Quite often when you travel to a new country, the first thing you will do is anxiously look for your hotel / Airbnb. Then, when you are finally settled down, you feel hunger hit you but you feel too out of sorts to actually go to those really nice or unique restaurants that you bookmarked in your to-go-list.
So if you ever find yourself in this kind of predicament, you can try these restaurants for great food at decent prices. What is even greater is that they are chain restaurants with many outlets around Japan. So don’t worry, they’re sure to be easy to spot!
Image Source: Ichiran
This ramen place is very popular among travellers and locals. They are famous for their Tonkotsu Ramen (Pork Broth Ramen) and their very special concept whereby you can go in and out with minimal human interaction. Basically, you order your food via their vending machine. There might be one waiter standing at the entrance to let you fill out a form for your food. This form is like a survey form where you can tweak your food to your liking. You can choose; noodle softness, strength of the broth, and other additional ingredients. If you’re too lazy, just mark everything original; I did that. Then, you’ll have a second waiter to show you to your seat. Here comes their very special concept. All seats are in a booth-like condition. It’s like a sushi bar but everyone is separated by a hinged wooden partition. You can leave it as it is if you’re there solo; or you can fold the partitions between you and your friends. Waiter serves your ramen through the bamboo blinds in front of you. When they roll up the blind, you can only see their waist and hand and I bet they can only see your table. No eye contact at all! When they’re done serving you your food, the blinds are immediately drawn. The perfect place for an introvert who loves ramen.
The alley where the servers work
No matter how unique their concept is, the food must be good to be worthy of a visit. I can assure you that Ichiran serves the best ramen. It is so good, you’ll be craving for more. The soup, the noodle, the chashu, the tonkotsu egg. Everything comes down to just one word; perfection!
For a quick fix of affordable and delicious tempura, this will be your best choice. Tendon Tenya is a fast-food-like chain restaurant that serves tempura instead of fries. They offer a variety of don and tempura sets which you can choose to either dine-in or in takeaway bento boxes. They serve a decent portion for such an affordable price. The tempura, aka fried prawns and vegetables, are not overly greasy and tasted really good. The menu choices were plentiful too. We ordered a soba with tempura don set which was just nice to share between two people.
Coco Ichibanya is another must-try chain restaurant that serves one of Japan’s most loved food; Japanese Curry Rice. From the outside, it looked like just another food place in Japan but the moment you step in, you will feel its coziness. I can’t really explain it, but it looks modern on the inside but homey at the same time. As usual, you will be greeted by friendly staff and directed to your seats. They adopted the bar concept where you can see the chefs preparing your food.
You can order plain curry rice with just the gravy and rice, or you could go for curry rice with steak, pork chop or chicken chop. There’s a vegetarian version too. You can also customize the amount of rice, level of spiciness, ingredients and many more. They served the curry rice steaming hot, the perfect choice for when the weather is chilly!
Image Source: Japan-Hub.com
Any must-try Japanese food list will not be complete without mentioning “omurice”, Japanese rice with omelette. Pomme-no-ki offers over 100 types of omurice, featuring different flavours and ingredients. It’ll probably take you some time to go through the menu and decide on what you want to order. The outlet I visited in Shibuya was quiet but it was nice. I’d say the interior was a little bland, but it was on the first floor so you get a great view of the Shibuya streets on higher ground, which is always a plus (for me).
Image Source: Japan-Hub.com
I discovered Nakau the first night I arrived in Tokyo. I had my first meal in Japan here, at 1am. After the hectic rush of boarding the last train of the day, I (with my friends) finally and luckily found our way to our Airbnb rental. After we settled down, the hunger set in and we went out hunting for food. We didn’t care that it was midnight, we were hungry. We went for donburi!
Nakau operates 24-hours and has outlets all throughout Japan. The price for a donburi is super reasonable and the food is amazing! You order your donburi through the machine placed at the entrance whereby you will receive a tiny ticket with your order on it. The staff will then come over to collect your ticket from you. You don’t need to wait for long; it’s a fast-serving restaurant, after all. They offer various choices of donburi; the most popular seemed to be their Oyakodon (chicken + egg rice bowl) and Gyudon (Japanese-style beef rice bowl). They serve udon too!
These are just some tried and tested suggestions for when you don’t know where to go for a quick meal. Be adventurous and try new things. In all honesty, no matter where I go, no matter what I ate, everything was delicious!