Forget France, Japan is new the culinary centre of the world. And with a capital city that’s home to more Michelin stars than any other, it’s perhaps no wonder. Whether your preference is for sake or sushi, here is my pick of the top 5 eateries to really sink your teeth into on a trip to Japan:
Remember that scene in Kill Bill where Uma Thurman fights with a girl in The House of Blue Leaves restaurant? Well, Gonpachi is reportedly the inspiration for this very sequence. Actually a chain of restaurants that can be found dotted throughout Tokyo, our favourite is the Ginza branch. Dine in an authentic Japanese setting and indulge in a little of what Japan is famous for: its sushi.
Deep in the heart of traditional Kyoto lies the elegant and refined Yoshikawa Ryokan, a traditional inn that also houses a tempura restaurant of the same name. Famous the world over, Yoshikawa has gained a reputation for cooking the best tempura in the whole of the country and rightly so; the gastronomic delights on offer here will have your tastes buds tingling and your mouth watering.
A Hiroshima institution, Okonomi-mura is not a restaurant but rather a collection of individual stalls which serve up lip-smackingly good okonomiyaki, a dish for which the area is renowned. An appetising and filling meal that is also relatively cheap in a country known for its expensiveness, okonomiyaki is essentially a savoury pancake crammed full with your choice of filling, from pork belly and cabbage, to shrimp and cheese. Okonomiyaki is affectionately known as Japanese pizza or Osaka soul food.
If you’re really looking to push the boat out whilst on holiday in Japan, don’t miss Kojyu in Tokyo. A real sense of privacy and tranquility exists here as seating is, for the most part, in individual tatami rooms, allowing you to focus on the two most important aspects of dining: your food and your companions. Awarded three Michelin stars which go some way to justifying the high price tag, Kojyu is as much a treat for the eyes as it is the mouth, offering up a veritable feast of traditional kaiseki (multi-course dinner) that wouldn’t look out of place on display in the Tate!
Another kaiseki restaurant proud of its three Michelin stars, Chihana in Kyoto has stood the test of time, first opening its doors to customers in 1946. This family-owned restaurant in its present incarnation is small but perfectly formed and the exquisite but unpretentious food in enjoyed in friendly and welcoming surroundings. With a menu that changes daily you’re in for a real treat, but be warned, you need to book well in advance!
Craig Burkinshaw is a Founder Director of Audley Travel.