1. Terunari
    Photo: Keisuke TanigawaTerunari
  2. Kabi
    Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa
  3. Kabi
    Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa
  4. Mensho
  5. Mensho

Modern Japanese restaurants in Tokyo

Japanese food with a twist: these innovative restaurants are paving the way for a modern interpretation of Japanese cuisine

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
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A new generation of restaurants are bucking tradition by reinterpreting – and in some cases reinventing – Japanese food. In a culture which tends to favour conformity over individuality, these brave chefs are walking a tightrope in their admirable efforts to update the hallowed halls of Japanese cuisine without being disrespectful.

Can ramen be served with an alternative to the conventional shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt) or tonkotsu (pork) broths? Can an expertise in sushi be applied to another food type? Can you approach Japanese ingredients with modern European culinary techniques, which are very much on trend right now?

The great thing about Tokyo is that it’s long been a place where the traditional and the cutting-edge can happily coexist – and the city is better for it.

Prefer the classics? Check out the best heritage restaurants in Tokyo here

The trailblazers

  • Restaurants
  • Meguro

On the surface, Kabi comes across as a modern European restaurant, which is hardly surprising considering the chef and co-owner, Shohei Yasuda, worked at several French restaurants plus the two Michelin-starred Kadeau in Copenhagen. However, Japanese ingredients are front and centre, but interpreted through the new Nordic approach to food...

  • Restaurants
  • Burgers
  • Shibuya
  • price 1 of 4

Chef and owner of Deli Fu Cious, Shinya Kudo has more than a decade’s experience in some of the city’s top sushi temples. So what happens when a sushi chef switches his attention to burgers? You get some of the best fish burgers around, executed with premium seafood and perfected using insider techniques from the sushi world...

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Mensho
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Bunkyo

While ramen is traditionally a hearty soul food with a rich, gutsy soup, Mensho has taken all the best bits and crystallised them into a modern bowl that’s surprisingly clean and light yet still flavourful. The signature seafood ramen has a clear broth made with sea bream, scallops and sea salt, and is complemented by fare that looks like it’s been plucked from a modernist restaurant...

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Oimachi

Whether noodles are a Chinese or Italian invention, it doesn’t matter at Ajito Ism: here, the ramen, which is Chinese in origin, has been reinvented with Italian flavours. In lesser hands, this would be a disaster, written off as another cringe-inducing Asian-Western fusion food gimmick. But the chef, who goes by the name Mr M, drew on his training in French and Italian cuisines to create a bowl that, while befuddling at first, turns out to be utterly delicious...

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • 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...

More great restaurants in Tokyo

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