Where to Eat in Tokyo

Towards the end of a vacation (usually the beachy kind), I’m often itching to get home to put inspiration and brainstorming into action. But this recent trip to Tokyo was different…

At the end of our 12-day journey, there were no hankerings to return to Vancouver. Japan is so culturally interesting and different from Canada (or any other country) that we didn’t want our exploring to come to an end.

That said, it wasn’t the cuisine that had me falling in love with Tokyo. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t love a lot of Japanese food I tried. I blame my Western taste buds who were craving acid and bolder hits of flavour. I found much of the Japanese cuisine to be rich in umami and ocean flavours. I just couldn’t get into it.

Finding vegan options was also tough, and sadly, I didn’t feel as though the plant-based restaurants in Tokyo were all that progressive. If you’re vegan or vegetarian and on the fence about whether to book a Japan trip, however, I highly recommend you go! Overall the trip was still amazing, and there are 16000 restaurants to explore! Of course, there are many great spots I didn’t discover. But before you go, perhaps read my 10 Tips for Vegans Traveling in Japan.

Now that you know where I’m coming from, here’s a small list of favourite eateries in Tokyo…

Best Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants in Tokyo

I wish I could report otherwise, but Tokyo's vegan cuisine is just not progressive (think Vancouver 15 years ago). While it was comforting to dine at fully plant-based restaurants, I wouldn't recommend going to many of them for an 'exciting culinary experience'. 1.0 ingredients like rice, tofu and beans seemed to be the focus at vegan restaurants we tried. That said, we did find a few gems and certain must tries described below...

Mr. Farmer

4-5-12 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku | $$ | Vegetable-forward Cafe

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A breath of fresh air! This Japanese-owned, California-inspired healthy restaurant is an ideal spot if you're craving a green smoothie, fruit-and-herb-infused water or a big healthy sandwich. The menu contains a small amount of meat and many vegan options. Portions are large and this massive juicy sandwich (pictured) truly was one of the best things I ate all trip.

Elle Cafe

106-0032 Roppongi, Minato-k | $$$ | Healthy & Beauty Store

@ellecafepr | Visit website

Set in a shopping center within Roppongi Hills, this girlie shop and juice bar sells a handful of the healthy, vegan foods I'd been craving: 'coyo' (coconut-based yogurt, pictured), green juice, granola and vegan chocolate. Don't go out of your way for Elle, but if you're craving any of the above, it's a great little place to stock up.

T's Tantan

Tokyo Station, 1F, Keiyo St | $ | Vegan Ramen

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Tokyo's only vegan ramen restaurant, worth the 30 minutes it took us to locate within Tokyo station (the city's largest train station, also restaurant central). Plant-based ramen in Japan is like the needle in a haystack, and T's did not disappoint. The food comes fast, flavours are bold and fake meat subs in for its animal counterpart in multiple menu options.


5-10-17 2F Minami Aoyama, Minato-Ku | $$ | Vegan

@eightablish | Visit website

Walking into 8ablish, one of Tokyo's 100% vegan restaurants, felt safe. Sadly, the food was nothing to write home about, but it was refreshing to choose from nothing but plant-based options. Lunch, dinner, drinks and dessert are available. My top recommendation is their 'famous' dairy-free soft serve with toppings like bergamot oil, macadamia nut oil or caramel sauce (the latter was by far my fav).

Best Restaurants (Casual) in Tokyo

Tokyo is home to a whopping 160,000 restaurants. Ask a local for tips on where to eat, and they'll most likely tell you that you can't go wrong no matter where you go. Generally, they're right. Across the board, Japanese restaurant standards are high. Chefs take such pride in their crafts and local ingredients are the norm. Not surprisingly, we didn't suffer through a single bad meal. My best dining tip? Go for a wander and see where you end up. Sometimes it's fun to choose a restaurant based on your gut rather than a food blog. If you're a planner, however, here's a small list of casual spots that I really enjoyed...

Dominique Ansel Bakery

5 Chome-7-14 Jingumae | 81-3486-1329 $$ | Patisserie / Chocolaterie

@dabjapan | Visit website

The Tokyo location of New York City's most famous bakery (home of the Cronut) was not on our dining list, but a sidewalk sign advertising avocado toast (with a whole half avocado) lured us in. This two-story patisserie, chocolaterie and cafe offers a small lunch menu of salads, sandwiches and omelets along with the usual sweet treats like Dominique's Cookie Shot, Frozen S'more and impeccable cakes.


