Soba Tajima for noodles.
Some restaurants in Japan can be very quiet and reverent: there are certain sushi restaurants where all the focus is on the food and you feel like you shouldn’t have a conversation. When I go back to Tokyo, I find myself going to these restaurants less and less. These days, I’m more drawn towards casual restaurants like this soba restaurant in the upmarket neighbourhood, Hiroo, which has a nice welcoming atmosphere and serves lovely seasonal food. I always order the cold soba noodles that they serve very simply with nori seaweed and these little fish called shirasu that you never find in London. Dashi egg rolls are essential too. Along with the noodles, dashi rolls are always the key dish in a restaurant like this and theirs are really fluffy and juicy without being watery. To complete the meal you need some pickles and a plate of the excellent seasonal tempura.
3-8-6 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031; sobatajima.jp
Genkai for Mizutaki chicken hotpot
This restaurant in Shinjuku is quite formal but it’s a great place to eat with friends as it’s made up of nine private tatami rooms that each sit 4-10 people. It’s been open for almost 100 years and it serves a delicious chicken hotpot made with a really rich stock that’s full of depth and flavour. You start with seasonal appetisers and fried chicken skin that’s crunchy and crispy without being greasy. Then you move on to the hotpot, which comes with chicken dumplings, and even though it sounds quite simple, it’s one of the best things you can eat in Tokyo. The meal finishes with a delicious chicken stock rice porridge. It’s a very special place: old school and traditional with the waiting staff in kimonos, all of which really adds to the experience.
5 Chome−5−1, Shinjuku, Tokyo; genkai-group.jp/
Kameido Gyoza for gyoza dumplings
My mum’s best friend introduced me to this restaurant in Kameido, which is kind of like Tokyo’s Old Town. It’s tiny. Just a counter and a few small, tightly-packed tables and you often have to queue a little bit to get in but it’s worth the wait. It’s one of those places that basically only serves beer and gyoza, but that’s fine because the gyoza are brilliant, fried to crisp on one side and full of flavour. Afterwards, we always like to do a little walk around the old town to the Kameido Shrine, which is famous for its ponds that are full of turtles.
5-3-4 Kameido, Koto, Tokyo; Tel: 03 3681 8854
Can’t get to Tokyo? Try Shuko’s superlative noodles at one of her three restaurants in Soho, Hackney and the City: koya.co.uk