey Furutani
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Sure, we love to indulge in elegant kaiseki dinners or Michelin-starred meals, but it’s unrealistic to eat that kind of food everyday. For easy meals, Japan’s chain restaurants offer high quality, delicious meals – and you can usually get a huge helping for ¥1,000 or less.

Even better, most of the restaurants have English menus with pictures, making it easy to order. Move over McDonald’s; instead, try Kanazawa-style curry, fresh sushi and regional Japanese specialities at these restaurants you can find all over Tokyo (and Japan). 

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Off the chain

Kushikatsu Tanaka
Kushikatsu Tanaka
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Kushikatsu Tanaka

Restaurants Shibuya

Kushikatsu, deep-fried skewered meats and vegetables dipped in a sweet sauce, is an Osaka soul food. Cheap and quick, kushikatsu is not a formal affair – it’s perfect for a casual meal with friends and ideally paired with a frothy beer or icy highball. Tokyoites can indulge at Kushikatsu Tanaka, a chain of restaurants founded by proud Osakan Hiroe Tanaka. 

Each location has varying hours, some are open all day while others are only open in the evening as an izakaya. When the lunchtime fried food craving hits, the Daikanyama outlet is open from 11am on weekends.

Go Go Curry
Go Go Curry
Photo: fb.com/gogocurry

Go Go Curry

Identified by its yellow facade and gorilla mascot, Go Go Curry specialises in Kanazawa-style curry. Different from basic Japanese curry, which is light brown, sweet and commonly served with potatoes and carrots, Kanazawa curry is almost black and made with caramel, giving it a thick, rich texture and flavour, and it’s typically topped with katsu or sausages. 

Go Go is affordable, with hefty curries starting from ¥530. If you’re absolutely starved, try the ¥2,550 World Champion Curry, a giant dish of rice and curry topped with chicken and pork katsu, sausage and shrimp tempura. Find your closest location here.

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Yayoi Ken
Yayoi Ken
Photo: fb.com/yayoiken.jp

Yayoi Ken

Teishoku, homestyle Japanese food, is just as essential to the Japanese palate as elegant kaiseki. When you’re not in the mood for cooking up a storm, Yayoi Ken is the perfect substitute for Japanese comfort meals. Dishes range from grilled salmon or mackerel and deep-fried shrimp to chicken covered in tartare sauce. Almost every meal, which includes side dishes like tofu or miso soup and unlimited rice, is under ¥1,000.

Oreryu Shio Ramen
Oreryu Shio Ramen
Photo: Oreryu Shio Ramen

Oreryu Shio Ramen

Restaurants Nakameguro

Keen for a piping hot bowl of ramen but not sure where to start? Oreryu Shio Ramen has stores all around town offering over 30 different ramen options to satisfy your cravings. Big appetites shouldn’t miss out on the Oreryu Otokomori-Ramen (¥980, pictured above), a rich, customisable bowl topped with chashu pork and karaage fried chicken, that is apparently ‘made for men’. 

A lighter, but just as delicious, option is the Oreryu Shio-Ramen (¥890), offered in ume or yuzu flavours. It’s a refreshing option that won’t make you feel too bloated afterwards.

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Rakeru
Rakeru
Photo: twitter.com/rakeru_online

Rakeru

Rakeru is the height of affordable yoshoku, Japanese-style western food. Omurice, ketchup-flavoured rice topped with a fluffy omelette and rich demi-glace sauce, is the speciality here. 

You can choose from different toppings and side dishes, including curry, fried chicken and even seafood. Each dish comes with salad, butter-stuffed bread and a small potato, so come hungry. Plus, there’s an extensive dessert menu featuring French toast and parfait. There’s even a special Peter Rabbit-themed Rakeru in Jiyugaoka.

Sushizanmai
Sushizanmai
Photo: Sushizanmai

Sushizanmai

There are plenty of kaitenzushi restaurants around Tokyo and Japan, and it’s difficult to choose the best one. However, Sushizanmai, originally from Tsukiji, can be found throughout Japan and offers a variety of sashimi, kaisendon and conveyor belt sushi. Tuna is the top fish here, in fact, owner Kiyoshi Kimura calls himself the Tuna King. Kimura is like the Colonel Sanders of kaitenzushi, his beaming face is plastered on the restaurant’s facade and some outlets even have a statue of him. 

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Spajiro
Spajiro
Photo: Kasey Furutani

Spajiro

Nope, Spajiro is not a spa. It is a chain restaurant dedicated to the art of spaghetti, specifically wafu pasta. Wafu pasta is a Japanese twist on Italian spaghetti, mixing umami-filled ingredients like soy sauce with Italian basics to create innovative flavours.

First-timers should try tarako spaghetti (¥850), made with pink cod roe, while adventurous eaters can go for the natto, bacon, ume and nozawana (Japanese green vegetable) spaghetti (¥980). There’s also a selection of Italian spaghetti like meat sauce (¥880), peperoncino (¥740) and carbonara (¥980).

Gindaco
Gindaco
Photo: twitter.com/gindaco_jp

Gindaco

Restaurants Street food Harajuku

Gindaco specialises in the Osaka delicacy of takoyaki, fried balls of dough filled with octopus. It’s much tastier than it sounds, and piping hot takoyaki pairs well with an after-work beer. Gindaco has a variety of takoyaki with different toppings like cheese, green onion and summery lemon. However, you can’t beat the original takoyaki (¥538) here, which comes with sweet-salty tonkatsu sauce, mayonnaise, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and aonori (dried seaweed).

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