I really do wish I could eat endless pieces of sushi every day abroad here in Tokyo; however, my bank account would drain too quickly and I would miss out on the other incredible cuisine that this city has to offer. Nearly every other store above and below street level is a restaurant so the options are endless.
There are a few favorites that have become a go to when I find myself in a pinch for dinner or exploring a new ward. Exploring different parts of Tokyo is like finding the hidden gems within boroughs of NYC.
My first go-to for a quick lunch in between classes is onigiri. It’s essentially a triangle of rice, sometimes wrapped in seaweed, and inside is cooked salmon, vegetables or pork. They are sold at any convenient store (which are basically everywhere in Tokyo) and extremely delicious.
Some of the most famous dishes and restaurants in Tokyo look like nothing more than a hole in the wall. The small shops that sell these little delights are no exception; don’t be fooled by their simple packaging, these hand held meals are super flavorful and filling. The ones filled with fish are a classic due to the fine seafood that can be found everywhere and also have that salty bite often admired in Japanese cuisine.
When it’s cold outside and I have a long walk ahead of me, nothing sounds better than a warm bowl of Udon. Udon is a thick buckwheat noodle served in a hot broth with scallions and either tofu, tempura or pork. Udon is awesome because it’s not as dense and oily as a typical pan fried noodle dish.
What I love most about udon shops is the fact that you order your food from a ticket machine before sitting down. This saves me the time and struggle that comes along with ordering when you have a language barrier. The savory, and sometimes spicy, broth is perfect for any ailment you may feel coming or a cure to a previous night involving too much sake.
Donburi is another great meal choice for dinner or after class because it’s a great portion size and full of different flavors. Donburi is a common delicacy served with either meat, fish or vegetables (raw and sautéed) served over rice. There is usually a vibrant sauce and various toppings sprinkled on top further enriching the flavor.
This dish is prepared quickly and can be enjoyed hot or cold. This bowl of exciting ingredients leaves you full even after the longest days of sight seeing and shopping.
Lastly, when my friends and I are in need of a good beer and food combo after a tiresome week of classes, we often find ourselves walking into a local Izakaya. An Izakaya is a Japanese bar that serves tapa like dishes. My friends and I typically go in and just order whatever looks appetizing (which typically means doing a whole lot of sampling).
Some of these small plates include Gyoza (a dumpling style appetizer) , Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), sashimi, edamame and pickled vegetables. Izakayas are perfect for tourists because they give you the opportunity to taste a little bit of everything. There are far more adventurous dishes out there but I don’t have the the gut to try them…yet.
When it comes to food options in Tokyo, I certainly never feel limited. Most people assume sushi is the main meal in Japan, however, sushi is only one of thousands of delicious culinary experiences provided throughout my day.