There are traditional coffee houses all over Tokyo. Small - usually air-conditioned - places of calm from the hustle, bustle and summer heat. Your glass of ice cool water is constantly topped up, a cloth to refresh you, coffee, cakes and in many perfect toasted cheese. Excellent people-watching places too. Don't even think about using Starbucks or any of the chains.
Literally the best restaraunt/bar you will find in Tokyo (nay the world), and it's on the 42nd floor atop of the Mori Atago building.
Great atmosphere and the best view of Tokyo you'll get over Lobster (recommend at night).
Atago Green Hills, Kamiyacho
Tako-Yaki was my favorite street food. A savory octopus gobstopper, you bite through a crispy pancake shell, swallow down runny batter till you get to the chewy chunk of octopus in the center. Stalls selling this tend to have a cute cartoon octopus waiving its legs invitingly at you.
You can buy it from stalls at festivals or in parks (there‘s one in front of Yoiyogi park).
The Naam is quite simply veggie heaven. Choose anything from the menu and you will not be disappointed, my own personal favourite is Naam Dragon Bowl. The Naam is open 24 hours and to make a day of it you can take the aquabus from Granville Island, eat and then take in the sunset from Kitsilano beach (a 5-min walk) and then stroll back downtown along the beaches (a 30-min walk).
The Naam, near the corner of West Fourth and Macdonald in the heart of Kitsilano
A tiny marbled and mirrored jewel of a bar designed by Adolf Loos in 1907. Only seats about 12 people with maybe standing room for another 5 or 6. Stop in at about 5pm for cocktails or Austrian wine, or if your German is good enough reserve a table for the evening. Lovely staff.
Karntner Durchgang 10
Basically Tokyo-on-sea, a big slab of reclaimed land in Tokyo bay where you can go and chill out, eat/drink/shop, enjoy sea breezes, even go to the (artifical) beach! There are stunning views of Tokyo (especially at night), and it's one of the few places in Tokyo where you can enjoy the great outdoors. There's a massive ferris wheel for even better views and you can even rent a dog to walk!! One of the best things about it though is the journey there - it's worth going just to enjoy the monorail ride across the enormous Rainbow Bridge.
Yuirkamone monorail from Shimbashi. A one-day ticket gives unlimited travel on the monorail all day for around £7.
One of dozens of department stores in the Ginza area; this is my personal favourite, mainly because of the food hall. You can find an absolutely stunning range of local and international delicacies here and best of all a lot of it is out on cocktail sticks for you to try - helpful where you're not sure what it is - so you can wander around, enjoy the frenetic atmosphere and have your lunch at the same time!
Ginza or Higashi Ginza subway
Try going on a Saturday night for Karaoke night, really over-the-top OAPs getting down to some of the worst singing you've ever heard. Go REALLY early to get a seat (5.30pm)
Great food, dozens of different open-air restaurants. Argentinian, Middle Eastern, incredible Mexican, Creole, Chinese, French, diners, bars, everything.
You can also buy truly hideous souvenirs here, snow globes with palm trees, bare-breasted salt and pepper shakers, kittens made of rabbit fur (eeek!) deeply un-chic, and perfect gifts for your boss.
It's next to the newer open-air shopping mall called "The Grove", as in Coconut, I expect, not Notting Hill. There you can find a big department store and tons of Gap, Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie type shops.
Great inexpensive day and or evening out.
On the corner of Fairfax and Third
Before you can feel that you have been properly welcomed into Munich's heart, you have to sit and take in the atmosphere of a genuine Bierhalle. Nestled in among far more modern shops in Munich’s Kaufingerstrasse, leading away from the Marienplatz, is the Augustiner Bierkeller.
The Augustiner is a very large hall, longer than it is wide, on the ground floor of an ancient half-timbered building. (Whether genuinely old or simply rebuilt after the bombings of World War Two, as in many German cities, it is difficult to tell.) It is cosy and snug, relaxing, and, despite the number of customers, not crowded. The atmosphere is friendly and pleasant. Fresh cooking smells pervade the place along with the rich aroma of the beers, and this could easily become your favourite pub.
The enormous floor plan is divided up into numerous sections, each the responsibility of one or a small team of waiters and waitresses. The vaulted ceilings are high, disappearing, church-like into the gloom above. The floors are of red flagstones, and the walls are richly and decoratively panelled up to about shoulder height in wood the colour of ebony, the kind of colour that only comes as a patina.
You sit down on benches at solid, light oak wooden tables. The waiters wear white shirts with black trousers and black waistcoats, some have aprons, and purses bulge from back pockets. They are not all young. If you are lucky you will get a real character, with a sparkle in his eye, who has been here decades, and is almost part of the furniture. The waitresses wear variations on the regional costume, the Dirndlkleid, usually a long, voluminous red or green dress, with a white apron, and a low cut blouse on top, their purses in belts around their waist.
