We're a young couple from the SF bay area, in our 20s. As you chowhounds were great during trip planning, it's only right to post our report card. Here it is, including restaurants recommended in the lonely planet encounter book.
- Birdland (very popular yakitori place recommended in the book): Some of the dishes, including the basil-stuffed chicken yakitori and the mushroom yakitori were quite good. In general, the rawer, fresher chicken was usually good. My boyfriend and I differed on the liver and other innard dishes; I wasn't a big fan, but he liked them. However, even he agreed that, one after another, one can only take so much chicken-innard yakitori. Reservations highly recommended. The set menu goes for about 6000 yen and is huge.
- Daiwa (most popular place in the Tsukiji fish market): The fish market was probably the coolest thing I experienced in Japan, totally worth the 4:30 am wake-up. The sushi and sashimi are as fresh as you would expect them, but perhaps a bit too fresh for 8 in the morning. My boyfriend was fine with it but I felt slightly queasy afterwards. Order the set menu or the chef will be insulted (oops!)
- Ten-Ichi Deux (tempura, supposed offshoot of the more expensive Ten-Ichi): I liked the crispier-than-usual tempura, light just like it should be. We had lotus root and one of the set menus, which made for a great afternoon snack. Good variety of tempura but we didn't feel inclined to try anything else. Overall we thought it was ok. I like tempura but had just gotten off the plane and was not craving fried foods.
- Chuka Soba Suzuran 中華そば すずらん(ramen highly recommended by silverjay): LOVED this place. Get the wide noodles and the buta kakuni. I have never had pork as soft, well-braised, and juicy as the buta kakuni. We ordered one and then another plate. Consider keeping the meat and ramen separate, otherwise your broth might get too salty.
- 光麺 or Koumen: Not very impressed with this ramen chain. My boyfriend isn't a fan of the more fishy broths, and I thought the noodle soup was unacceptably lukewarm. The roasted pork is probably some of the best we've had, but given that roast pork isn't the star of any ramen dish, not a big deal.
- Ueno Yabu Soba: We went here because it was one of the rare "one-dollar-signs" in the guidebook, and we had so eaten much ramen it was time to give soba its fair chance. It'll be a while before we decide to eat soba again, though. We got one hot and one cold. The hot soba was ok but the noodles, broth, and toppings played second fiddle to ramen. The cold one, where you mix together a raw egg, some seaweed flakes, and natto, and pour over cold soba, made me nauseous. My boyfriend's stomach got along fine with it, though he wasn't a fan either.
- Japanese bakeries rock, almost any time you walk in there you'll find hot-out-of-the-oven bread. Tokyo Metro tends to have better bakeries and other food than the JR. But the basements of department stores like Shinkong Mitsukoshi have the best food (particularly sweets, entire floors of the best cakes and pastries you've ever had)
- If you're looking for souvenirs, go to Tokyu Hands and skip Don Quijote (pile of crap) and Muji (too boring).