We recently went on a quest to find the best bagels in Tokyo and were more than surprised by the city's supply of fine baked goodies, eventually leading us back to the very basics. Here's our essential guide to Tokyo's rich variety of filled bread, found all across town from popular boulangeries to retro coffee shops.
The definite sandwich top 10
Popo, a takeout-only shop found Nishi-Nippori, has a small display case lined with a surprising array of choices. Whether you choose the Kanikama (imitation crab) Salad or the sweetly seasoned Potato Salad sandwich, you'll be sure to get a quality offering that'll still cost only ¥290. The voluminous fillings, delicious flavours and reasonable prices ensure that they often run out of stock rather quickly – visiting before noon is recommended.
Ginza's Akatombo first opened as a 'Western-style' sandwich parlor in 1950, but unfortunately had to close down a few years back. However, you can still sample the familiar tastes at the food floor of Nihonbashi's Takashimaya department store. The palm-sized, square-cut sandwiches come in 12 flavours, ranging from veggie (¥324) to roast beef (¥702). The most popular choice is the Mix (¥486), a combo of roast beef, veg, ham and egg. We liked the pork fillet and vegetable sandwich (¥540) – a sight to behold with its pairing of soft, fluffy bread and deep-fried pork cutlet.
Run by the folks behind popular restaurant and bakery Viron, Centre the Bakery operates between 10am to 5pm and serves 14 varieties of sandwiches. Customers can select from three types of bread: round-topped British loaf, square loaf made of Japanese wheat, and another square loaf made of North American wheat. Their club sandwich (¥1,944), served with thinly sliced British round-topped bread, is pricey but irresistible.
It is called American after all, so you surely won't be surprised to hear that this shop competes primarily with size. Simple fillings are paired with huge slices of fluffy bread that'll keep carb-haters away while continuing to pull in a steady stream of regulars. The sandwich set (¥1,100) allows you to choose from 10 sandwiches and one toast option, all of which are served with ample portions of salad and corn soup. We liked the one filled with roughly chopped egg and mayo.
The most popular choice here is the French-style casse-croute. Choose your favorite ingredients to go in your baguette, with the thin crust giving the bread a nice, chewy texture. Their best-seller is the ham, avocado and tomato sandwich (¥370), whose mixture of succulent ham, creamy avocado and fresh tomatoes creates a sublime taste. Ingredients are mostly homemade and bring out simple yet refined flavours. Note that they only bake one batch of bread every day, and the shop closes once stock runs out.
Opened in summer 2013, this sleek 'sandwich bar' has a vaguely masculine atmosphere – perfect for its man-sized portions. The King George (¥1,200) gives you piled layers of smoked turkey, provolone and vegetables served between slices of rye bread. The airy texture of the fresh lettuce, woven together with smoked turkey and crisp bread, makes for a delicious creation.
Another 2013 opener, M&T serves a delectable chicken caesar sandwich (¥620), which mingles thinly sliced chicken breast with an original Caesar dressing and fresh herbs – an addictive combo. The firmness of the baguette also makes it easy to eat. The excellent balance of fresh-made ingredients, portions, price and location are sure to satisfy.
Designer Takeo Kikuchi was once so enamoured with Kyoto boulangerie Le Petit Mec that he decided to bring the shop to Tokyo and to his very own Harajuku flagship store. The quintessentially French 'Petite Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Casse-Croûte' (¥420) is served in a delightfully crispy baguette. Réfectoire’s sandwiches are also available for takeout, but we recommend eating at the elegant café.
The toasted bread used for Abukuri's sandwiches is fairly standard, but it's the filling that separates this joint from the crowd. Their hummus and cream cheese sandwich (¥1,200) is superbly balanced, despite the bold combo of mint- and lemon-blended chick peas, sun-dried tomatoes, rich cream cheese, and fresh basil and herbs. The smell of butter gently wafting up from the toast brings the whole thing together.
It isn't easy to find, but the quality of the bread keeps customers coming back to this Ekoda shop. Chose your bread and then one of three fillings of your choice. The chicken and maitake mushroom sandwich (¥900 with salad and drink) is a full-fledged meal, with the taste of the bread itself especially worth savouring. Order the W (Doppio) (¥1,100) for the chance to add an extra filling.