Now that travel to Japan (albeit still with restrictions) is back, which city in the sprawling country will you be headed to? For us, we’ll never miss at least a day or two in Tokyo. By Jocelyn Tan
The capital city’s neon lights and palpable energy are things we can’t get enough of, and it’s an open secret that you’ll be treated to good food at just about any restaurant on the street. However, we also wouldn’t say no to recommendations from a chef – much less one that came from Tokyo – while we’re trip planning, just so we make sure every calorie is worth our time.
Of course, who better to ask here than chef Akane Eno of Ichigo Ichie, the only Japanese female chef helming the kitchen of a fine dining restaurant in Singapore? To her, “Tokyo doesn’t have a specific type of local cuisine, as compared with other places in Japan. The city is like a kaleidoscope – many people from all over Japan live there. Its food scene reflects its people. It is multi-layered: flexible, open-minded, always craving for something new, and great diversity.”
Chef Eno opened Ichigo Ichie in the height of the pandemic in 2020, after a series of weekly pop-ups at one-Michelin-starred Sushi Kimura where she was working as head chef. Despite the fierce competition of omakase restaurants in town, the intimate 16-seater kappo restaurant at Intercontinental Robertson Quay has gained a following of regulars that come back time and time again for her soulful cuisine.
Besides mouthwatering recommendations to bookmark, the Tokyo native also suggests a couple of locales to explore on your next visit to the city: “I find that Kabutochō, Ningyochō, and Mukojima are great places to explore. Each area has its own charm. Kabutochō is a financial district that is also interesting because of its history. Nearby, there is Ningyochō. The neighbourhood has nice dining options and many small shops that have been around for many generations. Ningyo-yaki, which is a popular snack in Japan, originated from this district. In east Tokyo, Mukojima is a relatively quieter area with many cultural elements.”
Read on for all the details on these recommendations.
Ichigo Ichie’s chef Akane Eno shares her favourite eats in Tokyo:
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“This is my mentor, Masaru Furusawa’s kappo restaurant. Sawaichi always reminds me what I should keep in my mind as a chef. Chef Furusawa taught me to not be lazy in order to achieve the best result for every moment. This is a philosophy which I will always follow.”
(Image credit: @roppongisawaichi via Instagram)
“I dined at Kifuu, a kappo restaurant in Ebisu, frequently when I lived in Tokyo, and I still want to visit when I return. The chef and I are at the same age. He has great taste in food and aesthetics and an inquisitive mind in exploring flavours. The ambience here reflects his personality well, it’s fine dining and very comfortable.”
(IMage credit: @kihuu.ebis via Instagram)
“CERO is a tiny and cosy place in Ginza with a relaxing ambience. I like to come here with my good friends. Their beverage selection is really on point, allowing diners to enjoy their great collection of natural wines, sake, and especially their ‘lemon sour’. I also enjoy their unique twist on Japanese cuisine. Chef is also able to speak English fluently as he had worked in Australia.”
(Image credit: @ginzacero via Instagram)
“If you are looking for a night out with food and drinks, Inagaki is a good place. It’s an authentic and popular izakaya in east Tokyo and there are a few outlets within the same area. The prices are reasonable, and the food is tasty. I especially like their Yakitori and Nikomi, which go very well with beer. It’s also located near Tokyo Skytree, so you’re able to view the tower when in the area.”
(Image credit: Inagaki via Facebook)
“This place is my mother’s favourite. They opened in 1901 as a bakery and started to specialise in Japanese-Indian curry in 1925. When I was a child, I dined there often with my mother and brother. I found the curry slightly spicy then, but I could enjoy it. Sometimes, I still think about returning for their signature curry rice.”
(Image credit: @slime.march3296 via Instagram)
(Hero and featured image credit: Ichigo Ichie)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore