2 Chome-24-9 Nishiazabu, Minato City
The pork at Butagumi is out of this world. Tonkatsu—breaded, deep-fried cutlets—are the specialty here, and the experience is an exercise in thoughtfulness. The pork comes from heritage breeds from the world’s best purveyors (Spanish Iberico, Hungarian Mangalica, and domestic breeds from Hokkaido, Chibo, Okinawa). Sides of cabbage, smooth miso, rice, and sharp pickles complement the heavy fried cutlets perfectly. The setting—inside a traditional Japanese home in the quiet Nishi Azabu district—doesn’t hurt either.
9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato
Nestled into the forty-fifth floor of the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, Hinokizaka Sushi is one of four restaurants at the hotel, each specializing in a different Japanese cuisine. While you can also enjoy some of the best teppanyaki, tempura, and kaiseki in the city there, the sushi counter—a twelve-seat slab of Japanese lacquer with breathtaking views of the Tokyo skyline—is where you want to be. Of course, if you feel like adding anything from the other restaurants to your dinner (or lunch, which is arguably an even better deal), just ask—the staff will gladly help create the perfect pan-Japanese meal.
5-7-28 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
A Mediterranean oasis in the middle of Tokyo. Cicada has been a treasured destination in the city since it opened fifteen years ago. In 2012, the restaurant moved to larger quarters, which now means outside pools, an on-site bakery, and an all-day café. There may be nothing more transporting than sitting waterside in a deep lounge chair while enjoying the menu with its Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Levantine influences. Haloumi cheese comes from Hokkaido and is joined on the menu with items like Ibérico ham from Spain, chermoula-roasted eggplant, harissa-marinated shrimp, and a chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives. Craft beers come from the restaurant’s sister brewery, and the wine list is a rich trove of Mediterranean varietals.
3-5-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku
This might be the hardest table to get in Tokyo. Reservations can be made only online and are made two months in advance. The wood-paneled jewel box of a restaurant seats only ten people and is staffed by chef Yoshiaki Takazawa; his wife, Akiko; and that’s it. Bring your bullion, as the Takazawa Experience menu runs upwards of $650 per person (not including wine). But what an experience: eleven courses of exquisitely prepared dishes that combine Japanese and French influences, from chef Takazawa’s signature ratatouille to “Dinner in the Forest,” a grilled dish of bear meat (!), root vegetables, and mushrooms.