#1 SHINJUKU AWAODORI
5F Seno Building, 3-18-4 Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan 160-0022
2-minute walk from JR Shinjuku station’s east exit
This is hands down the best dinner venue for those visiting Japan for the first time, or for those on a family holiday. We had an eight course meal with a free flow of drinks (alcohol included) shared among six people. Even so, our tummies were filled to the brim by the fifth round.
The meal started with a generous serving of sashimi – scallop, tuna, salmon and the like – together with a long plate of grilled beef and vegetables.
Deep fried fish, soba salad and a big pot of steaming meat, soup and udon followed, ending off with dessert.
But food aside, what we found the most entertaining of the night was the traditional Japanese stage performance that comes with every dinner at Awaodori. Be prepared to get up on your feet and bust out some moves around the restaurant. If you’re lucky, you may just be awarded the best dancer prize.
#2 L’OCCITANE CAFE
3-17-5 Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0022
Take exit B6 from the station, the restaurant is a 2-minute walk down the stretch from Isetan Shinjuku. More outlets in Shibuya – right where the famous crossing is – and Ikebukuro.
While most of the dishes at the L’Occitane Cafe (yes, the very same L’Occitane that’s more familiar for its scents and soaps) are inspired by France’s Provence region – and therefore not Japanese cuisine – it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth visiting. The cafe has lots of interesting teas and drinks that are worth sitting down for in between long days out in the city.
We recommend the rose tea with strawberry sherbet, which slowly melts into a refreshingly sweet slushy mix. But if you’re up for a warm comforting meal, do what we did and get the onion gratin soup and croque monsieur. And one last word of advice: Don’t leave without ordering a dessert from the cafe’s seasonal menu. We missed out on a melon custard pie and are still thinking about it today.
1-1-25 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 171-8512
13F Tobu Department Store, connected to JR Ikebukuro station
This is where we’d take a business partner, or if you’re looking for a place to have a good, long conversation with a friend.
Our eight course meal consisted of sashimi – of course – grilled meat, steamed fish and more. The dishes were served at timed intervals throughout two hours, so be prepared to stay for quite a while.
We recommend making an appointment for a late dinner at 8pm, when the department store closes and there’s nothing left to shop. (Though really, the drugstores just outside the building will probably still be open when you’re done.)
#4 PARK HYATT TOKYO PASTRY BOUTIQUE
3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo, Japan, 163-1055
Well, who says dessert isn’t a proper meal? We could probably have a full lunch just feasting on the bread, cakes and other pastries this little boutique has to offer. Our favourites include the melon and peach shortcake, which had just the right amount of cream-to-sponge ratio.
Most of the sweetness of the two desserts came from the generous amount of fruit, so there’s no risk of feeling jelat if you plan on having more than one!
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