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Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaLocale
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Photo: Kisa Toyoshima& Piece
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Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
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Photo: Shirokane Shirokane

Best restaurants in Tokyo for solo diners

Forget casual ramen joints and fast food chains. Here’s where to treat yourself to a good meal when you’re dining solo

By Emma Steen
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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again (and again), when it comes to dining out, we are unequivocally spoiled for choice in Tokyo. In other parts of the world, solo diners might feel lonely or a bit embarrassed about the absence of company when visiting more upscale parts of the city, but that’s not the case in Tokyo. Instead of sitting across from a companion, you’re seated at the counter of a vibrant open kitchen, where you can watch the chefs in action as they dish up your omakase course and fill you in on the best produce of the season.

You won’t find your average noodle shops and chain restaurants on this list. We’re taking the game up a notch with the best open-kitchen restaurants for serious bon vivants, which are also perfect for discerning solo diners. Go on, treat yourself.

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Take a seat

Locale
Locale
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Locale

Restaurants Meguro

Chef Katy Cole brings her diners closer to produce at her farm-to-table restaurant in Meguro. Everything served in the warmly lit restaurant is organic, with produce arriving a few times a week from small farms in Hokkaido, Ehime and Kochi. The array of vegetables from the organic farms result in the most brilliantly multi-coloured dishes in Tokyo, showcasing a kaleidoscope of seasonal fare.

Her creations, such as avocado with lentils and fuchsia-pink shibazuke yoghurt, are the kind of dishes celebrity nutritionists wish they had thought of for their cookbooks but didn’t. Yet Cole has no intention of branding her restaurant as a shrine for Instagram fanatics (though they no doubt lose their heads over the rustic flower arrangements and the gorgeous tableware she handcrafted herself). Instead, she is set on her philosophy of serving honest food with the best local ingredients.

If you don’t go for a whimsical wine dinner, go for the weekend brunch and treat yourself to an avocado toast with perfectly poached eggs to remind you of all that is good and right with the world.

Fushikino
Fushikino
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Fushikino

Restaurants Kagurazaka

In 2011, Yusuke Miyashita opened his restaurant Fushikino, serving a banquet of Japanese dishes paired with craft sake, in the stone-cobbled neighbourhood of Kagurazaka. Miyashita is a licensed sake brewer, sommelier and Enshu-style tea-ceremony master who pairs seasonal sake with traditional multi-course kaiseki dishes created by renowned chef Yoshio Aramaki.

The Michelin-starred restaurant only seats nine people at a time, and as you settle down at the chestnut counter and eye the antique tableware, you know you’re in for something special. Behind the counter, Miyashita warms a flask to reach a temperature of 85°C, ensuring the fats in the fish or meat of the dishes will melt in your mouth as you sip throughout your meal.

Every evening features at least one vintage sake, which has been aged over ten years, as well as a blend of two sakes that Miyashita combines to match the food. The meal concludes with a bowl of rich matcha, which Miyashita whisks in front of you to revive you from the spell of the potent rice wine.

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Blind Donkey
Blind Donkey
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Blind Donkey

Restaurants Kanda

While neighbouring taverns cater to the after-work penchants of Kanda’s salarymen, Blind Donkey’s farm-to-table restaurant is an unexpected deviant in its district. Headed by Jérôme Waag and Shin Harakawa, the restaurant pays homage to local produce and everything here, save for the wine and olive oil, is sourced from small Japanese farms. Waag, who worked at Alice Waters’s restaurant Chez Panissein California for 25 years, insisted on being rooted in a historic part of Tokyo, where he would bring out the best in Japanese ingredients with European cooking techniques.

The menu highlights the best ingredients of the season and it’s difficult not to let your eyes rule your stomach as you sit at the rustic kitchen table, covered with colourful bowls of ingredients, aglow with linen lanterns. Vegetable dishes are a category all of their own here, and while sweet roasted carrots with mikan glaze can be enjoyed by themselves, they would also make an excellent accompaniment to heartier mains such as wild boar braised with shiitake mushrooms andred wine served over polenta. 

Shirokane
Shirokane
Photo: Shirokane

Shirokane

Restaurants Kagurazaka

Shirokane Toritama makes something as simple as chicken on skewers into a work of art at this elegant restaurant tucked along the narrow streets of Kagurazaka. Stunning skewers of charcoal-grilled chicken are served alongside grated daikon and fresh quail egg to add a refreshingly light accompaniment to the meat. 

There are three omakase courses available, with seven, 12 or 15 skewers of yakitori favourites such as tsukune meatballs brushed lightly with a sweet savoury sauce or chochin (ovary) with its two rich orange egg yolks. The menu also features a selection of individual skewers as well as a number of modern izakaya side dishes that pair well with booze and yakitori. Add some green to your meal with a zesty salad of fresh coriander with mustard dressing and crispy potato chips or order get the chicken liver mousse to dip with toast and enjoy with wine. 

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& Piece
& Piece
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

& Piece

Restaurants Yoyogi-Uehara

Note: & Piece only serves takeout for now

No forks, knives or chopsticks for this omakase course: & Piece (or ‘And Piece’, to its friends) offers a uniquely fun and playful dining experience by only serving dishes that are meant to be eaten by hand. Chef Masaki Yamagishi’s food, which combines Japanese ingredients with French Cooking techniques, will definitely engage all five of your senses.

The dishes are presented like dainty little treasure pieces, from foie gras mousse disguised as a pair of red lips to ogura toast ‘puzzle pieces’ made with butter and anko (sweet red bean paste). Yamagishi, who spent a number of years working at the Joël Robuchon Restaurant in Ebisu, is particularly gifted in French confectionery and his speciality financiers and Basque cheesecake can be enjoyed fresh out of the oven if you call to request them in advance. This unconventional restaurant lets you rediscover a curiosity for food and will leave you dreaming of the scent of brown butter for days to come. 

Eat better in Tokyo

Tsukemen Gonokami Seisakusho 五ノ神製作所
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Best ramen in Tokyo

Restaurants Ramen

From old-school noodles and tonkotsu classics to soupless tsukemen and spicy favourites – you'll be bowled over by these ramen

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