1. Garlic chilli mud crab at Heigei
    Photo: HeigeiGarlic chilli mud crab at Heigei
  2. Apsara, rice and curry wrapped in banana leaf
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima「スリランカカレーのバナナリーフ包み」
  3. Sonpon
    Photo: Time Out Tokyo

10 best international restaurants in Tokyo

These are some of the best restaurants in Tokyo to get a taste of home, from garlic crab and tom yum to tacos and paella

Lim Chee Wah
Written by
Lim Chee Wah
Jessica Thompson

Food is one of the easiest ways to transport yourself somewhere else. Whether you’re missing home or just missing an overseas holiday, a meal at one of these Tokyo restaurants is like a passport for your palate.

Food memories call on all five senses, which is why we’ve chosen venues not just for their food, but also their design and atmosphere. From Mexican tacos and Spanish tapas to Thai curries and Hong Kong seafood, these are the perfect spots to get your favourite comfort food in the city.

RECOMMENDED: 5 best non-Japanese curry rice in Tokyo

Take your taste buds on tour

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Ginza

While Heigei specialises in seafood, the comprehensive menu also offers dim sum, fried rice, wanton noodles and more. You could go all-out for the multicourse meal (from ¥6,600 at dinner), which comes with dishes like crab and salmon roe cooked in a Hong Kong clay pot, teppan-grilled shrimp with crispy black rice, and Cantonese roast duck.

But if you only try one thing, make sure it's the typhoon shelter mud crab (¥6,000) or prawns (¥3,000). Unique to Hong Kong's seafaring community, this bold and punchy cuisine is characterised by its liberal use of fried garlic, red chilli and scallion. The toasty garlic and the fiery chilli are the perfect flavour enhancer to the fleshy seafood, making the dishes immensely moreish and addictive.

Come for lunch on weekdays and you can enjoy the typhoon shelter prawns for just ¥2,200. Make sure you get here early, as there are only five servings per day. Otherwise, there are more lunch sets available, priced from ¥1,400, and come with soup as well as your choice of dim sum or dessert.

  • Restaurants
  • Malaysian
  • Otemachi

Nasi Kandar is a bombastic rice dish of spicy, punchy flavours. It’s essentially a one-plate rice meal, piled high with meats and vegetables and drenched in curry and gravy. The dish came from the Indian Muslim community in Penang, an island in Malaysia well-loved for its vibrant street food culture.

To our delight, the nasi kandar at Zero Two is authentic – and reasonably priced, with rice plates ranging between ¥1,000 and ¥1,980. First, decide on a main dish: hard boiled egg (with a gooey yolk, no less), grilled chicken, deep-fried lamb cutlet, fish fingers and a vegetarian option. Then your preferred base: plain white rice or biryani rice.

Now this is where the fun begins. From the selection of vegetables, choose three side dishes. Then, two curries out of six. The chicken curry as well as the prawn and squid curry are exceptional. There’s also a vegetarian curry and a seasonal option. To finish, the server will throw in some stir-fried bean sprouts and boiled okra for good measure. There’s a lot on the plate, and that’s the joy of nasi kandar. It’s a generous meal, both in portion and in flavour.

  • Restaurants
  • Hiroo

Spanish gastrobars sit in the brilliant middleground between bar and restaurant, with excellent food and drinks served at affordable prices but in a more casual setting. At Gracia, chef Jerome Quilbeuf serves a menu based on the full-flavoured cuisine of Catalonia in Spain’s northeast.

Pop in for the pork pluma sandwich – premium Iberican shoulder blade meat cooked rare and served between toast – and beer, or stay for longer and try a handful of small plates like smoked bonito with ajo blanco (white gazpacho), patatas bravas, paella and the legendary cheesecake. The relaxed atmosphere and counter seats overlooking the kitchen make the whole experience an intimate one.

  • Restaurants
  • Waseda

The unassuming Apsara in Shinjuku serves up a comprehensive menu offering some of the island's most beloved dishes. The highlight here is the beautifully presented and generously portioned rice and curry wrapped in banana leaf (¥1,760). This gorgeous parcel of Sri Lankan goodness offers a jumble of meat and seafood curries, vegetable side dishes, various chutney and toppings including hard-boiled egg, mackarel croquette and crispy papadam (thin deep-fried crisp). It's a feast for sure: just mix it all up and enjoy the riot of flavours with fluffly basmati rice.

Apsara's other Sri Lankan classics are worth a repeat visit, including hoppers (bowl-like pancakes made from rice flour mixed with coconut milk) and watalappan (a custard pudding made from coconut milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs and a host of spices).

