Best kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo

The traditional multi-course kaiseki dinner is considered the epitome of Japanese cuisine, and these dedicated restaurants are the best in Tokyo

Ao
1/5
Terunari
2/5
Kudan Otsuka
3/5
Arakicho Tatsuya - hi-res
4/5
Arakicho Tatsuya
Nanzenji Hyotei
5/5
By Time Out Tokyo Editors |
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Long before the rest of the world of the world caught on to the concepts of seasonality and naturalism, Japan had already built a culinary tradition around them. Known as kaiseki, this traditional multi-course meal (usually dinner) is a gastronomic expression of time and place, where chefs harness the best ingredients of the season, celebrate their inherent texture and flavour, and present them as the most beautiful dishes inspired by locality.

Kaiseki began in 16th century Kyoto as a humble meal of rice, miso soup and several small dishes as part of the tea ceremony. Today, however, it has evolved to become the haute cuisine of Japan. A kaiseki meal is a feast for the senses, where the presentation, taste, aroma and dining environment all play an equally important role. A meal usually follows this order: the appetiser leads into a simmered dish, then a sashimi course, followed by a grilled item and finally rice and soup. The price tag tends to be high, which is why many people often equate kaiseki with a celebratory meal.

But the times they are a-changin’. More chefs are seeking to update and reinterpret kaiseki to make it more accessible to a wider audience while sticking to its refined techniques and founding principles. Here are some of the best kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo, each blending tradition and innovation for its own take on the cuisine.

The ultimate meal

Restaurants, Japanese

Kudan Otsuka

icon-location-pin Kudanshita

Run by a charming husband-and-wife duo for the past eight years, Kudan Otsuka is classic kaiseki at its best. The quaint space is situated across the street from Yasukuni Shrine, whose calm surrounds extend into the restaurant. To keep things fresh, the menu changes monthly, highlighting seasonal ingredients in a traditional yet original way. Expect wow-inducing dishes featuring unique ingredients you may have never seen or tried before...

Restaurants, Japanese

Terunari

icon-location-pin Yotsuya-Sanchome

Terunari puts a creative spin on kaiseki by incorporating French influences that shine through in each and every dish. French- trained chef Kanichi Tokumoto runs the kitchen, working under chef Akihiko Murata of Terunari’s Michelin-starred sister restaurant Suzunari. Chef Tokumoto doesn’t stress over hyper-seasonality and instead works with whatever the kitchen is given, not necessarily just with what’s in season...

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Restaurants, Japanese

Tenoshima

icon-location-pin Akasaka

Tenoshima is out to reimagine austere high-end kaiseki cuisine as something more casual while continuing to push the boundaries of creativity. The interior certainly looks the part: inspired by the cosiness of a traditional Japanese kitchen/dining room, the restaurant has the relaxed vibe of a bistro but the stylings of a modern restaurant. The nine-course tasting menu, set at a reasonable ¥10,000, changes roughly every fortnight...

Restaurants

Nanzenji Hyotei

icon-location-pin Hibiya

Synonymous with traditional Kyoto-style cuisine, Hyotei has an astonishing 450-year-long history in the ancient capital. The current owner and head chef is Yoshihiro Takahashi, who is the 15th generation in line, and the force behind this new branch at Tokyo Midtown Hibiya...

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Restaurants

Ao

icon-location-pin Yoyogi-Uehara

There’s a lot to love about Ao. For starters, it manages to combine the casual vibe of an izakaya with the thoughtfulness of kaiseki cuisine. Don’t get us wrong – it’s never rowdy. Instead, it’s an unassuming little neighbourhood restaurant whose cosy, homely atmosphere belies its modern yet relaxed approach to Japanese food...

Restaurants, Japanese

Arakicho Tatsuya

icon-location-pin Yotsuya-Sanchome

Chef Tatsuya Ishiyama has over a decade of experience at Kagurazaka’s two-Michelin- starred Ren, so it makes sense that Arakicho Tatsuya feels like an establishment with a much longer history. But Ishiyama only opened this one-man operation in late 2017. Arakicho Tatsuya is a kaiseki restaurant at heart, with all the trimmings to prove it: austere counter, gorgeous crockery and of course, sublime and beautiful food made from premium ingredients minimally tweaked to bring out the best possible flavour...

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Restaurants, Japanese

Sekihotei

icon-location-pin Harajuku

A meal prepared by Shinichi Akatsuka is a rare treat. The bespectacled, softly spoken chef is one of the city’s finest practitioners of kaiseki – Japanese haute cuisine with a focus on artful, seasonal, ceremonial and perfectly balanced food. His tranquil Gaienmae restaurant, which opened 12 years ago and now boasts two Michelin stars, offers the ideal setting for such beautiful fare – there are four elegant private rooms as well as counter seating facing a quiet garden...

Restaurants, Japanese

Ise Sueyoshi

icon-location-pin Nishi-Azabu

Kaiseki chef Yuki Tanaka has a bit of an extraordinary background: a vocational school graduate, he studied the secrets of Japanese cuisine during a four-year spell at the renowned Kikunoi in Kyoto. Tanaka then went on the road, visiting more than 15 countries while always carrying a bottle of soy sauce and some kelp with him. These travels opened his eyes to the fact that a region's food culture is always born out of locally grown ingredients...

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Restaurants, Japanese

Ohara

icon-location-pin Yotsuya-Sanchome

Nobody can dispute Chef Ohara’s dedication to his craft. At six each morning the eponymous chef is at Tsukiji fish market, selecting the freshest of the day’s catch. And at midnight he’s still giving it his all, preparing his cozy, functional, Michelin-starred 12-seater Arakicho restaurant for the following day’s shift. In between, a lucky dozen customers get to experience some of Tokyo’s finest kaiseki – a culinary tradition dating back to 17th-century Kyoto with an emphasis on freshness, balance and seasonality...

Restaurants, Japanese

Suzuki

icon-location-pin Shintomicho

At this hidden Shintomicho gem, you're in for delicate and colourful meals prepared by an itamae with 15 years of experience in New York City (plus 13 in Japan, but he barely mentions it). Easy on the eye, uncompromisingly seasonal and ambitiously out-there in terms of flavours, chef Suzuki's cuisine feels almost underpriced – despite the fact you need to shell out a flat ¥10,000 (plus tax) for the omakase, the only option on the menu...

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Restaurants, Japanese

Ryugin

icon-location-pin Hibiya

Experimental chef Seiji Yamamoto has put modern Japanese cuisine on the map with his three-Michelin-star restaurant. Hailed as Japan’s leading molecular gastronomist, Yamamoto applies cutting-edge technology to the tradition of kaiseki ryori, which involves a theatrical series of small courses. Among his signature dishes are perfectly grilled ayu (sweetfish) and the Minus-196 Degrees Candy Apple, a glossy red toffee confection filled with powdered ice cream...

Restaurants, Japanese

Haramasa

icon-location-pin Yotsuya-Sanchome

So many of Tokyo’s top Japanese restaurants have minimal and modest décor. To the uninitiated, especially those accustomed to glitzy high-end establishments in the West, it can seem strange to spend top yen to sit on a stool in what resembles a cramped (if freakishly tidy) living room. But when you eat Shotaro Hara’s hassun, a mixed platter typically served as the second course in a kaiseki meal, you’ll understand why tablecloths and fancy furniture are entirely unnecessary...

More classic Japanese dishes in Tokyo

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