A group of men in their early twenties sits in animated conversation at one table, their vase shaped glasses of beer before them. Middle-aged and well-heeled citizens sit comfortably at other tables reading, with the air of people having no need to hurry. Couples while away lunchtime over two or three courses. An elderly gentleman sits alone in one corner, reading a newspaper and gently puffing on a pipe. The waiting staff buzz around efficiently, unhurriedly and politely, nothing is too much trouble, is the food ok, how about another beer?
This is a meeting place as much as anything, but also somewhere to eat and drink as much or as little as you like. The atmosphere is remarkably hushed for so many people. Business-like, practical and unhurried. The fare is about as traditional as you can get, from powerful soups through an innumerable variety of sausages with sauerkraut and mustard, to pork, veal and beef dishes all with some style of potatoes and vegetables. This is a menu with which to fortify yourself against the cold outside. Not lacking in calories, it is top quality, traditional, basic food.
The beer is also traditional. I order a Hefeweizen, an unfiltered wheat beer that retains its yeast sediment in the bottom of the bottle, so that it pours out deliberately cloudy and very aromatic. Nectar. Agreed by most to be among the best beers on the planet. My lunch arrives. Two Weisswurst, white sausage, another speciality of Munich, that come floating in a tureen of boiling water, so that you have to fish them out to put them on your plate. They are delicately flavoured and contain herbs. I am given a choice of mustards.
You ask for the bill. “Ich komme gleich”, the waitress says, “I’ll be right with you”. And disappears for ten minutes. She returns to write out what you’ve had on a small slip of notepad and, as always, you are surprised at how little it costs, just a couple of pounds, and you are sent on your way with another piece of Gemütlichkeit in your back pocket.
In Kaufingerstrasse, just off Marienplatz in central Munich
I'm rarely disappointed eating out in Tokyo but these places stand out. Davis in Takanwa (the owner is Shoko Davis, married to an eponymous Englishman) has created two fine restaurants. The food is European, the wines are well chosen and surprisingly good value. You eat well, drink well and still have a bill cheaper than all but the cheapest London curry house. They can be a bit difficult to find so ask for a map. The effort is well worth it.
Davis 2-5-6 Takanwa Tel 03 3440 6007
Nearest stations Shirogane Takanawa, Shinagawa (JR)
Davis too 3-13-4 Nishishinbashi Tel 03 3433 4321
Nearest stations Kamiyacho, Toranomon, Onarimon
"Kaiten" is the name given to the conveyor belt-style sushi restaurants you'll have seen on virtually any TV programme about Tokyo. Take a seat, make yourself a free cup of green tea and take whatever you fancy. The price of the sushi depends on the colour of the plate (you'll find the price guide on the wall), and once you've had enough just ask for the "okanjo" (bill) and pay at the till as you leave. Simple, easy and delicious. The price of a plate varies from JPY100 (about 50p) to JPY600 (3 pounds).
I recommend "Kazu" in Ginza (Ginei Building 1F, 8-8-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku), near the Burberry store.
Nearest station: Ginza.
Not technically Japanese food (it originates from Korea), but yaki-niku ("grilled meat") is so popular in Japan it would be rude not to mention it. You'll find each table has a miniature barbeque, upon which you place a variety of meats and vegetables to grill (or incinerate, depending on how many beers you've had). The choice of meats is huge (from beef tongue, every conceivable part of a chicken, to... well, you'll find out), and it's damn good fun too.
You'll find yaki-niku restaurants all over Tokyo. Gyukaku (www.gyukaku.ne.jp) has various locations throughout the city, with English menus available.
Perfect al fresco budget seafood. Try the fried squid, the black cuttlefish risotto or 'little fish' on one of Dubrovnik's best squares. The only trick is beating the cut-throat scramble for tables. An orderly queue is a northern European concept.
Gundulićeva poljana 8, next to the cathedral;
tel: (+385 20) 32 36 82
Everything a great pub should be - including an outstanding view across the harbour. With a range of finely brewed beers - from the Cascadia Cream Ale to the Ipanema Summer White and the delicious Coal Porter - you'll find a brew that will match your taste. And watch out especially for the seasonal ales - they may sound a bit weird - Great Pumpkin Ale anyone - but boy are they good.
375 Water Street, Gastown;
The Office is a fantastic bar and restaurant next to the town hall in Argentiere. It has a warm and friendly atmosphere and serves great steaks and a delicious sticky toffee pudding. My family ate there four times during our stay and the service and food was consistently superb. They do lots of tasty vegetarian food as well.
There are hundreds of happening districts to explore after you've wandered around Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku and the like in your guidebook. You can take a subway a few stops out from Shibuya to Shimokitazawa - an alternative studenty type area with lots of music shops and live venues but well away from the tourist trail. Or else try Daikanyama with a more refined tree-lined kind of neighborhood feel, plenty of cafes and boutiques. Take the subway to Ebisu to get there.
Shimokitazawa - private subway from Shibuya
Daikanyama - Ebisu subway
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