Our 12 Favorite Places to Get Food in Shinjunku
From tempura to grilled meats to ramen, here are our twelve picks for serving sensational Japanese dishes, all in the busy district of Shinjuku.
If you are in Tokyo, then Shinjuku is a place you cannot skip. A major shopping area, with a multitude of food options at every corner, from traditional Japanese restaurants to glitzy, modern ones, it’s so easy to get lost with all the choices in Shinjuku.
Where to start? Continue reading before you plunge in a gourmet adventure in the neon-lit streets of Shinjuku.
Is your inner carnivore roaring out for meat? If deep-fried is the way you’re craving it, then head on over to Katsukura for the best tonkatsu in the area.
There is almost always a line here, but I assure you, the wait is well worth it. Order the fixed meal, which comes with a creamy miso soup, pickled vegetables, shredded cabbage with a yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) dressing, and unlimited refills of rice. You have a choice between the rosu (pork loin), or the hire (pork fillet). The pork fillet is more tender and lean, but the fatty pork loin is more flavorful. Your choice.
Lightly breaded, deliciously seasoned, perfectly fried with no greasy feel. Add your preferred tonkatsu sauce (sweet or savory), then pick up those chopsticks and enjoy your meal.
Katsukura is located at 14F Takashimaya Times Square Complex, 5-24-2, Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0051.
Another option to quell your inner carnivore is yakitori—grilled chicken meat or parts on a stick. Yakitori is most famously paired with beer, eaten by Japanese salarymen who just want to relax after work.
Order the toriwasa, which is a specialty in this restaurant. Toriwasa is chicken that is grilled on the surface, but raw on the inside. But don’t worry, it’s safe to eat as the chicken meat is exceptionally fresh. The rawness makes a stark contrast in taste and texture to the charred exterior, adding a depth of dimension to its flavor as a whole.
Other favorites are the crispy chicken skin, or torikawayaki, and the chicken wings or tebasaki. If you’re into internal organs, they also serve melt-in-the-mouth reba (liver) and crunchy sunagimo (gizzard).
Hajimeya is located at 1-26-7, Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0021.
For the more adventurous carnivore, try horumonyaki, which is grilled horumon—or “the parts thrown away," usually pertaining to beef or pork offal.
Place your orders for freshly cooked spleen, stomachs, and brains. Try the pig trachea if you have the guts to—the texture is crunchy, like eating pebble cereals. Or the motsuni, which is a stew flavored with miso containing intestines and other pig parts. It may just be an acquired taste, but once you learn to enjoy it, it’s quite addicting.
Saiseisakaba is located at 3-7-3, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0022.
Shinjuku is blessed with an abundance of great ramen shops. From shio to tonkotsu to a rather bitter broth called niboshi, there’s bound to be a place serving the ramen you’re craving for.
Eating out in Japan is a fast affair—you sit, eat, and go. So lines don’t really stay immobile that long, and there are many restaurants with fewer than 10 seats.
Fu-unji serves a great Tsukemen, which are thicker, chewy noodles meant to be dipped in a heavy, flavorful broth. Their specialty is Tokusei Tsukemen, served with a creamy broth made from fish and chicken bones. Topped with nori, tender pork slices, menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), and an egg, this is a savory experience of flavors. Can’t get enough of the soup? Once you’re done with the noodles, add dashi broth to the remaining soup and slurp away.
Fu-unji is located at 2-14-3, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Hokuto Daiichi Bld B1F.
With natural wood furnishings and lots of monochrome photographs of a bygone era on the walls, this homey restaurant is the home of Sanuki-style udon. Mentsu-dan specializes in udon noodles. The noodles are super fresh—made-right-before-your-eyes kind of fresh! Serving both warm and cold noodles, I suggest you try the cold udon to highlight the lovely, chewy texture of the homemade noodles.
Try the Bukkake Udon, which is splashed with a bit of tsuyu (dashi sauce). You can add as much tenkasu (tempura bits), negi (a kind of leek) and grated ginger as you like.
Other must-tries are the deep fried gesso (squid tentacles) and meat and potato korokke or croquettes.
Mentsu-dan is located at 7-9-15, Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0023.
The words “tempura” and “affordable” are rarely found in the same sentence, especially when we talk about excellent tempura. However, Tsunahachi offers a quite affordable contender in the world of tempura, and they’ve proven to be excellent, as the restaurant has been around for the last 90 years!
