It’s crazy to sit here and write that for two months, I lived in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. It has taken quite some time since my trip (Oct. – Dec. ’17) to compile what I ate and experienced (although @the_cutiefoodie did not exist yet, so please excuse my sub-par foodie pics). In my defense, at least you know that if these places have stuck in my head this long, they’re worth a try!
Although most days were consumed by a hectic work schedule, my days off were spent exploring the city that is known as one of the world’s capitals of dining. Through my foodie lens, I’ve documented my Tokyo travels from the shops in Aoyama to the laid-back residential area of Suginami. Join me below!
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1.ISLAND VINTAGE COFFEE
Let’s begin with the first meal of the day — breakfast. Also deemed ‘the most important meal of the day’, so why not make it the tastiest? My favorite breakfast in Tokyo was definitely at Island Vintage Coffee, a Hawaiian cafe in Aoyama, Tokyo serving up their signature healthy and hearty açaí bowl.
As a requirement on all New York City breakfast and brunch menus, you could say that I’ve had my fair share of açaí. However, Island Vintage Coffee’s sherbet-resembling açaí, imported straight from the superfood’s homeland, made it the best I’ve ever had! The harmonious combination of organic granola, berries, sliced banana, and honey made for a taste and texture that left me eager for more! Opt for their half or full-size portions served in an oversized teacup bowl and pair it with a cup of their authentic Koba coffee — ‘Kohi’, as said in Japan — and you’ll leave feeling oh-so satisfied.
There’s no shame in going back for lunch to try one of their island-inspired salads or poke bowls. After enjoying a tasty jumbo shrimp salad mixed with leafy greens, bean sprouts, cherry tomatoes, sliced avocado, and pineapple, I can confidently recommend this cafe to fellow foodies.
Savor their food eats (and free wifi :)) to the sound of Hawaiian ukuleles. You won’t be disappointed — Island Vintage Coffee is definitely good mood food!
*Check them out in Aoyama, Yokohama, Odaiba, or Omotesando!
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2. GENKI SUSHI
Genki Sushi, in the heart of Shibuya, Tokyo, is definitely a must! While the outside of the restaurant appears small and unassuming, don’t let it get lost amidst the hustle and bustle of the Shibuya Crossing. Genki Sushi promises a fun, affordable way to experience a well-known, authentic Japanese staple in a completely unique and modern way.
Upon entering, sit down to an iPad where you can browse a vast selection of sushi, sashimi, small plates, and desserts, to then make your selection and have it shuttled out to you via conveyor belt. Don’t let the 4-plate ordering limit deter you from ordering more rounds — this feature is merely to ensure your food is being served fresh and fast! (Plus ‘Genki’ = ‘healthy’ in Japanese, so no shame in getting 2nds, or in my case, 3rds!)
The sushi plates are typically served with 2 pieces of sushi at 130yen per plate (~$1.20 USD). With pictures on the tablet to assist those deficient in the Japanese language (@ME), I encourage you to branch out and try something new that catches your eye! AS a heads up: you won’t be finding any California or Green Dragon Rolls here! You’ll find that authentic Japanese sushi us actually as simple as it comes, lacking the calorific extras that we Americans unsurprisingly like to take advantage of. However, the simplistic methods of preparation amplify the taste in ways you need to taste yourself to believe!
As a restaurant so close to the world’s busiest intersection, plan ahead to eat here at an off-mealtime. My friend and I arrived just before the dinner rush (around 5pm), sat down immediately, and enjoyed a delicious meal!
All 17 pieces of sushi we ate came to 680yen, 734 including tax, which is about $6.80USD (prone to fluctuate). How could you beat that?!
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From Genki Sushi to an izakaya in Suginami about 25 minutes west of Shibuya. Yagura — a Japanese-style pub that is as authentic as it gets. Beware of the lack of English, but don’t be discouraged because pictures are plentiful on Japanese menus, and the kindness and enthusiasm of the Japanese people to assist foreigners is abundant. Thankfully, I was accompanied by Japanese-native coworkers who were all familiar with this particular restaurant and were, in turn, able to give me a deliciously memorable foodie experience . If traveling to Japan, I hope you find yourself off the beaten path like I did, to experience Japanese food and culture without the influence of tourism.