2-14-14 Honey Shimokitazawa 1F | $ | Okonomiyaki

As the saying goes, trust the locals. Hiroki was the restaurant recommendation of our favourite Tokyo barista that blew us away. Specializing in okonomiyaki, a savoury Japanese pancake filled with a variety of other ingredients, this tiny hole-in-the-wall offers an experience that's as enjoyable as the food. Sit in awe and watch the chef build your dish before you eat it straight off the hot grill. Note: the pancake batter contains a small amount of egg. Ask for no fried egg, bonito and mayo to reduce animal product consumption.

Best Restaurants (Formal) in Tokyo

With a whopping 200 Michelin-starred restaurants, Tokyo boasts more highly-acclaimed restaurants than any other city in the world by far. For context, Paris ranks second and is home to just under 100. Herbivores will be thrilled to learn about Tokyo's only vegetarian Michelin-starred restaurant, detailed below. Since Japanese hospitality is truly on another level, I highly recommend you splurge on one of these renowned restaurants during your trip for the cultural experience alone.


2-3-1 Atago, Minato-ku | 03-3431-0811 $$$$ | Vegetarian

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From the valet operator who greets you, to the host who sees you off after the meal (and stands there waving until you're out of eyesight), Daigo offers an utterly charming experience that's one for the bucket list. Diners eat alone in private rooms overlooking a well-manicured garden while traditionally-dressed female servers tend to your every need. Tea is replaced after a set amount of time to ensure it's of optimal temperature. The multiple-course set lunch menu is a work of art: each bite is crafted with so much care, some wrapped up in little bows. Hands down, Daigo offered the most enjoyable authentic Japanese cuisine of our trip. That said, I'm unable to call this meal 'one of the most delicious experiences of my life' because my palate is not used to these flavours (Western Japanese food is very different from the real stuff!).

Best Coffee Shops in Tokyo

If you're not a fan of bitter coffee, you will go crazy for the smooth espresso they pour in Japan. We found it hard to find a bad cup. Almond milk was not to be found, but the Japanese soy milk (available at most cafes) was especially creamy and made for a great latte. The most disappointing thing about Tokyo's bean scene was the opening time of most coffee houses: 10am! That's because the Japanese see coffee as more of a treat before or after lunch than a morning wake-up call. Because of this (and jet lag), coffee wasn't a big focus of our trip (hence the tiny list below), but check out this post featuring "10 Incredible Cafes in Tokyo".  

On The Way

155-0031 Setagaya-ku | $ | Coffee Stand

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With standing room for just one person, On The Way was our 'local cafe' in the charming, quiet neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa. Their espresso equipment wasn't fancy and I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to get here, but we did return for their creamy soy milk lattes three times. A case of colourful cupcakes are also on offer.

Streamer Coffee Company

Multiple Locations | $$ | Coffee Shop

@streamercoffee | Visit website

With eight tiny, multiple-story locations in Tokyo, Streamer is easily one of the most popular coffee companies in the city. Why? They do it all: bean roasting, cold brew, hand drip, aero press, and espresso shots pulled off custom-tuned supercharged espresso machines. They've even developed their own nitro. These guys are basically the cool coffee nerds of Tokyo and you can bet your Streamer latte will bear beautiful latte art (even if you choose soy milk, like I did, pictured here).

Best Dessert in Tokyo

Unless you're eating at a dessert-specific restaurant, sweets don't seem to be a focus at Japanese restaurants. Even the Michelin-starred eatery we dined at served sliced melon in place of something prepared by a pastry chef. This may not be a bad thing, however, unless you've acquired a taste for red bean paste and mochi, two ingredients commonly used in Japanese desserts. Sadly, I had not, so didn't enjoy what we tried of these popular offerings (like confections from the well-known, highly-revered Ginza Akebono Mochi Shop). Here's a dessert that Western palates will appreciate...

Kakigori Cafe and Bar Yelo

Patio Roppongi, 1 F, 5-2-11 Roppongi | $$ | Dessert and Coffee

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Nestled in Roppongi, this dimly lit kakigori cafe serves towering portions of shave ice topped with syrup, condensed milk and your choice of garnishes (note: kakigori is the name for Japanese shave ice dessert). Known for their long line-ups, Bar Yelo's strawberry flavour contained all the flavour, minus the condensed milk. My choice of toppings here are tapioca and shiratama dango (a type of mochi made with glutinous rice flour). I'm guessing other kakigori cafes serve equally delicious desserts - don't go out of your way for this one as I wouldn't say the ambiance was anything special.