After almost three years of strict Covid-19-related restrictions on travel, Japan reopened its borders to vaccinated travelers on Oct. 11. The border restrictions had resulted in a slump in visitors, from a record of almost 32 million in 2019 to only 246,000 in 2021. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is hoping visitors will give the economy a much-needed boost, and is aiming to attract 5 trillion yen (more than £30.7 billion, or $33.5 billion) in annual tourist spending.
Travelers will be able to take advantage of a strong US dollar, which is at a multi-decade high against the yen, making high-end dining a very attractive prospect. It is, in fact, the perfect moment for international business travelers who want to nail down a deal over a meal.
At the same time, Japanese restaurants are coming out of a period of restricted operations that were put in place at the height of the pandemic. Many dining establishments set limits on seating and hours, and events such as client lunches were scaled back as people avoided large, social gatherings. Now restaurants are reinstating business meals, betting that they will be popular with travelers who are starting to come back to Tokyo.
The highlighted places range from a sushi spot headed by an alum of the famed Sushi Kanesaka to a teppanyaki bar where customers can watch their Japanese black beef being grilled right in front of them.
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In the Kitano Hotel in the Nagata-cho district, home to such companies as Deutsche Bank AG and the government’s National Diet Building, and a short walk from major train stations like Akasakamitsuke, is Sushi Oumi. The head chef, nicknamed Sampei Taisho, is an expert with raw fish, having spent several years at the famous sushi restaurant Kanesaka in Ginza. The specialty is edo-sushi, local seafood that is often marinated or cured to intensify flavor, and might include mackerel topped with green onion, seasoned flounder with kombu, or steamed abalone.The 14-seat restaurant, which opened in July 2020, is open for lunch and dinner; there’s also a four-seat private dining room.
One of the city’s top places for sukiyaki—the luscious hot pot-style dish that cooks meat in a flavorful sauce—is Jyuniten. Set in Japan’s busy business district, near Tokyo Station, the restaurant has also become a destination for employees from nearby companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and UBS Group AG. The restaurant also boasts private rooms, and also offers excellent steak.
In the distinguished Palace Hotel Tokyo, about a 10-minute walk from Tokyo Station, Wadakura is favored by businesspeople who appreciate the professional service and spacious light wood tables. The specialty is kaiseki, the traditional Japanese multicourse meal that features small plates. It’s now offering a special, 30,000-yen kaiseki course to celebrate the hotel’s 10th anniversary. There are nine private dining rooms, some of which boast a view of the Imperial Palace moat and Hibiya Park.
Among the hotel’s other dining options are Tatsumi, the six-seat counter where the specialty is tempura, and Sushi Kanesaka, an outpost of the Michelin-starred restaurant in Ginza, which is currently featuring in-season, medium-fatty tuna from the north.
Opened in the spring of 2021, this restaurant is located on the 10th floor of the new Marunouchi Terrace tower in one of the city’s biggest business districts. The handsome, light-filled space is outfitted with leather banquettes and tiled floors, and the menu from chef Toru Tokushima is French-focused, with dishes such as escargot and French onion soup, plus grilled Japanese steaks.
In the commercial and shopping epicenter of Ginza, Ukai-Tei is a high-style experience, decorated with Japanese and Western antiques and colorful mosaic-tiled walls.
At the center of the circular counter is a teppanyaki grill where chefs make their signature Japanese black beef as well as seasonal seafood and vegetables in front of customers. Desserts, including crème brûlèe and cakes, are served from a cart in the tearoom. Lunch starts at 11,000 yen, while dinner menus range from 22,000 to 33,000 yen.
One of Tokyo’s most notable burgers is on offer at the American steakhouse-styled the Burn. Its version is made with a dry-aged beef patty, with the option of making it a cheeseburger. Served with a knife speared through the bun, it goes for 2,850 yen, and the accompanying fries are also terrific. The Burn also offers a vegan tasting menu, which still isn’t easy to find in Tokyo. At night there’s a 7,000-yen tasting menu with buttermilk fried chicken and grilled sirloin. The range of options makes the place a popular destination for an international crowd.
The Sun & The Moon
On the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi, home to such companies as Google LLC and banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the Moon boasts a panoramic view of Tokyo. (The Sun is the more casual cafe side of the dining concept.) The art-filled dining room is especially good for lunch on a nice day, and its French-inspired menu, which starts at 3,500 yen, might include roasted Iberian pork, broiled salmon, or steak frites. At dinner, it offers a view of the lit-up city.
The French Kitchen
In the Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Roppongi, the French Kitchen offers the option of business meetings throughout the day. At breakfast, there’s a buffet with Japanese and Western options, such as eggs Benedict and egg white omelets. At lunch, there’s a French brasserie-inspired buffet option in the main dining room. The private dining room, which has a lovely view, has a lunch menu that starts at 5,280 yen. Among the dishes: asparagus with jambon and sherry dressing, and roasted Shingen chicken with barley risotto.
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