A basic tempura set lunch will only set you back about $12, or you can opt to upgrade to the Tempura Zen set. This features pieces of tempura shrimp, fish, vegetables, and kakiage (or a shrimp-vegetable fried cake), melt-in-your-mouth anago (sea eel), miso clam soup, and fluffy white rice for only $21!
Even when deep-fried, the tempura batter is crisp, so-light-it’s-practically-weightless, and has no greasy feel to it. For fans of deep-fried food, each bite is truly heaven.
Tsunahachi is located at 3-31-8, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0022.
Kushi Tempura Dandanya
Dandanya serves kushi tempura, which literally translates to “skewered” and “deep fried.” Each deep fried morsel is served on a stick. While tempura batter is made of eggs and a weak mixture of flour, kushi is flour, eggs, and bread crumbs.
Dadanya serves set meals that include rice, Japanese picked vegetables, and miso soup for ¥3000 - ¥6000. The crunchy goodness is truly worth the price. Highly recommended.
Kushi Tempura Dandanya is located at 1-14-2, Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Kojima Building B1F to 4F.
Kizunasushi Shinjuku Kabukichoten
Kizunasushi is one of the many conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Shinjuku. While not the same quality as traditional sushi restaurants, the sushi here is still delicious, and you can be sure that everything is fresh with the high consumption rate of all the customers.
If you’re really hungry or just have a big appetite like this writer, you can opt for the all-you-can-eat sushi. They charge ¥3900 for men, ¥3150 for women, and ¥2100 for kids under sixth grade.
Kizunasushi Shinjuku Kabukichoten is located at First Mon Ami Building B1, 1F, 1-18-8, Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 160-0021
Shinjuku has a lot of conveyor belt sushi restaurants, with yummy sushi, and cheap too. However, as you are in Japan, you might as well try the traditional, high-quality sushi at least once. It might be a bit of a splurge, but a dining experience that is well worth it.
I suggest that you go during lunch, as dinner can get a lot more expensive than this.
Located inside the Keio Plaza Hotel, Kyubey has no table seating. You will be seated at one of the two counters, and be served directly by the sushi chef himself. A basic imari set menu will set you back about $42, featuring a roll, seven nigiri, miso soup, and some tsukemono or pickled vegetables.
Just tell the chef any allergies or anything you don’t want to eat, and he’ll start making a meal for you out of fresh seafood and rice, served one piece at a time. Highly recommended are the fatty tuna, the fresh local aji or mackerel, and soft squid. You experience a fleeting moment of perfection with each piece—a work of art consumed in one bite!
Kyubey is located at Keio Plaza Hotel 2-2-1, Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-8330.
Tochō is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, and we are about to have a cheap, delicious meal with a gorgeous view of Tokyo at their employees’ cafeteria. It is open to the public, but even most Tokyo locals do not know about this.
Located on the 32nd floor, the food ranges from $4 to $7, and includes a variety of katsu, curry, noodles, grilled fish, and Japanese-style Chinese food. Just order from the ticket machine then go to the corresponding color area as your ticket, and pick up your food.
Tochō is located at 2-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 163-8001.
Nakajima is a one Michelin star restaurant, but having a meal here will not cost you an arm and leg. Located in the basement floor of one of the city’s many buildings, Nakajima serves a set menu lunch for only—insert drumroll—$8! And yes, folks, I am not kidding about that Michelin star.
There are multiple set menu lunch options, but the Iwashi, or sardines, is the star of the show. You may choose your preferred method of preparation: fried with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), sashimi-style (raw, served with seaweed and grated ginger), nizakana (simmered in soy sauce with dashi), or for an additional 100 yen, prepared in an egg casserole known as Yanagawa nabe. The set includes miso soup, rice and picked vegetables, with all the green tea you want at no extra charge.
Excellent quality food at low prices—it’s really no surprise that there’s already a line at this restaurant even before it opens!
TIP: Go at lunchtime, dinner costs about 10 times more.
Nakajima is located at 3-32-5, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0022
Here’s a treat for your sweet tooth: Japanese-style French pastries and desserts! While there are many such shops at the Isetan Department Store, Sadaharu Aoki comes highly recommended.
Based both in Tokyo and Paris, Sadaharu Aoki is on the top of the desserts game with matcha, or Japanese green tea powder. For $3.30, you can try their delicious, fresh matcha croissants. The light, fluffy croissants also come plain or with chocolate.
The matcha éclair is an incredibly creamy treat, not too sweet, and costs about $4. Also available in zesty lemon and caramel. I highly recommend all their éclairs. One will definitely not be enough!
Sadaharu Aoki is located inside the Isetan Department Store at 3-14-1, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0022
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