1. Dean & Deluca, doughnut sandwiches
    Photo: Dean & DelucaDean & Deluca doughnut sandwiches
  2. Iyoshi Cola Shibuya
    Photo: Iyoshi Cola ShibuyaIyoshi Cola on Cat Street
  3. 0% Non-alcohol Experience
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
  4. Iyoshi Cola
    Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaIyoshi Cola
  5. Vegan teriyaki chicken, doughnut sandwich, Hatena
    Photo: Lim Chee WahVegan teriyaki chicken doughnut sandwich at Hatena

4 food and drink trends in Tokyo you need to try

What we are obsessively eating and drinking this month, and the things you’ll be seeing more of in Tokyo this year

Lim Chee Wah
Written by
Lim Chee Wah
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The food scene in Tokyo is not all high brow kaiseki banquets and Michelin-starred restaurants. We Tokyoites love our food fads, too. Some obviously came and went without leaving much of an impact – remember cheese tea? – others persevered to become a mainstay in the city, just like over-the-top latte art and bubble tea.

Here we take a look at some of the current flavours of the month, which we think you’ll be seeing more of in the near future. Who knows, these food and drink offerings might just become a permanent fixture in Tokyo’s cafés, restaurants and bars.

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Tokyo’s top food and drink trends

Craft cola
Photo: Iyoshi Cola Shibuya

Craft cola

One of the world’s favourite soda flavours is getting a Japanese twist. Last year, Iyoshi Cola set up a riverfront workshop in Shimo Ochiai to produce artisanal cola made from all natural ingredients: citrus, spices and actual kola nuts. The brand, easily identifiable by its kingfisher logo, has become so popular it’s now sold at gourmet grocers and even has its own vending machine at Shibuya’s Miyashita Park shopping centre. Earlier this year, Iyoshi Cola followed up with a cool new shop on the trendy Cat Street.

Perhaps riding on Iyoshi Cola’s success, many other brands of craft cola have popped up in recent months, each offering a unique take on the classic cola spice mix. Food brand PoleStar’s Tokyo Craft Cola uses fragrant szechuan peppercorns while our favourite, Awa-Tokushima Cola, has yuzu, sudachi lime and awa bancha tea. The dark, intense flavour of the fermented tea offers the perfect balance to the cola’s sweetness.   

Pulled pork
Photo: Lim Chee Wah

Pulled pork

A classic American barbecue dish, pulled pork is making inroads into Tokyo’s food menus. You can’t go wrong with Freeman Shokudo’s lunchtime pulled pork sandwich, where the tender, juicy meat is prepared using the restaurant’s custom steel smoker and paired with bright pickles for a nice hit of acidity.

Canvas Tokyo’s version is pretty good, too, especially since you get to choose the portion size: 90g, 120g or 150g. Here the pork shoulder loin is cooked for 10 hours until fork tender and then served with raw onions and arugula in a burger bun. Over at Toasty Guys in Harajuku, your pulled pork sandwich will come slathered with a delicious spicy barbecue sauce and served as a toastie.

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Doughnut sandwiches
Photo: Dean & Deluca

Doughnut sandwiches

How do you make doughnuts even better? If you ask Tokyo, it’s stuffing them with fillings. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Daikanyama, Hatena prides itself on serving vegan junk food. We recommend the meat-free doughnut sandwiches, especially the teriyaki chicken with its lip-smacking sauce and surprisingly convincing texture.

2Foods café over in Shibuya Loft had a similar idea, too. Here you’ll find a vegan ‘egg’ doughnut sandwich as well as a fried soy chicken doughnut sandwich with egg-free tartar sauce. If you prefer it meaty, Dean and Deluca’s got two options: one filled with ham, honey mustard and apricot jam while the other features barely spicy cajun chicken with bacon, lettuce and peanut butter (weird but it works).

Just one small disclaimer: these doughnuts are not your typical soft and airy kind; they are a bit more dense, so as to be able to hold the fillings.

No- and low-alcohol bars
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

No- and low-alcohol bars

Let’s be honest, if it were up to us, we’d choose cocktails over mocktails any day. But in this ‘prohibition era’ – alcohol is not served under Tokyo’s prolonged state of emergency – we’ll take what we can get: a taste of alcoholic drinks without the actual kick. 

And they are surprisingly good. Gone are the days of mocktails that are just tooth-achingly sweet or artificially flavoured. Tokyo bartenders have completely reinvented the zero-alcohol game by creating inspired concoctions using herbs, spices and ferments on top of tea, seasonal fruit and infusions.

This has paved the way for a new type of bars serving purely no- or low-alcohol drinks. Roppongi’s futuristic-looking 0% Non-Alcohol Experience is certainly one of the first to open in the city, roping in famed bartender Shingo Gokan from The SG Club to create its mocktail menu. The handsome Low-Non-Bar in Kanda is also worth checking out for its inspired mocktails that sometimes incorporate savoury ingredients, while the Low Alcoholic Cafe Maruku near Gakugeidaigaku Station offers alcohol-free lagers and stouts.  

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