  • Restaurants
  • Asakusa

Tucked away in a backstreet of Asakusa, this popular Thai restaurant re-creates the casual dining feel of a Bangkok neighbourhood restaurant. There are bold red- and blue-painted walls, bright lighting, rattan furnishings and Thai trinkets lined up at the entrance. The owner-chef is from northern Thailand and infuses dishes with plenty of fresh herbs and often a spicy kick.

Yum Takrai is a crunchy and flavourful mound of lemongrass salad, while the Pad See Ew – rice noodles with chicken and vegetables – is highly recommended, plus you get to choose the thickness of your rice noodles. Khao Soi, a spicy coconut curry noodle soup from the north of Thailand, is another favourite. Portions are generous for the price, and you can wash them down with a selection of Thai beers like Leo and Singha. Sompong is open every day until 2am, so you can always head there for a hearty meal after a night out. 

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Kyobashi

There’s something undeniably comforting about Indian food and at Dhaba India in Kyobashi, you’ll find  a menu of fragrant, deeply satisfying dishes from the southern part of the country. We love the lemon prawn curry, and the tamarind punch of the Tamil fish curry. If you can’t decide, the set menu of assorted South Indian food served on a banana leaf is a great option, with nine dishes including chicken, fish and vegetable curries, plus rice and papadams. The masala dosa (rice flour and lentil crepe), a fixture of South Indian cuisine, is a featherlight wrap containing a filling of potato, onion and green chilli. With dark blue walls and turquoise tiled floors, it’s a tranquil – as well as filling – dining experience.

Mexico: Los Tacos Azules
  • Restaurants
  • Sangenjaya

At Los Tacos Azules in Sangenjaya, owner-chef Marco Garcia, who hails from the north of Mexico, replicates the tantalising aromas and flavours of Mexican cooking for Tokyo diners, but also incorporates some local ingredients. Dishes vary with the seasons, but you can expect tacos filled with ingredients like smoky barbecued wagyu, ayu (sweetfish) with green salsa, and charred eggplant with goats cheese. Garcia even imports heirloom corn from Oaxaca to process into tortillas in-house.

Naturally, there’s excellent craft mezcal and tequila to try,  or you can go for a local wine or sake. For something non-alcoholic, try an agua fresca: a water-based drink flavoured with fruit, flowers, vegetables or herbs. If you’re the morning taco type, head to the restaurant from 9am to 3pm to start the day on the right foot. 

  • Restaurants
  • Ebisu

Il Boccalone in Ebisu is a relaxed Italian trattoria that has been serving Tokyoites hearty Italian cuisine since 1989. With sunny yellow tablecloths, an open wood-burning fireplace, wooden trims and fresco-decorated walls, the restaurant’s charming setting – not to mention the food – draw a loyal crowd of locals. 

We recommend starting with the crisp and tender calamari fritti and a plate of freshly sliced prosciutto, then moving onto pasta and mains. The parmesan risotto, ladled from an enormous wheel of cheese shipped from Italy, is a speciality. House-made pasta comes perfectly al dente, whether you choose the Bologna-style tagliatelle or the spaghetti with clams. For a hearty main, you can’t go wrong with the house classic: roast beef with rocket and parmesan and a side of organic vegetables sauteed in butter.

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Azabu-Juban

Whether you hail from the southern USA or not, you’ll feel right at home as soon as you step inside the cosy dining room Soul Food House. Opened in Azabu-Juban in 2015 by husband-and-wife duo and Atlanta natives, David and LaTonya Whitaker, this popular restaurant specialises in American Southern and Cajun cuisine. 

The house favourites here are undoubtedly the fried chicken and waffles, but it’s also hard to go past the Cajun soft-shell crab served with a sweet and spicy sauce. For non-meat eaters, there's plenty of options – hot tofu sliders (a riff on the restaurant’s pulled pork classic), and mushrooms and grits, to name just a couple. A side of cornbread is a must, as is finishing off with a slice of key lime pie. Servings are heroically sized, but if you can’t finish it all, Soul Food House will happily package it up for you to take home.

  • Restaurants
  • Turkish
  • Nippori

This raucous little slice of Persia is tucked away in quiet, leafy Yanaka. Beneath myriad mosaic lamps and billowing sheets suspended from the ceiling, you’ll find a mix of Iranian, Turkish and Uzbek cuisines served on wooden boards placed on the floor. Zakuro is not the place for a quiet meal, especially during the nightly belly dancing show at 8pm. While the restaurant has a menu, the big draw here is the set course customised on-the-fly by the owner Ali to suit each table’s tastes. The ¥1,000 ‘super hungry’ lunch course comes with soup, stew (choose from chicken, lamb, beans or vegetable), curries, chai tea and dessert. Or try the ¥2,000 dinner course cheekily named ‘you-can’t-finish-it-all’; an advance booking for three or more people includes a complimentary shisha session.

Want to recreate a taste of home?

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