UPDATE: this is no longer just sushi. Scroll to bottom for all rankings.
Forget Michelin, the Japanese all rely on Tabelog, the Japanese equivalent to Yelp or Trip Advisor. Unlike Yelp or Trip Advisor, though, Tabelog’s rankings are accurate — any place rated 3.5 or higher (out of 5) is 99.99999999999999% of the time excellent.
The reason Tabelog is accurate, is because Japanese are passive. We do not complain directly to establishments when we have bad experiences. We do not tip to show appreciation of places we love. We return to our favorites and become jyōren (regulars). Places we dislike, we tell all our family, friends, colleagues to avoid and… rate on Tabelog. Tabelog is very accurate.
I put this together because I realized most people aren’t food nerds. When people ask for recommendations, they don’t really care about the whats, whys and just want “the best” (whatever that means).
So, for all the list chasers and ‘foodies’ who use Michelin as your food barometers, here you go. Knock yourselves out! Bookings are near impossible though; even through hotel concierges.
MizutaniSukibayashi Jiro TokamiAmamoto HashiguchiArai Sushi ShōSawada MiyabaSushi Sho NambaSushi Kimura MasudaHarutaka Takumi ShingoNamba AraiTakamitsu KimuraKiyota Sushi-ya IchiyanagiDaisan Harumi Sushi Sushi-yaSushi Sho Saito HashimotoMasuda KanesakaTokami Daisan Harumi SushiUwotoku
*list updated 4/21/18
Note: Hatsune is closed indefinitely for Hatsune-san’s wife is terminally ill — heartbreaking. See the entire list here (in Japanese)
*in case you stumbled onto this post and looking to learn about sushi, I write my take on sushi in Tokyo here
My Eater piece on Tabelog is here
Since I get asked for recommendations ALL the time, I’m just going to start listing the Top 10 of everything on Tabelog. So here we go, in no particular order:
1. Narikura — click this for food photos
2. Maruichi — food photos
3. Tonta — food photos
4. Maruyama Kippei — food photos
5. Aoki — food photos
6. Taiyō — food photos
7. Marugo — food photos
8. Enraku — food photos
9. Nomotoya — food photos
10. Tonkatsu Yamaichi — food photos
The Instagrammers and bloggers from abroad seem to have their personal favorites — Maisen and Butagumi are the two I see the most but aren’t really high up on lists of Japanese locals. Tonkatsu, like sushi and almost everything in Japan are personal preference. Some like lean meat, others like fatty, some like thick breading (koromo), others fancy barely there. Best thing to do is to look at the food photos and decide which ones you want to try.
1. Ittou — click this for food photos
2. En — food photos
3. Muginae — food photos
4. Tsukemen Dou — food photos
5. Menya Kissou — food photos
6. Chūka Soba Ito — food photos
7. Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta — food photos
8. Takematsu — food photos
9. Nisou — food photos
10. Muscle (?) Mussel (?) Cafe — food photos
I am not even going to lie — I’ve never been to any of these ramen spots. Most are out of the way in the middle of nowhere. My favorite spot is this one: Devil’s Ramen. Super spicy and just freakin’ amazing. But even then, I only eat ramen once or twice a year — just don’t crave it anymore.
Besides, udon and soba are better than ramen anyway.