At Yagura, you motion the waiter over to order, and each order is welcomed by a series of Japanese cheers and chants by the employees and chefs. The enthusiasm and minimal seating is intimate and welcoming to its to hungry customers.
The food selection was vast and upheld, if not enhanced, my initial love for the izakaya’s atmosphere. There really is an indescribable feeling that accommodates the newness of experiencing a new culture in the country itself, not just ‘the authentic place’ down the street. Likewise, tasting the freshness of local fish caught that morning and cooked with local herbs and produce grown in the backyard is completely different and entirely more delicious!
My coworkers and I enjoyed an eclectic combination of food — from a vast selection of fresh sashimi to a Japanese take on America’s classic pepperoni pizza. With single-serving dishes, it was great to be able to sample so many different cuisines:
Gyoza – meat dumpling in a thin flour shell tuna sashimi, sliced avocado, spicy mayo
“Pepperoni Pizza” on flatbread w white cheese “Raw” starter = whitefish & tofu
crispy fried prawns with lemon sashimi platter on a bet of radish
Hungry yet? 😉
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As a model and a foodie, much of the culture shock I experienced during my initial weeks in Japan came from my inability to find a salad to eat. I sadly didn’t stumble across this place until my 6th week in Japan, but better late than never applied on week 6 more than ever before! Because I was in Japan for work, more days than not, bento box lunches on set left me with mysterious foods that I had no choice but to eat in order to fuel my 5am-11pm days. And while trying authentic Japanese foods who’s names I couldn’t pronounce on the daily was exciting (though not always delicious), I had definitely found the NYC-style make-it-yourself meal I was looking for. If you’re a New Yorker, think Dig Inn! So, you know I was over the moon when I found Cityshop.
Not only is Cityshop a salad restaurant in Tokyo, but also a restaurant that serves healthy dishes resembling the types of foods I was missing so much from home. Coming from someone who experienced it…yes, vegetable cravings are totally a thing!
Located amongst the shops in Aoyama, Cityshop is a great escape with a spacious and welcoming atmosphere. At 13-1500yen ($12-14 USD) per generous portion, my deli plate was totally worth my 5-week-long salad deprivation. I piled a trip of roasted sweet potato, butternut squash, and banana, and a quinoa bean salad on top of my custom salad base (which consisted of leafy greens, chickpeas, sliced apple, and baked chicken).
As essentially a 100% customizable salad bar offering 15 different types of pre-prepared salads, sides, and proteins, I not only fell in love with Cityshop after my first bite, but I also took a salad to-go to continue my love affair into lunchtime the next day.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian/vegan, healthy, or simply delicious meal option in Tokyo, Cityshop is for you! If you’re also a city girl at heart and totally encompass the adage ‘you can take the girl our of the city, but can’t take the city out of the girl’, then I’ll see you at Cityshop for lunch! 😉
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5. FICO & POMUM
Let’s be honest, take me anywhere in the world and my inner foodie will find a delicious dish; but, the model me will find a green juice because as much as I love a good comforting meal (takoyaki if we are referring to Japanese Cutie Foodie ;)), I also love, and thrive off of, a good salad. Because I genuinely do love salad, but mostly because it loves me right back.
Hence why, post yummy green smoothie, I left Fico & Pomum feeling satisfied and energized! While my selection was generically simple and fruity, F&P was also serving hot apple cinnamon smoothies to the customers next to me and I can only imagine they tasted as good as they looked and smelled.
Just steps away from Omotesando Station, F&P is a getaway to simultaneously relax and recharge with their unique selection of beverages. I came here on a Sunday off and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere with my smoothie and a good book. This cafe definitely made me wish I had more days off! However, I know most people reading international food guides are probably travelers…so here is my word of advice to you:
While 3 square daily meals are vital, believe me when I say that a midday pick-me-up while exploring a city as hectic as Tokyo, with so much to see and do, is equally important! Food is fuel, so fuel your Japan adventures the right way with a hot or cold smoothie or cold-pressed juice that is both delicious and nutritious!
Ai wo komate (with love),
The Cutie Foodie