With so many fine dining restaurants in Tokyo you definitely will not get hungry, but choosing the right place for your special date or get-together might seem a bit overwhelming sometimes. Not to mention the fact that making a reservation at popular restaurants in Tokyo is notoriously difficult, plus language can be a real challenge. That’s why I decided to put together a list of restaurants that in my opinion would be a perfect place for celebrating a special occasion or spending a romantic dinner for two. All of them have easy reservation process available in English. You do need to plan ahead and book these in advance, though.
Joel Robuchon’s Restaurants: L’Atelier and Restaurant Joel Robuchon
Our personal favorite, Joel Robuchon’s restaurants never disappoint and are a perfect destination for sampling classic French cuisine. Titled as “Chef of the Century” and the mastermind of French haute cuisine, Joël Robuchon is one of the most acclaimed chefs in the world, having been awarded more Michelin stars than any other of his peers. Tokyo is absolutely pampered by Robuchon’s presence with three restaurants, a private salon, a bar, a café, three patisseries and a boulangerie spread around the city. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, housed within Roppongi Hills and boasting two Michelin stars, stands out as an elegant yet trendy spot ideal for a leisurely lunch or date night. If budget is not an issue, I’d highly recommend his three-star name sake Restaurant Joel Robuchon housed within a Chateau in Ebisu. Everything about that place – from elaborate decor to bread, cheese and three dessert carts – will make you feel like a royalty for the night. Here is the full review of our dinner there.
Ukai Restaurants: Ukai-tei Omotesando, Ukai Toryama, Shiba Tofuya Ukai
This chain of luxury restaurants is highly regarded among Japanese and quickly became our favorite. Every restaurant is unique, housed within a historic building and offers a unique story. Ukai-tei Omotesando is a teppanyaki restaurant that serves one of the best wagyu beef in Tokyo, while Ukai Toriyama is nestled at the bottom of Mt. Takao and offers diners to enjoy their kaiseki meal in a romantic ambiance. I also recently visited Shiba Tofuya Ukai which stood out with its traditional and very atmospheric design. The menu there features tofu dishes and even offers fully vegetarian menu. In short, you really cannot go wrong with any of Ukai restaurants. If you want a special Japanese experience, then this is a place for you.
Another of my favorite Japanese restaurants is Shirosaka. Located off the main street in Akasaka, this place transports you to Kyoto for a few hours. While Shirosaka is, without doubt, a Japanese restaurant, it cannot be clichéd by any particular dining style or rules (even though, kaiseki is the closest thing that comes to my mind). Instead, chef Ii’s omakase menu – constantly improvised – offers great food served in an old-world yet more relaxed environment. Each plate, skillfully and beautifully prepared by Chef Ii, is a nod to traditional Japanese cuisine while being its own unique awesome thing. The menu focuses on showcasing seasonal Japanese flavors with a creative contemporary twist. Courses are delicious, inventive and served in an aesthetically pleasing style. Most importantly, Shirosaka is known for its sake pairing, and must I say, every recommendation made by Kota-san was spot on and coupled wonderfully with the courses we had. You can read more about our dinner at Shirosaka here.
Admittedly, the hardest restaurant on this list to book, L’Effervescenece is too good not to mention. In fact, we loved it so much, we went there twice and didn’t regret it. Two Michelin stars, no. 12 on S. Pellegrino’s 2017 list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, endless raves on TripAdvisor and Tablog… the list of accolades goes on. L’Effervescence is helmed by the Chef Shinobu Namae who expertly marries French cooking techniques with Japanese traditions of handling premium local ingredients to create a truly remarkable modern cuisine. The restaurant offers only one tasting menu during dinnertime: 12 courses or so of beautifully plated dishes that impress the eye and excite the taste buds. You can read more about dinners at L’Effervescence here and here.
You cannot find a restaurant with a more romantic name for a dinner date, can you? This one is a real hidden gem which remains off the radar of all the foodie’s visiting Tokyo, but thankfully didn’t escape the attention of Michelin guide earning one star within 6 months of opening. Located within a private house, Amour makes you feel like you’re visiting the chef’s home. Chef relies on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients that are cooked using classic French technique, but served in traditional Japanese kaiseki style. Every dish is inventive and delivers in terms of flavors and execution. One of our top picks for sure. You can read about our dinner at Amour Tokyo here.
New York Grill & Bar
For a quintessential Lost in Translation moment, Park Hyatt is your ultimate destination. You can either come here for a superb weekend brunch (imagine a mouthwatering selection of appetizers from a buffet menu, followed by the a la carte main course and a dessert buffet), or a fancy dinner accompanied with a live music and killer view. You cannot go wrong. Details about our brunch is here.
Tapas Molecular Bar
If you’re looking for something different and funky with an element of surprise, then this restaurant might be for you. Showcasing molecular gastronomy, every dish on the menu will surprise you with its unique presentation and interesting taste. Not to mention that Mandarin Oriental lounge where the restaurant is hosted, offers beautiful nighttime views of the city and is a great place to stay behind for a cocktail or two. You can find out more details here.
Dinner dates don’t have to be fancy. If you are looking for a more casual dining experience, then head to Azabu-Juban where Teppan Bambina will serve you scrumptious wagyu beef. There was very helpful and intuitive waitress who spoke English, and English menu was readily available for us as well. You can order a la carte, although we went the usual route and settled for one of the three set menus. The main course – wagyu steak didn’t disappoint – although courses like mashed potato in an iron skillet and wagyu sukiyaki were equally memorable. We also promised ourselves to go back for their signature premium wagyu hamburger. It looked amazing. Here are the enticing details of our dinner.
Janice Wong Dessert Bar
The divine order of a traditional meal ordains that the dessert should come as a last course. But what if we, the sweet fiends, want to skip the savory part and move straight to the decadent confections? Well, at Janice Wong Dessert Bar you can do just that. To enjoy the dessert tasting menu of your dreams, look no further – here, each course is prepared right in front of you — in the most elaborate fashion. For dessert aficionados, Janice Wong needs no introduction. The Le Cordon Bleu-educated Singaporean pastry chef often referred to as “doyenne of desserts,” has worked with the best chefs in the world, including Thomas Keller and the legendary Pierre Hermé. During her culinary career, she has gained numerous accolades and a title of Asia’s Best Pastry Chef by S. Pellegrino two years in a row.
While you can order desserts from the a la carte menu, I would *highly* encourage you to do yourself a favor and opt for the 7-course dessert degustation expertly paired with 7 cocktails. The desserts are not overpowering with sweetness (in fact some have savory elements), and the drinks are not as boozy as you’d think. Trust me, you won’t regret it and will thank me later. You can read my articles about Janice Wong here, here and here.
Obviously, this list is like a drop in the ocean, but I strove to recommend those restaurants that I wouldn’t hesitate to revisit myself (in fact I have revisited most of these). I hope you’ll get a chance to check them out and have the most enjoyable meal with your loved ones.
Which is your favorite restaurant in Tokyo which you’d pick for a special dinner?
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