A native of Japan who grew up in Tokyo and Seattle, Ai Uchida is a financial reporter for NHK World—and a dedicated foodie. In bull markets, she says, she loves nights out in Tokyo sipping on Krug; in bearish times, she’s happy with a chilled Jacob’s Creek and a good DVD. Uchida is also a contributor to The Miele Guide, an annual publication that surveys Asia’s best chefs and restaurants.
Favorite places to eat in Tokyo
I’m a big believer in “it’s not what you eat but who you eat with,” so many of my favorite spots are venues that are casual, filling—great drinks mandatory, of course—and don’t break the bank.
Tonchang: all branches are great, but my favorite is probably the one in Shinjuku because the host/esses and the occasional yakuza clientele mix things up a bit. After the first beer, go for the makgeolli—Korean sake. It comes in a bucket with a big spoon to pour the drinks with—fun!
Junkadelic: can you say, “Best frozen margaritas in town”? Mango, strawberry, passion fruit… the list goes on. The burritos and tacos are also muy bueno—not surprising, since the owner takes his staff on tasting adventures to Mexico regularly.
Pescaderia: oysters, bubbles and lasagna to die for—it’s a foolproof recipe for a night out with the girls! The branch in Ginza is more sophisticated, but for a large group I like to reserve the farthest-back table in Akasaka.
Cardenas Chinois: talk about a bargain—for just about ¥4,500, diners are served a three-course meal and bottomless glasses of wine and beer. You can select each course from a handful of delicious choices. This restaurant is also great for rented-out parties.
Favorite places to drink
Kimono Wine Bar does the Best. Cosmopolitans. In. Tokyo. I love the savvy decor, too.
Popeye’s, with over 70 beers on tap, is hard to beat for a beer lover, especially since they have an otsumami menu just as extensive as their nama. I like the Baird Ale microbrews, which are made here in Japan, alongside their tomato cream chicken pot pie.
Favorite places to shop
For bread and pastries, Maison Kaiser is a one-stop wonder. Lemon tarts, croissants, fig pain de campagne… A dangerous place to pass by on an empty stomach. Whenever I walk by one of those small trucks selling fruits and vegetables, I buy as much as I can carry. Maybe I just get the really good trucks near where I live in Koto-ku, but the produce always looks just-picked and the prices are very low. I think of them like farmers’ markets on wheels.
Ningyocho Imahan sells various cuts of meats all marbled to perfection—not necessarily exclusively priced, either. Visiting one of the Imahan restaurants will cost at least ¥20,000 per head, but if you buy their meat and cook it yourself, you can create a similar
culinary magic at home for a fraction of the price.
Favorite restaurant in the world
I’m probably supposed to say something clever here like “Mom’s kitchen,” but I’m going to say L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Roppongi, simply because I’ve never had anything less than an absolutely fabulous dining experience there. That said, I also have a thing for stop-over airport restaurants. Taking a breather while in transit is a spice in itself! …Course, there’s nothing like Mom’s kitchen : )
- Cardenas Chinois 5-22-3 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5447-1287. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm & 5:30-11:30pm, Sat-Sun & hols 5:30-11:30pm. Nearest stn: Ebisu or Hiroo. www.cardenas.co.jp/chinois
- Junkadelic 4-10-4 Kami-Meguro, Meguro-ku. Tel: 03-5725-5020. Open Thu-Tue 6pm-2am, closed Wed. Nearest stn: Nakameguro. Also location in Akasaka. www.junkadelic.jp
- Kimono Wine Bar 1-15-28 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6438-1685. Open Wed-Sat 6pm-11:30pm, Sun (brunch) 10am-4pm, closed Mon-Tue. Nearest stn: Nogizaka, exit 3. www.kimonowinebar.com
- L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon 2F Hillside, Roppongi Hills, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5772-7500. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm & 6-11pm, Sat-Sun & hols 11:30am-3pm & 6-11pm. Nearest stn: Roppongi. http://robuchon.jp
- Maison Kaiser Main shop: 1-4-21 Takanawa, Minato-ku. Tel 03-5420-9683. Open daily 8am-8pm. Nearest stn: Shirokane-Takanawa. www.maisonkayser.co.jp
- Ningyocho Imahan Shop and main restaurant: 2-9-12 Nihombashi-Ningyocho, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3669-0298. Open daily 10am-7pm. Nearest stn: Ningyocho, exit A1. Also locations in major department stores. www.imahan.com
- Pescaderia Ginza branch: 7-7-11 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-5537-3599. Open daily 5pm-midnight. Nearest stn: Ginza or Shimbashi. Akasaka: 3-5-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3568-1860. Open Mon-Sat 11:45am-3pm & 5pm-midnight, closed Sun. Nearest stn: Akasaka. www.take-5.co.jp
- Popeye’s 2-18-7 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku. Tel: 03-3633-2120. Open daily 5-11:30pm. Nearest stn: Ryogoku. www.40beersontap.com
- Tonchang 2-14-8 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 03-5287-4133. Open daily 5pm-6am. Nearest stn: Shinjuku. Other locations include Shibuya, Ueno and Akasaka. www.tonchang.com