This Tokyo Izakaya Just Got Named One of the Best in the World

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Helen Foster

A small izakaya in Tokyo’s Shibuya was just named one of the best restaurants in the world by Food and Wine magazine in its Global Tastemakers Poll. Here’s how to find it and what to expect.

It’s called Kotaro Shibuya, and it’s located slightly southwest of Shibuya Station, right by the Cerulean Tower Tokyo hotel (which is good news if you’ve booked to stay there on your next trip).

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Kotaro doesn’t have its own website (although it does have Instagram), but checking reviews shows what dishes it’s most famous for—and it might surprise you to hear that it’s famous for dishes like potato salad, udon, or minced meat cutlets—not usually the type of dishes that make the ‘best restaurant’ list.

However, every dish is handmade, and the rest of the menu changes seasonally, attracting customers time after time.

They’re also famous for their sake selection, offering eight carefully selected regional sake.

The only downside is that it might be hard to get a table – especially now. The space is small, and reservations were needed even before they were added to this list.

They used to offer reservations via ByFood.com (a super handy service for making reservations in Japan in English), but they stopped in March – maybe because they knew what was coming! Now, reservations need to be made by phone. Ask your hotel if they can help you secure one.

If you do want to visit, they are open six days a week—closed on Monday. They are open 12-9 p.m. on weekends and 5-11 p.m. during the week. The average cost of a meal is around Y10,000, but it will vary depending on the amount you order.

If you get lucky enough to visit, their address is 28-2 Sakuragaokacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo, 150-0031.

Or Try L’Evo

Another Japanese restaurant, Cuisine regionale L’Evo, is also on the list.

L’Evo is located in the countryside in the Toyama region. The restaurant is famous for its locally sourced produce and beautifully presented dishes. They say they hope to produce food that would ‘astonish the stars’ that shine above the restaurant’s rural location.

One of their secrets is the water they use to cook and that many of the ingredients are watered with or swim in before they reach the kitchen. This comes from the snow that blankets the region over winter and is incredibly pure (in fact, there’s even a ‘water display’ at Toyama Station showing off their unique H20).

L’Evo is also known for using interesting ingredients, including virgin eggs—the first eggs that a chicken ever lays. These are smaller than regular eggs but are said to be tastier.

L’Evo does take reservations, but it’s still not the easiest to visit because of its rural location. I’m going to Toyama on my next trip and thought, ‘oooh – but then I realized it’s about a 90-minute drive away – or four hours by bus – so no award-winning dinner for me!

Toyama doesn’t appear on many itineraries, but places that might sound more familiar are Kanazawa, which is about a 90-minute drive away and 45 minutes from Johana station.

If you’re visiting the gassho houses of Gokayama village, it’s only a 30-minute drive to the restaurant from there. Apparently, if you do book, the staff will help you find the best route to get to them – they even arrange transfers from some areas and a driver will wait for you while you dine.

If you have more time, they also offer accommodation on-site and will pick you up from Etchu-Yatsuo Station, about an hour’s drive away.

They seat 26 with two servings for lunch and two for dinner daily. They’re closed on Wednesdays. The prix fixe menu costs Y22,000 per head. See more on their website.


Who Writes This Blog?

My name is Helen Foster, and I’m a journalist and author. My travel articles have appeared in publications including The Australian, RAC Horizons, Jetstar Magazine, Sainsbury’s Magazine, and more.

I’ve traveled to Japan five times before- solo and with my partner – and I’ve just returned from trip six in June 2023. So, everything here is pretty up to date.