1. Fushikino
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
  2. Locale
    Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaLocale
  3. & Piece
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima& Piece

9 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

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen
Advertising

Tokyo is often applauded for being a city where it’s easy for diners to eat out in solitude, but the art of solo dining here goes far beyond sitting at a private booth in Ichiran. In other parts of the world, solo diners might feel lonely or a bit embarrassed about the absence of company when visiting more upscale restaurants, 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.

Slurping down a casual bowl of ramen is great when you're on the go, but you shouldn’t deprive yourself of the splurge-worthy meals the city has to offer just because you’re flying solo. We’re taking the game up a notch with the best open-kitchen restaurants for serious bon vivants, because occasionally, you deserve to treat yourself without having to worry about the schedules, budgets and dietary restrictions of your friends.

No date? No problem. Here’s a list of some of the finest restaurants in the city where you can wine and dine yourself without feeling out of place.

RECOMMENDED: Kanto vs Kansai: the food edition

Take a seat

  • Restaurants
  • Sushi
  • Shibuya

It’s not easy for sushi chains to set themselves apart in a city like Tokyo, but Tokyo Sushi Ten has done just that with its refined omakase dinners offered at too-good-to-pass prices. Located on the third floor of the Shibuya Stream complex, this ever-popular sushi joint is famous for its weekday omakase lunch priced at ¥3,850, which includes mini ikura rice bowls and nigiri piled generously high with uni.

If you’re looking to go all-out, come here for the omakase dinner (¥7,500) where you’ll be served an elaborate list of sushi, nigiri and nimono (grilled fish dishes) until you’re suitably satiated. With the opulent nature of the meal itself offset by the casual setting, it’s hard to feel self-conscious at the sushi counter here. Besides, the skilled chefs behind the counter are excellent conversationalists. 

  • Restaurants
  • Omotesando

Though it began as a collaborative venture born from a conversation on a fishing trip between Zaiyu Hasegawa of one-Michelin-starred Den and Hiroyasu Kawate of two-Michelin-starred Florilège, Denkushiflori in Aoyama Gem is now a Michelin-starred restaurant in its own right. An open kitchen dishing up a fusion of modern European cuisine and Japanese kushiyaki (meat and vegetable skewers), Denkushiflori offers all the innovation of Florilège with the approachable playfulness of restaurant Den.

The eight-course dinner is a reasonable ¥11,858, featuring six kinds of delicately plated finger food like lamb tsukune meatball skewers with edible flowers and firefly squid tacos with kinome miso, followed by a rice dish and dessert.

Advertising
  • 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Shiba-Koen

It’s astonishing how some restaurants can turn something as unappealing as a writhing freshwater eel into golden brown morsels glazed with sauce so that they practically glisten. At this Tokyo outpost of a Nagoya speciality restaurant, grilled unagi is served any way you like in a polished setting that’s casual enough to duck into for a seat at the counter with no reservations. Through a window to the kitchen, you can watch as fresh unagi is prepped and grilled over bincho charcoal until the flesh is crisp and golden brown on the outside while staying fluffy and fragrant on the inside.

An ever-popular choice is the hitsumabushi set – a regional dish from Nagoya where grilled unagi over rice is served with a small pot of dashi to add to the wooden bento box halfway through the meal. If you’re looking to splash out, go for the kaiseki set where the whole eel is served in a series of preparation styles: as sashimi, baked in a Japanese omelette, skewered and grilled over charcoal, and shiroyaki (grilled without glaze). 

Advertising
  • 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.

  • 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. 

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Harajuku
  • price 3 of 4

Wine pairings can feel daunting if you don’t have a dinner date to accompany you, but it’s impossible for anyone to feel unwelcome at this intimate eight-seater restaurant in the back streets of Jingumae. Run by self-taught chef Nao, who goes by a mononymous name, along with husband and sommelier Kenichiro Motohashi, modern American restaurant Julia is the best kept secret of Tokyo’s fine dining lovers.

With an emphasis on highlighting local produce, ingredients are primarily sourced from Okinawa and Ibaraki – where the Motohashis have roots – to create a seasonal tasting menu of 8-12 dishes that changes every month. The experience starts at 7pm sharp, when all the diners are served a bowl of ‘sustainability soup’ – a fragrant broth made with all the trimmings and end bits of the produce used for the rest of the course so that no amount of flavour goes to waste.

While every course that follows is crafted with equal parts finesse and imagination, the star of the course is usually Julia’s signature pulled pork slider with homemade brioche and crisp apple – the best you’ll ever have. The full tasting menu (wine pairing included) is priced at ¥22,000, though a non-alcoholic pairing is also available.

  • 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. 

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Yoyogi-Uehara

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

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising