Fans of Nozy Coffee can now get their fix while traipsing through the fashion center of Tokyo at The Roastery, conveniently located on Cat Street. The beans change frequently, and the staff happily answer any questions regarding the daily brews. They’ve even started selling Cronut-esque “New York Rings,” among a variety of other pastries.
To experience a sophisticated take on the the sakurai -- literally translated to Japanese tea experience -- head straight to Souen. It’s an elegant, minimal space with a sense of history even though it’s only a couple years old. Antique tea paraphernalia sits in pools of negative space on the airy shelves. The boutique looks out to a quiet residential side street from floor-to-ceiling mullioned window panes. Sample hard-to-find teas at the bar and see a tea master at work while he prepares your drink with utter precision, measuring everything from weight of leaves to water temperature, type of vessel and exact brew time. Or sit in the tea room for a serene view onto a white-stone courtyard while enjoying a pot of fermented tea and a plate of delicate Japanese sweets. You won’t find another tea experience like it, even in this town of endless options.
Up a flight of stairs after a short walk down a back alley, a minimalist wooden door opens to reveal a space that would be achingly cool New York City or London and seems to be standard fare in Tokyo. It's a hip joint that stands out for its brilliant food and service in the city of eighty thousand restaurants. You'll get impeccable, attentive service in the private traditional tables at the rear of the restaurant, where foreigners are usually seated and served a fixed multi-course menu (that's superb). If you happen to have a local with you, sit at the open grill and enjoy watching the coolest of Tokyo's media and creative set socialise. The resident sake expert is a known entity on the sake scene and will produce the perfect one to pair with every course.
Tsuta and Afuri
If you can’t get a ticket for a seat at Michelin-starred Tsuta, where you order your bowl of soba noodles served ramen style from a vending machine, head to Afuri -- a chain in Tokyo that started as a single shop in Ebisu more than 10 years ago -- for its classic yuzu ramen. Savoury broth, delicate noodles and perfectly cooked egg yolk. It’s quick (you also place your order at the vending machine here), predictably delicious and unbelievably affordable.
Blink and you’ll miss it. Miss it and try to find a local person to point you in the right direction and you might still miss it as most won’t know what you’re on about. In the tiniest of Ginza back alleys, nestled between the sleek boutiques of the world's luxury brands, you'll see a sign that simply says SOBA. And a line of people. The line is worth the wait (and never that long a wait). You’ll taste two style of noodles there’s a fairly good chance you’ve not encountered before and that will leave most others paling in comparison from therein out. One is a delicate, savoury, creamy broth with soba and the other a dipping sauce with an anchovy base and thick soba noodles for dipping. The eight seats (if memory serves) form a horsehoe around the galley from which the chefs serve your bowls of noodles.
Ginza Kagari, 4-4-1 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan 104-0061 (no phone or website), open for lunch and dinner and closed Sundays
This tiny cafe in Meguro is mecca for coffee lovers in Tokyo. Pots of the various brews line the counter for customers to sample before deciding which drink to buy as an espresso preparation, pour over or french press. The milk coffees are beautiful and they apparently offer a coffee mixed with tonic (which is beloved in Scandinavia) although we didn’t try it. A small bench out front is the perfect place to bask in the sun while sipping your latte before starting your day or, indeed, if you’re having a quick shot of espresso before dinner a few steps away at local favourite Beard.
For those craving that west coast US coffee vibe, wood-paneled Paddlers Coffee serves brews made with Portland's Stumptown beans, and Blue Bottle now has several local shops.
A nondescript entrance down a set of stairs leads to a tiny counter ringed by 12 seats (do you spot a trend here?) in a simple setting. No bells and whistles, no sleek decor here, but no matter. Instead you'll find a singular focus on outstanding sushi and the famed chef Susumu Yajima who makes it. He and has wife have run their sushi-ya for more than 30 years with refreshingly un-pretentious views about how this former street food should be eaten. Yajima says with fingers (for the most part), eaten in a window of just 10 to 15 minutes and always made from market-fresh fish.
Yajima Sushi, 1 Chome-26-31 Higashi, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan 150-0011 (+81 (0)3-3499-6019)
The famed Kill Bill restaurant is another spot for izakaya. The ratio of tourist to Tokyoite is higher here than most restaurants on this list. The rustic feel (with bamboo, wood and lanterns) is great and the izakaya and cocktails are tasty, regardless of the restaurant's status as a tourist joint. If you're a fan of the Tarantino film this one is not to be missed.
If you're missing home, Bill Granger has placed a bills cafe atop the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku. Granger now has a bigger restaurant footprint in Japan than Australia, so if you’re in the mood for some posh, seasonal, Aussie-style brunch fare and a flat white, this is the place to get it.
Bar Martha And BAR TRACK
Japan’s salarymen are experts on whiskey. It’s a popular drink in Japan and Tokyo is home to some of the coolest whiskey bars on the planet. Two of our favourites are owned by local record company Martha Records Inc. Bar Martha, in the heart of salaryman territory in Ebius, and Bar Track, along the railroad tracks between Ebisu and Shibuya, are bars like bars used to be. A haze of cigarette smoke blurs the video of a young Mick Jagger being projected onto the wall above the shelves of records while the corresponding song plays on the turn table. Row upon row of every imaginable whiskey lines the neighbouring shelves and a mix of broody hip regulars and besuited men with ruddy faces and loosened ties ring the bar.